Don’t Miss These 9 Books About Sustainability - Public Goods

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Don’t Miss These 9 Books About Sustainability

During the past few decades the conversation of sustainability has evolved and expanded.

stack of books with plant on top

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

all that we share by jay walljasper book cover

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

biomimicry book cover

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

cradle to cradle book cover

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

designing sustainable communities book cover

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

the ecology of commerce book cover

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

this changes everything book cover
Image Credit: Random House LLC

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

the upcycle book cover

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

mindfully green book cover

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 and we’ll consider adding it to this list! The more we learn, the more opportunities we have to positively impact the environment.

Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.

From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.

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