Want To Live More Sustainably? Start With These Books

by Kerri Jarema

Sure, we celebrate our planet on Earth Day every April 22. But we all know that we need to be doing way more to insure that we're living eco-friendly lives and protecting the environment from catastrophe. Of course, sometimes that feels far easier said than done. And with a current administration that is attacking environmental protections and touting dangerous falsehoods about climate change, it can be too simple to fall into the trap that nothing can truly be accomplished. But when it comes to our impact on the environment, small changes en masse can actually make a huge difference to our quality of life around the world.

The nine books below all tackle different aspects of sustainability, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat to adopting a more minimalist lifestyle in general. They offer proven facts about the causes of climate change, and the effect we can have on reversing it by adopting simple day-to-day changes like walking more, cutting back on fast fashion and lessening our use of plastic. It may all seem daunting when you watch the news, but these books will help put it all into perspective and give you the tools you need to really help change the world for the better.


'Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change' by George Marshall

Most of us recognize that climate change is real yet we do nothing to stop it. What is the psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize–winning psychologists and Texas Tea Party activists; the world’s leading climate scientists and those who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals. What he discovers is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake. Once we understand what motivates us, we can rethink climate change and how we can turn it from an impossible challenge to a fixable problem.

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'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate' by Naomi Klein

Forget everything you think you know about global warming. It's not about carbon – it's about capitalism. The good news is that we can transform our failed economic system and build something radically better. Naomi Klein exposes the myths that are clouding climate debate. You have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. You have been told it's impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it – it just requires breaking every rule in the 'free-market' playbook. You have also been told that humanity is too greedy and selfish to rise to this challenge. In fact, all around the world, the fight back is already succeeding in ways both surprising and inspiring.

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'Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time' by Jeff Speck

The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king. Making walkability happen is relatively easy and cheap; seeing exactly what needs to be done is the trick. In this essential new book, Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city, how simple decisions have cascading effects, and how we can all make the right choices for our communities. Bursting with sharp observations and real-world examples, giving key insight into what urban planners actually do and how places can and do change, Walkable City lays out a practical, and achievable vision of how to make our normal American cities great again.

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'The Sustainable Fashion Handbook' by Sandy Black

This sourcebook on all aspects of sustainable fashion encompasses not only the environmental issues presented by a wasteful and fast-moving fashion cycle but also the social impact of the global fashion industry, which employs up to forty million people worldwide in manufacturing and agriculture. Sandy Black has assembled contributions from a diverse group with a range of perspectives: designers and technicians, academics and journalists, environmental and social action campaigners, craft specialists and artists, eco-entrepreneurs and representatives of global corporations. Each chapter presents essays by leading writers and thinkers; interviews and statements from designers such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, and Hussein Chalayan; and case studies on everything from the life cycle of jeans to smart textiles and fair trade projects.

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'EcoBeauty: Scrubs, Rubs, Masks, Rinses, and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friends' by Lauren Cox and Janice Cox

EcoBeauty has something for everyone. Making beauty products like scrubs, bath bombs, and face masks at home is a great way to save money and help the environment, and these recipes will do all that plus give you gorgeous skin and hair. This ultimate natural-beauty "cookbook" is packed with easy, eco-friendly recipes for getting gorgeous with fresh ingredients from the kitchen. A must-have for anyone who wants to be healthy, save money, and make the world a more eco-beautiful place.

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'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life' by Barbara Kingsolver

With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

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'Plastic Purge: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body, and Help Save the Sea Turtles' by Michael SanClements

Plastic is everywhere we look. Our computers and children's toys are made out of it, and our water and slices of American cheese are packaged in it. But why is there so much and what is it doing to our bodies? Is it possible to use less plastic and be happier and healthier? Both approachable and engaging, Plastic Purge provides easy-to-follow advice for how to use less plastic, thereby reaping the benefits such as eating a healthier diet and living with less clutter. Dividing plastics into three separate categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly, SanClements shows you how to embrace the good (items like your phone or medical equipment), avoid the bad (food storage containers and toys that contain toxic chemicals), and use less of the ugly (single-use plastic that's just plain wasteful).

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'Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More' by Erin Boyle

Erin Boyle shares practical guidance and personal insights on small-space living and conscious consumption. At once pragmatic and philosophical, Simple Matters is a nod to the growing consensus that living simply and purposefully is more sustainable not only for the environment, but for our own happiness and well-being, too. Boyle embraces the notion that “living small” is beneficial and accessible to us all—whether we’re renting a tiny apartment or purchasing a three-story house. Filled with personal essays, projects, and helpful advice on how to be inventive and resourceful in a tight space, Simple Matters shows that living simply is about making do with less and ending up with more: more free time, more time with loved ones, more savings, and more things of beauty.

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'The Story Of Stuff: How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, And Our Health—And A Vision For Change' by Annie Leonard

We have a problem with Stuff. With just five percent of the world's population, we're consuming 30 percent of the world's resources and creating 30 percent of the world's waste. Here, Leonard reveals the true story behind our possessions; why it's cheaper to replace a broken TV than to fix it; how "perceived obsolescence" encourages us to toss everything from shoes to cell phones while they're still in perfect shape; and how factory workers in Haiti, mine workers in Congo, and others pay for our cheap goods with their health, safety, and quality of life. It is a system in crisis, but Leonard shows us how we can stop the environmental damage, social injustice, and health hazards caused by polluting production and excessive consumption.

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