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The Best Books on Sustainability

Sustainability, at its core, is about ensuring that our actions and decisions today don’t limit the choices of future generations.

It’s an intricate balance between meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. In the 21st century, as we confront unprecedented global challenges, the importance of sustainability has never been more pronounced.

Role of Books in Understanding Sustainability

Books serve as gateways to knowledge, and they play a crucial role in understanding sustainability. They provide a holistic view of complex issues, offering insights into how individuals, businesses, and societies can contribute to a sustainable future.

This blog aims to guide you through an enriching journey into the world of sustainability. We will explore 18 books that we love and knowledge you we think you will appreciate.

Sustainable Living and Personal Choices

“Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson

Bea Johnson’s “Zero Waste Home” is a testament to the power of personal choices in shaping a sustainable future. Johnson, pioneering the zero-waste lifestyle, provides practical tips on how to minimize waste in our daily lives, which not only leads to a cleaner environment but also significant cost savings.

A 2013 study by the UNEP confirms that household consumption contributes to about 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, further emphasizing the importance of sustainable living.

“The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide” by Jen Gale

Jen Gale’s “The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide” is an excellent beginner’s guide to sustainable living. Gale argues for an “ish” approach – not perfect, but better.

She acknowledges the barriers to sustainability and provides realistic solutions, making sustainability accessible to everyone.

“Sustainability Made Simple” by Rosaly Byrd and Lauren DeMates

“Sustainability Made Simple” is an essential primer for understanding the concept of sustainability. Byrd and DeMates break down complex topics into digestible information, making the book an excellent resource for both sustainability novices and veterans alike.

Environmental Sustainability

“The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells’ “The Uninhabitable Earth” offers a stark portrayal of our potential future if we fail to address environmental challenges.

Drawing from hundreds of scientific studies, Wallace-Wells paints a vivid picture of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, making a compelling case for urgent action.

“This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein

In “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein argues that climate change is not just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and healthcare. Instead, she believes it’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways.

“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, remains one of the most influential books on environmental sustainability. Carson’s exploration of the devastating effects of pesticides on the environment led to a worldwide ban on DDT and spurred the modern environmental movement.

Sustainable Business and Economics

“Cradle to Cradle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

“Cradle to Cradle” presents an innovative approach to sustainable business. McDonough and Braungart argue for a radical change in industrial design, advocating for products that can be fully recycled or composted, thus eliminating waste.

“Natural Capitalism” by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins

“Natural Capitalism” explores how businesses can profit from practicing sustainability. The authors present a compelling case that businesses can lead in solving environmental problems and simultaneously increase their competitiveness and profitability.

“The Upcycle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

“The Upcycle” is a continuation of McDonough and Braungart’s revolutionary work. They present case studies of companies implementing upcycling strategies, turning waste into a resource, proving that sustainable business practices can lead to innovation and economic growth.

Food and Agriculture

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is a compelling exploration of the complexities of food choices and their environmental implications. Pollan dives into the food chains that sustain us, from industrial agriculture to organic farming, illuminating the profound impacts of our dietary choices on the planet.

“Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé

Frances Moore Lappé’s “Diet for a Small Planet” emphasizes the role of diet in achieving sustainability. Lappé argues that meat-heavy diets are not only bad for our health but also for the planet, contributing to world hunger and environmental degradation, a point supported by a 2018 study in Science.

“Growing a Revolution” by David R. Montgomery

“Growing a Revolution” presents a compelling case for a radical shift in farming practices. Montgomery highlights the benefits of agroecological practices that promote soil health, increase biodiversity, and enhance the sustainability of our food systems.

Social Sustainability and Justice

“Doughnut Economics” by Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics” presents a groundbreaking model for a sustainable economy that meets everyone’s basic needs without depleting the planet’s resources. This book is a roadmap for achieving social justice and sustainability, two intertwined facets of a healthy society.

“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Braiding Sweetgrass” weaves together indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge, offering profound insights into sustainable living. Kimmerer argues for a reciprocal relationship with nature, where we not only take from the Earth but also give back.

“The Water Will Come” by Jeff Goodell

“The Water Will Come” highlights the social justice implications of climate change. Goodell reveals how rising sea levels will reshape our world, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations.

Urban Planning and Sustainable Design

“The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs

“The Death and Life of Great American Cities” is a classic in urban planning literature. Jacobs critiques modernist urban planning policies and advocates for mixed-use development, promoting vibrant, sustainable communities.

“Designing for Sustainability” by Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson’s “Designing for Sustainability” presents a roadmap for developing sustainable products and services. Jackson offers a comprehensive toolkit for designers to contribute to sustainable development, highlighting the crucial role of design in sustainability.

“Happy City” by Charles Montgomery

“Happy City” explores how urban design shapes our lives and well-being. Montgomery argues that well-designed cities can foster happiness, community, and sustainability, making a case for human-centered urban design.


Each book on this list offers unique insights into various aspects of sustainability. From individual actions to business strategies, from food choices to urban design, these books provide a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and its importance in our world. Sustainability is a rapidly evolving field.

To navigate this changing landscape, continuous learning is paramount. These books serve as a starting point, but the quest for knowledge should not stop here.

Reading about sustainability is just the first step. It’s vital to take action and engage in sustainable practices in our daily lives, our workplaces, and our communities. Remember, every step, no matter how small, counts towards creating a sustainable future.


What are the 4 C’s of sustainability?

The 4 C’s of sustainability refer to Conservation, Circular economy, Carbon footprint, and Corporate social responsibility.

Conservation entails preserving resources and biodiversity, the circular economy promotes recycling and reusing, minimizing waste, carbon footprint refers to the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an entity, and corporate social responsibility involves businesses making decisions that are ethical, sustainable, and beneficial to the community.

What are the 3 pillars of sustainability?

The three pillars of sustainability are social, environmental, and economic, often referred to as people, planet, and profit.

The idea is that for a community or society to be truly sustainable, it must balance these three aspects, ensuring social equity, environmental protection, and economic prosperity.

What to read about sustainability?

There are countless books on sustainability, each offering unique insights. Some recommended titles include “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson, “The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide” by Jen Gale, “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, “Natural Capitalism” by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. Each of these books provides valuable insights into different aspects of sustainability.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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