If there’s one thing we love about the zero waste journey, it’s that it’s just that...a journey. It’s not a lifestyle that’s to be achieved in a weekend or even a year, it’s a commitment to learning and changing habits over a lifetime. With that comes an amazing opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of true sustainable living, from making your first zero waste swaps to fighting for environmental justice and climate change to experimenting with plant-based eating.
Whether you’re taking your first steps along your zero waste journey or have been on it for a while, a good book can be an excellent resource to further your growth and deepen your understanding on your next big lifestyle challenge. We’ve curated a list of some of our favorite books for every zero waste interest to meet you along your journey, wherever you’re at. And if you have a favorite Zero Waste book that’s not on the list, please share it in the comments below!
Books for the Zero Waste Newbie
Zero Waste Home | Bea Johnson
Often referred to as “The bible of Zero Waste Living,” Bea Johnson’s, Zero Waste Home, is an essential read for anyone getting started on their zero waste journey. The book shares essential how-to advice, secrets, and insights based on Bea’s experience. She demystifies the process of going Zero Waste with hundreds of easy tips for sustainable living that even the busiest people can integrate: from making your own mustard, to packing kids' lunches without plastic, to canceling your junk mail, to enjoying the holidays without the guilt associated with overconsumption.
Reviews: "Waste not, want not isn't about penny pinching. It's about gratitude and loving our lives. Bea Johnson doesn't just teach us to save the planet. She teaches us to save ourselves."-- Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man
Price: $16.65, or less secondhand
Life Without Plastic | Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon
This book is the perfect starting point for those looking to dive deeper into the nuances of the plastics industry and start taking easy steps to avoid everyday plastic usage. Printed on FSC-certified paper and with BPA-free ink, Life Without Plastic strives to create more awareness about BPA-based products, polystyrene and other single-use plastics, and provides readers with ideas for safe, reusable and affordable alternatives. Jay and Chantal show readers how to analyze their personal plastic use, find alternatives and create easy replacements in this step-by-step guide.
Reviews: "Eliminating plastics is a core step of waste-free living. Life Without Plastic will not only make the planet and your family healthier, it will improve your standard of living so greatly that all you'll regret is not having started earlier!"-- Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home
Price: $20.23, or less secondhand
101 Ways to Go Zero Waste | Kathryn Kellogg
Kathryn Kellogg, the woman behind the popular Instagram feed, Going Zero Waste, gives readers a step-by-step blueprint for making realistic zero waste lifestyle changes in her book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste. In this book, Kellogg shares her own tips and more, along with DIY recipes for beauty and home; advice for responsible consumption and making better choices for home goods, fashion, and the office; and even secrets for how to go waste free at the airport. "It's not about perfection," she says. "It's about making better choices."
Reviews: “Greenify every aspect of your life” -- Rachael Ray Every Day
Price: $16.51, or less secondhand
Put simply: this book is filled with easy, effective strategies to jumpstart a sustainable, waste-free lifestyle. If it seems overwhelming, it isn't In Zero Waste. In this book, Shia Su demystifies and simplifies the zero waste lifestyle for the beginner, sharing practical advice, quick solutions, and tips and tricks that will make trash-free living fun and meaningful. Learn how to build your own zero waste kit, prepare real food (the lazy way), make your own DIY household cleaners and toiletries, be zero waste even in the bathroom, and more.
Reviews: "Reading Zero Waste is like having a cool zero waste friend hold your hand and guide you every step of the way. Shia's friendly, approachable how-to guide makes zero waste accessible and inviting. Thoroughly researched and full of Shia's trademark humor and charm, this book takes the guesswork out of zero waste. From greening your home to avoiding trash on the go, Shia covers it all, with sections on where to shop (even without bulk stores), meal planning, eating out, and personal care. Zero Waste shows that taking control of your own consumption and being part of the solution, not the problem, can be easy and fun!" -- Ariana Schwarz, founder of Paris-to-Go.com
Price: $15.63, or less secondhand
Books for the Zero Waste Minimalist
The Story of Stuff | Annie Leonard
The Story of Stuff expands on the celebrated documentary exploring the threat of overconsumption on the environment, economy, and our health. Leonard examines the "stuff" we use everyday, offering a galvanizing critique and steps for a changed planet. From sneaking into factories and dumps around the world to visiting textile workers in Haiti and children mining coltan for cell phones in the Congo, Leonard highlights each step of the materials economy and its actual effect on the earth and the people who live near sites like these. With curiosity, compassion, and humor, Leonard shares concrete steps for taking action at the individual and political level that will bring about sustainability, community health, and economic justice.
Reviews: "The intrepid Ann Leonard has written an eye-opening, humorous, and highly readable account of how our seemingly innocuous lifestyles are part of a larger system of destruction and dysfunction. Leonard gets my vote for hero of the year. A must-read." -- Juliet B. Schor, author of "Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth" and professor of sociology at Boston College
Price: $16.56, or less secondhand
Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Greener Planet | Kendra Pierre Louis
This book is for those asking themselves an important and rarely asked question--is shopping green really any better for the planet? By examining the major economic sectors of our society, including infrastructure (green housing), consumer goods (green clothing), food (the rise of organic), and energy (including solar power and the popularity of the hybrid car), Green Washed: Why We Can't Buy Our Way to a Green Planet explains that, though greener alternatives are important, we cannot simply buy our way to sustainability. A new and unique take on green consumption, Green Washed shows how buying better is only the first step toward true sustainability.
Reviews: "If only we could buy our way (or recycle our way!) out of our environmental troubles. But as this slim and powerful book makes clear, what we need even more than clean cars are clean politics and economics that let us make sensible structural choices."-- Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Price: $14.67, or less secondhand
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up | Marie Kondo
This book is ALL about living with less stuff and we’re no stranger to author Marie Kondo's decluttering method. She promises that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international bestseller will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home--and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
Reviews: ". . . a literal how-to-heave-ho, and I recommend it for anyone who struggles with the material excess of living in a privileged society. (Thanks to Ms. Kondo, I kiss my old socks goodbye.) ... To show you how serious my respect for Ms. Kondo is: if I ever get a tattoo, it will say, Spark Joy!" -- Jamie Lee Curtis, TIME
Price: $15.63, or less secondhand
Decluttering is great for our mental wellbeing, and when done right, it can be good for the planet too. When we rehome, repurpose or recycle the things we no longer need, we free up existing resources for others and reclaim our homes with less guilt.
Less Stuff is a guide for people who find it difficult to declutter and who don't want to see things go to waste. Step by step, you'll explore finding your 'enough', learn how to let go of your old possessions without sending them to landfill, and eventually break the cycle of stuff. The end result is a planet with less strain, a home with more peace and a life with more meaning.
Reviews: “If you are well practiced in both minimalism and sustainability this book will probably be a review of things you already know. If you are just starting your journey, this is a great book bc the author really goes step by step, room by room and provides a great structure to build off of. It helps get over the overwhelm hurdle that comes with making change.” - Amazon reader
Price: 18.39, or less secondhand
Books for the Zero Waste Activist
Do you ever feel like you, as one person, will never be able to make a difference in the world? This book dives into exactly that feeling. When there's so much conflict around the country and around the corner, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, powerless, and helpless. The good news is that millions of everyday people are ready to step into their power to transform their communities. Equal parts inspiration, education, and Do-It-Yourself, Transforming Communities by veteran community activist Sandhya Jha will open your eyes to the world-healing potential within you, and give you the vision, the tools, and the encouragement to start transforming your neighborhood, one person at a time.
Reviews: "Sandhya's stated goal--which she ably achieves here--is simple yet arduous: to get us out of our stifling cynicism so that we may see deeply, listen intently, act justly, and love radically. To break down our world-weariness and its consequent inactivity, she beautifully fuses the enduring wisdom of faith and justice movements with the raw tactility and wounded victories of on-the-ground work, in ways that both disarm and charm. To be sure, her scholarship is needed more than ever, for it is nuanced yet accessible, technical yet gritty, erudite yet disruptive."-- José Francisco Morales Torres, Director of Pastoral Formation, Disciples Seminary Foundation, Claremont, California
Price: $14.71, or less secondhand
A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and It’s Assault on the American Mind | Harriet A. Washington
An intersectional environmentalist must-read! From injuries caused by lead poisoning to the devastating effects of atmospheric pollution, infectious disease, and industrial waste, Americans of color are harmed by environmental hazards in staggeringly disproportionate numbers. This systemic onslaught of toxic exposure and institutional negligence causes irreparable physical harm to millions of people across the country-cutting lives tragically short and needlessly burdening our health care system. But these deadly environments create another insidious and often overlooked consequence: robbing communities of color, and America as a whole, of intellectual power.
Reviews: "A Terrible Thing to Waste is a powerful and indispensable book for anyone who cares about a just and healthy future for all Americans. Harriet Washington asks the critical questions that get at the heart of racism and inequality in health, income, social welfare and power in 21st century America."--Gerald Markowitz, author of Lead Wars and Distinguished Professor, John Jay College, CUNY
Price: $16.55, or less secondhand
In this book, Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, uses her platform to highlight the work of mostly female climate activists in frontline communities that are already reeling from the effects of climate change. During her research, Robinson met with ordinary people whose resilience and ingenuity had already unlocked extraordinary change: from a Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations, to a farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda. In Climate Justice, she shares their stories, and many more. Powerful and deeply humane, this uplifting book is a stirring manifesto on one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time, and a lucid, affirmative, and well-argued case for hope.
Reviews: "As advocate for the forgotten and the ignored, Mary Robinson has not only shone a light on human suffering, but illuminated a better future for our world." -Barack Obama
Price: $14.72, or less secondhand
Books for the Zero Waste Scientist
This book should live on every environmentalist’s coffee table! An international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here--some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. If deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, they represent a credible path forward, not just to slow the earth's warming but to reach drawdown, that point in time when greenhouse gases in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline.
Reviews: "Drawdown is not just a project--it is an adventure. It is a promising story that has the potential to engage every person on the planet with at least one solution to climate change, whether it is educating girls, improved rice cultivation, creating walkable cities, eating a plant-rich diet, household recycling, or any of the other solutions."
--Karen O'Brien, cCHANGE
Price: $21.16, or less secondhand
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate Change | Naomi Klein
This book provides a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core "free market" ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems. In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn't just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It's an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift.
Reviews: "This may be the first truly honest book ever written about climate change." -- Bryan Walsh "Time "
Price: $17.47, or less secondhand
How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything | Mike Berners Lee
Have you ever wondered the carbon footprint of your everyday activities? Like riding the bus or drying your hands with a paper towel versus an air dryer. This book answers all of these questions! Part green-lifestyle guide, part popular science, How Bad Are Bananas? is the first book to provide the information we need to make carbon-savvy purchases and informed lifestyle choices, and to build carbon considerations into our everyday thinking. It also helps put our decisions into perspective with entries for the big things (the World Cup, volcanic eruptions, and the Iraq war) as well as the small (email, ironing a shirt, a glass of beer). And it covers the range from birth (the carbon footprint of having a child) to death (the carbon impact of cremation). Packed full of surprises-a plastic bag has the smallest footprint of any item listed, while a block of cheese is bad news-the book continuously informs, delights, and engages the reader.
Reviews: "I can't remember the last time I read a book that was more fascinating and useful and enjoyable."--Bill Bryson
Price: $15.59, or less secondhand
Books for the Zero Waste Economist
Named after the now-iconic "doughnut" image that Raworth first drew to depict a sweet spot of human prosperity, Doughnut Economics offers a radically new compass for guiding global development, government policy, and corporate strategy, and sets new standards for what economic success looks like. Raworth handpicks the best emergent ideas--from ecological, behavioral, feminist, and institutional economics to complexity thinking and Earth-systems science--to address this question: How can we turn economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, into economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow? Simple, playful, and eloquent, Doughnut Economics offers game-changing analysis and inspiration for a new generation of economic thinkers.
Reviews: "What if it were possible to live well without trashing the planet? Doughnut Economics succinctly captures this tantalising possibility and takes up its challenge. Brimming with creativity, Raworth reclaims economics from the dust of academia and puts it to the service of a better world."--Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity without Growth
Price: $16.56, or less secondhand
Most people don't want to think about what happens when the oil runs out (or becomes prohibitively expensive), but "The Transition Handbook" shows how the inevitable and profound changes ahead can have a positive effect. They can lead to the rebirth of local communities, which will generate their own fuel, food and housing. They can encourage the development of local currencies, to keep money in the local area. They can unleash a local 'skilling-up', so that people have more control over their lives. "The Transition Handbook" is the manual which will guide communities to begin this 'energy descent' journey. The argument that 'small is inevitable' is upbeat and positive, as well as utterly convincing.
Reviews: "This book lays out the reasons we need to change our habits (climate change, depletion of oil, people's and the planet's health) without laying a guilt trip or a nightmare scenario on the reader. We can change what we are doing in a reasonable manner and make a big difference in our local communities and also for the planet. The steps are laid out in an easy to follow manner. Great read for people wanting to make a difference in how they are living on and with the planet and not just complain about what the governments are or aren't doing." - Melissa Draper, Amazon Review
Price: $22.46, or less secondhand
Books for the Zero Waste Foodie
Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint | Douglas McMaster
Silo maps out an extraordinary new plan from radical young chef Douglas McMaster, founder of SILO the first zero food-waste restaurant--a food system for the future. "Closed-loop systems," "radical suppliers," "off-grid ingredients," "waste-free prep" and "clean farming" are just some of the words you will find in this polemic on the future of food as we know it. These are just some of the raw ingredients deftly chopped and mixed into an irresistible and intoxicating fusion. Part inspiration, part practical kitchen know-how, part philosophy--just add anarchic flavours and a dash of pure hope for a beautifully crafted book destined to be a refreshingly radical addition to your kitchen library.
Reviews: "I've always said that it's in a chef's DNA to utilize what would otherwise be thrown away. We are hardwired to take the uncoveted and make it delicious. But Doug McMaster is on another level entirely--he is doing some of the most thorough and thoughtful work on food waste today. This book gives you more than a glimpse into his mind. It provides a much needed roadmap for a future of limited resources and growing demands." - Dan Barber, Chef/Co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Price: $26.99, or less secondhand
Max La Manna has inspired thousands of people across the world to rethink their approach to consumption and made it his mission to turn the tide on plastic and breathe new energy into the leftovers that are typically destined for the trash. In his first cookbook he shares 80 of his tasty, healthy recipes that will help you save money, food and eat well. Not only that, Max shares some of his favorite all-natural home hacks, life tools you need to add value to what you already own and a 21-day zero waste challenge!
Reviews: “Great book and super eye opening to food waste. The recipes in the book are simple and easy to follow, and gives unique recipes to use up food in the house that you normally would throw away. We love the book.” - Dan Kavanaugh, Amazon reviewer
Price: $27.60, or less secondhand
We are the Weather: Saving the Planet begins at Breakfast | Jonathan Safran Foer
In We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves--with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life. And it all starts with what we eat--and don't eat--for breakfast.
Reviews: "Beautiful, powerful writing that's made me rethink the way I eat." --Samin Nosrat, author of Salt Fat Acid Heat
"This is a life-changing book and will alter your relationship to food for ever . . . Lucid, heartfelt, deeply compassionate . . . Sharp, hard-hitting." --Alex Preston, The Guardian
Price: $23.00, or less secondhand