Whether you want to go change the world or simply learn a bit more about your environmental footprint, this list of books on sustainability will definitely get you started!
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I’m one of those people that tends to geek out pretty quickly. If a subject catches my attention, within minutes I’m out learning everything I can about it – reading blog post after blog post, asking friends what they think, tracking down documentaries. It’s in my nature!
Sustainability, in particular, is a subject that has stuck with me for ages, and it has become a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. So, this year I’m committing to reading one of these books on sustainability each month!
Within this list you’ll find a varied collection: some new on the scene, some from older, very well-respected authors in this field; some about business, some about fashion. There is something for every reader!
Can’t commit to reading one book per month? Why not just start with one? It is a wonderful step toward becoming a more responsible citizen of the earth.
My Top 10 Books on Sustainability
1) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things | William McDonough
You remember the linear manufacturing process we talked about last week? That is a great example of cradle to grave – in other words: creating something and letting it die. Cradle to cradle is something different entirely! Rather than settling for downcycling, McDonough and Braungart argue for designing products in such a way that, after their useful life, they provide genuine nourishment or life to something new. I read this in graduate school and highly recommend!
2) The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance | Braungart
The Upcycle is William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s follow-up to Cradle to Cradle, one of the most well-respected environmental manifestoes of our time! Their second book shifts the focus from from theory to practice and demonstrates how the cradle-to-cradle approach has fared in real business.
3) The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us | Diane Ackerman
This book by Diane Ackerman is celebrated for its unique insight into the natural world and humans’ place in it. The Human Age argues that there is no force more meddlesome or more influential than we are. Praised as a “beguiling, optimistic engagement with the changes affecting every part of our lives,” this one is definitely catching my eye this year.
4) The Responsibility Revolution | Jeffrey Hollender & Bill Breen
I so admire businesses who are taking on the charge to be “less bad and more good.” The Responsibility Revolution was written by Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder and chairman of the household goods company Seventh Generation. You may have seen them at Target! In this book, Hollender shares his thoughts on how companies may build a better future and hold themselves accountable for the results. I dig!
5) Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe | Greta Eagan
If you haven’t yet looked into the atrocities of the garment industry you are fooling yourself. Wear No Evil takes a close look at the fashion industry and asks the question: How can we inherently do good while looking good? I’m really looking forward to this one!
6) Quenching the Thirst: Sustainable Water Supply & Climate Change | George Annandale
I don’t know about you, but water scarcity scares the crap out of me. Increased demand for water thanks to a rapidly growing global population, decreased water availability due to climate change, and the degrading condition of water supply infrastructure certainly heighten this concern. Reviewed as insightful, compelling, and written for the general public and professionals alike, I really think this will be a hard-hitting read.
7) Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered | E. F. Schumacher
Small is Beautiful is an oldie but a goodie. Originally published in 1973, this book has been a statement on sustainability in its field for decades. And it only gets more relevant every year. In Small is Beautiful, Schumacher argues that the “bigger is better” mentality of industrialism is a damaging one, and that if we really care about people we will actively seek a better balance between economic growth and its human cost.
8) The Hunt for the Golden Mole | Richard Girling
I don’t know about you, but I would really like to know that the golden mole is okay. This book is said to be an “engaging and highly informative history of humankind’s interest in hunting and collecting.” He asks us, “what good might come of our need to catalog all the living things of the natural world?” Part quest, part travelog, I have a feeling this book will very quickly open my eyes to some issues in the realm of extinction and biodiversity.
9) Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto | Adam Werbach
Let’s call this one a nice summary on CSR, or Corporate Social Sustainability. Using large multinational companies as examples, Adam Werbach demonstrates how each might use sustainable principles to reach new heights through integrated business strategies. For all you business buffs out there, this would be a great place to start your reading.
10) Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork | Anna Lappe
Inspired by my utter shock post-Cowspiracy, this book will be my venture into the intersection between animal agriculture and climate change. There is a vast, hidden cost buried within our food system and it’s an environmental one. Lappe tells us that “the choices we make about how we put food on our places, and what we do with the waste, contribute as much as one third of total greenhouse-gas emissions.” That’s insane!
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