10 Must-Read Books on Sustainability

Must Read books on sustainability

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 help get you started!

This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here.

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!

10 books about sustainability that everyone must read at least once in their lifetime! Start your more environmentally-aware lifestyle today.

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.   

Read also: Best Zero Waste Books

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 a little while ago? 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 can highly recommend it!

Buy the book here.

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 theory to practice and demonstrates how the cradle-to-cradle approach has fared in real business. 

Buy the book here.

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.

Buy the book here.

4) The Responsibility Revolution | Jeffrey Hollender & Bill Breen

I so admire businesses who are taking on the charge to do “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. Sounds like a noble read to me!

Buy the book here.

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 in for a bit of a shock. 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 reading this one!

Buy the book here.

6) Quenching the Thirst: Sustainable Water Supply & Climate Change | George Annandale

If you’re anything like me, water scarcity is a huge concern. 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.

Buy the book here.

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.

Buy the book here.

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 catalogue all the living things of the natural world?”

Part quest, part travelogue, I have a feeling this book will very quickly open my eyes to some issues in the realm of extinction and biodiversity. 

Buy the book here.

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 on sustainability.

Buy the book here.

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 plates, and what we do with the waste, contribute as much as one-third of total greenhouse-gas emissions.” That’s insane! 

Buy the book here.

13 thoughts on “10 Must-Read Books on Sustainability

  1. Greta deJong says:

    Is Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, on your radar? This book, compiled by scientists from around the world, is huge in potential impact. It needs all the exposure it can get. Please check it out. And thanks for the above list.

  2. Nkem says:

    Thanks for the tips! I found a few of these books at my local library so I’m looking forward to giving them a read. It was nice stumbling upon your blog 🙂

  3. Susan Krumdieck says:

    I notice a theme in the books – gaining awareness of the issues our economic system causes. Add to this reading list a book that goes the next step. Don’t let the title put you off. It is very accessible reading.
    Transition Engineering, Building a Sustainable Future

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *