The ultimate list of zero waste books: because reading blogs is all well and good, but sometimes you need to deep dive into books to get nuanced information. Here are a list of the zero waste books (and zero waste adjacent books) I’d recommend you check out.
The zero waste books here are linked to Amazon – some are available for free if you have a Kindle unlimited account. If you purchase through there, I make a small commission at no charge to you which goes back into funding this site. I also suggest you look for these at your local library, many are there!
Zero waste: getting started
The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well By Throwing Away Less by Amy Korst | Amy lived a year-long zero waste lifestyle and reported all about her experiences in this book. Her ideas range from super basic to pretty radical, which makes it a book I’ve checked out multiple times as my zero waste habits have shifted. I really like this one because it presents a much more realistic depiction of what life is like while zero waste.
Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash by Shia Su | AKA Wasteland Rebel on IG. This book is a lovely jaunt through the basics of the zero waste movement with an emphasis on simple hacks and DIYs to make the move towards less waste feel more achievable. Great for beginners.
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson | I feel as if I have to recommend this, although to be quite honest it’s not one of the zero waste books I’d recommend to start with. It’s written in a way that feels unachievable and unrealistic for most people who don’t live in California with a lot of disposable income. Still, it’s the one you can’t get away with not mentioning and has a lot of valuable resources within its pages.
Zero waste and over-consumption
A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life by Tara Button | She created the site Buy Me Once, so she’s the person to explore the decline of quality in the products we use. Learn about planned obsolescence, how marketers are pushing us to re-buy, and how we can fight against a system of products meant to fail.
Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet by Kendra Pierre-Louis | This book resonated with me because I have a big problem with how the eco-movement has been so easily taken over by people looking to make money. As the book itself says “buying better is only the first step toward true sustainability” and we’d all do well to remember it. (recommended by @thetrashtalkblog)
Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World by Diane McEachern | … in diametric opposition to the previous book… I have mixed feelings on this one: on the one hand, it advocates for consumerism. On the other hand, it’s an excellent resource for alternative choices to the products a majority of people will be purchasing anyway. If you’re looking for an easy resource for greener purchasing habits, pick this up. (Still, stop buying stuff.)
The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard | The classic book about our over-consumption and its effects on the planet. The author follows items step-by-step through the production process so you can really understand all of the factors that play into the items we carelessly bring into our homes.
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Zero waste and environmental justice
Transforming Communities: How People Like You are Healing Their Neighborhoods by Sandhya Rani Jha | “The world around us is a wreck. When there’s so much conflict around the country and around the corner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, powerless, and helpless. What can one person do to make a difference?” I loved the stories and practical advice for engaging communities in this!
Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor | If you need a primer on residential segregation, zoning, and exposure to environmental hazards, this is the book for it. The book uses real-world examples from places like Baltimore, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and more to really paint the picture of what’s going on.
Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity (Urban and Industrial Environments) by Robert D. Bullard | A wonderful read on how promoting livable communities and small growth often doesn’t address environmental justice or social equity. If you’ve wondered about growth and gentrification, this book is for you.
The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by Rev Dr William J. Barber II | While I’m not entirely on-board with using nebulous moral justifications to base movements on, I really respect Rev. Barber’s goal of fusion politics, ie. recognizing not our differences but our common oppressor. Part story, part practical guide for organizing, this is a quick, worth-it read.
science-heavy climate information
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken | I love this book, and will probably be purchasing it because I’ve wanted to refer back and make notes so many times. It’s a solution-driven narrative that makes you feel positive about fighting climate change. Hawken presents a change and then talks about its effects – an amazing way to engage with different individual and global solutions.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein | What can you ask for more than a book that not only wants to save our environment but destroy the capitalist system that got us here? Culture over profit. Humanity and a connection to the planet over mindless consumption. Yes.
How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee | Ever wonder the carbon footprint of something very specific? This is your book. While some of the numbers may be a little outdated as the book was published years ago, it gives a great jumping off point for estimating your carbon emissions.
Detrash Your Life in 90 Days: Your Complete Guide to the Art of Zero Waste Living by Katie Patrick | While this is billed as a zero waste ‘how-to’ book, it’s also deeply detailed and informed by the author’s environmental engineer background. It’s framed around 148 actions as well as explanations, how-tos, tips, recipes, and more. Super helpful for people who are new to zero waste or not sure where to go next.
Zero waste and food
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver | Serious about eating local? Then this book is for you. Not only beautifully written, this book talks frankly about the problems behind our modern food system and – better yet – shows an alternative route that is even more beautiful. I read this in two days and will definitely be going back for more! (recommended by @writingduringnaptime)
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber | I haven’t finished it yet, but this book and its premise of bringing the US back towards delicious and sustainable food is an interesting read. I love looking at food from a chef’s perspective as it really adds something to the conversation I wasn’t thinking about before. (recommended by @mtausch)
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer | This isn’t exactly a food book, but Robin often looks at ecology through the lens of food. The author – indigenous scientist – shows us how the natural world gives us gifts we must take care of.
sustainable economics and community-building
The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins | If you’re feeling tense and anxious about where the world is heading, this is an amazing, actionable book that talks about how to transition your community (joyfully!) to a lower-waste, oil-free lifestyle.
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth | If you’re frustrated by a world that cares about growth above all else, I highly encourage you to dive into this book. It discusses ideas on how and why we need to build an economy that asks questions about sustainability, social justice, and more, rather than just growing for growth’s sake.
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas | Ever felt weird that big decisions about climate change are made by a bunch of rich people flying to Davos in their private jets? Read this. The summary says it all: the author “takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can–except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it.
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Zero waste DIY ideas
Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne | I loved this book, even though I’m pretty jealous that the authors live in an LA homestead (ie. warm weather all year). Still, this book is incredibly practical and one I’m considering purchasing based on the number of times I’ve referenced it. They position sustainability as not only inherently frugal, but a way to get away from the traditional economy.
Herbs for Natural Beauty by Rosemary Gladstar | Rosemary Gladstar is the ultimate hippy herbal lady. If you’re looking for ideas on natural recipes, she’s where it’s at. I like this book as I’ve been struggling with finding good beauty alternatives and this offers a range of beautifying products, both from within and topically!
Zero waste and minimalism
New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living by Kyle Louise Quilici | Not exactly what you’d expect on a list of zero waste books, but it’s a great one! You can read my full review here, but suffice to say I really enjoyed this book. They take on decluttering and minimalism with a lens toward sustainability which doesn’t often happen.
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki | There was something about this book I really enjoyed. While there was no emphasis on how to let go of your items in a non-wasteful way, the musings on finding purpose after decluttering your living spaces really spoke to me. This is a great introduction to minimalism, particularly for those of us who don’t like the Konmari method’s touchy-feelyness.