During the past few decades the conversation of sustainability has evolved and expanded.
In addition to renewable energy and recycling, climate change and commerce have become hot topics.
If you want to dive into certain aspects of sustainability or tackle the subject as a whole, there are hundreds of books to choose from. To help build your reading list, we asked our members for recommendations and listed them below. Some are popular titles, while others have fallen under the radar.
Before you buy, remember that manufacturing a physical book usually means cutting down trees for paper. It’s ironic that ordering a book on sustainability is sometimes not the most sustainable purchase.
If this paradox bothers you, go with the titles that are available as e-books. Either way you’ll be learning something that could help you become a better steward of the planet.
1. “All That We Share” by Jay Walljasper
Water, food, electricity, the internet — these are resources we need to live and work. We share them with others, but they are limited. In his book journalist Jay Walljasper explains how these communal resources are also the keys to changing the world. First we need to learn how to conserve and harness them.
2. “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine Benyus
Nature has inspired many of our technologies. We studied birds soaring through the air and eventually learned to fly. Our understanding of photosynthesis aided in the development of solar energy. Science writer Janine Benyus shows how we are only beginning to draw on the innovative power of nature.
3. “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Have you heard the expression, “cradle to grave”? Businesses use this phrase to refer to a product’s lifecycle: its making until its disposal. As the title implies, “Cradle to Cradle” argues that companies should design products to take on second and even third lives.
4. “Designing Sustainable Communities” by Judy Corbett and Michael Corbett
In their book, Judy Corbett and Michael Corbett chronicle their development of Village Homes, a sustainable community located outside of Davis, California. The authors also discuss how Village Homes fits into the larger movement to create sustainable communities.
5. “The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability” by Paul Hawken
Businesses can cause immense damage to the environment. Nonetheless, this fact also means businesses have the most power to launch sustainable initiatives.
Paul Hawken made this argument many years ago, yet it is perhaps even more relevant today. In his book he illustrates a vision for how companies can practice sustainability and positively impact the environments they normally destroy.
6. “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein argues that the only way to survive global warming is to change capitalism. Currently we are victims of a system that protects polluters and stifles the growth of sustainable initiatives. The earth is screaming at us by unleashing natural disasters, and it’s time to listen.
7. “The Upcycle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
McDonough and Braungart follow up on their first book, “Cradle to Cradle,” by showing how sustainability can be about contributing to the planet, not only reducing our negative impact. If you want to learn about the upcycling trend, this book is an interesting place to start.
8. “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard
Ever wonder what the founder of Patagonia thinks about sustainability? Well, this book is essentially his memoir.
9. “Mindfully Green” by Stephanie Kaza
This book is perfect for readers who are looking for a spiritual approach to environmentalism. In this case the author blends her practice of Zen Buddhism with environmental philosophies.
Know Any Books That Deserve a Mention?
If you know of a great book about sustainability that hasn’t garnered much attention, send the title to Joseph at email@example.com and we’ll consider adding it to this list! The more we learn, the more opportunities we have to positively impact the environment.
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