Bookshelf: Environmental Sustainability

I had a lovely email from someone this saying that I’d inspired them on their journey towards a zero waste lifestyle (MADE MY DAY!). They said they wanted to try and influence more people on sustainability and so wanted to increase their understanding of the topic. I also had a separate conversation with someone who introduced me to this wonderful quote from Anita Roddick:

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room

Which got me thinking…. lots of people care deeply about our planet and they would like to make a difference so maybe some reading suggestions would be useful to help build knowledge to do that. There’s an absolute ton of information out there but here is a small selection of books and resources (mostly) on the environmental aspects of this enormous topic* 

There is no Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee

This is a great all-round place to start. It’s a practical guide, packed with stats and written as a series of questions such as: Why don’t supermarkets care more about their waste? How bad are boats, and can they be electrified? Is it possible to have a more truthful culture?

Project Drawdown 

Project Drawdown looks at solutions to climate change using technologies that exist today and could be deployed. They did publish a book a few years ago but there’s all the information updated on their website by sector and ranked by amount of CO2 equivalent they would reduce. There’s some surprising things near the top of the list – reducing food waste, health and education, refrigerant management 

Sustainable Energy without the hot air by David MacKay

This book was written in 2009 so the data is rather out of date now but the concepts are not and it’s a great, comprehensive introduction to all the different types of renewable energy technologies and considerations.

From solar, offshore wind, geothermal, nuclear to smarter heating and better transport. He wanted the book to be free to everyone so the whole thing is on the website.

Growing a revolution by David Montgomery 

David introduces the key principles of regenerative agriculture and visits farmers around the world who are putting these principles into practice in different ways. He’s a huge advocate for restoring health to our soils and doing it in a way that also increases productivity of land, profitability for farmers, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and reduces other negative environmental impacts of farming. There’s really nothing not to like! (and now I’m becoming a soil geek)

WWF Living Planet report 

I’m afraid this report is rather a depressing read. Every 2 years WWF assess the state of biodiversity around the world and this report explains how it’s declined since 1970 and the main threats (climate change, habitat loss, pollution etc).

It does also describe a vision for the future and what we need to do to reverse the decline. It’s important to understand the problem so we can take the right steps to fix it. One of my previous bookshelf posts recommends a few books on nature that are more positive about what can be done and the benefits we get from healthy ecosystems.

This changes everything by Naomi Klein 

Pulling no punches, Naomi Klein puts the cause of global warming squarely at the door of capitalism and looks at some of the worse effects of it on our living planet. She does leave some room for hope though – arguing that solving climate change can help us create a better, more equitable world too. There’s a film version on the website too if you’re a bit booked out. 

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth 

And in answer to the capitalism problem, Kate Raworth has created an alternative model for economics, arguing that we can’t measure GDP growth as the only measure of success for a country any more.

We need to find the safe space for humanity to exist, a space that is environmentally safe and socially just, where we can thrive. She’s written a book and there’s tons of resources on her website. She recently announced that Amsterdam are adopting this model to try and transform their city to exist within the safe space. Mind blowing stuff.

Circular Economy by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation 

The Circular Economy concept has got more popular in the last few years, mainly through the work of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation. We live in a linear economy today – we take resources from the earth, make products from them and then throw them away when they’re worn out or we’re bored with them. A circular economy eliminates the idea of waste and creates a continuous cycle where resource waste becomes the input for another product. There’s loads of resources on the EMF website and good examples of businesses doing this are Elvis & Kresse who make bags of out old fire hoses  and Toast Ale who make beer out of waste bread. 

Green Giants by Freya Williams

See, business isn’t all bad! In this book, Freya Williams, CEO of Futerra North America, talks about companies or product lines that are wildly successful and happen to be sustainable. She calls out the 6 things they have in common that make them manage to do both of things.

It’s not just about being sustainable, it’s about transforming your business, driving it from the top and making a product your customers love. I like the business perspective in this book – businesses have a huge role to play in transforming our system, these companies illustrate how it can be done. 

* I’ll cover the social aspects in another post and there’s so many great books and resources out there on both environmental and social aspects that I’ll probably need multiple posts on all of it!

Main photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

  1. Thanks for your virtual bookshelf. Loved it. There are some true classics there. If I may I’d like to add ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ by Prof. Tim Jackson and Regenerative Leadership by Giles Hutchins.
    Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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