The 15 Best Nonfiction Sustainability Books

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes “sustainability” and “sustainability books” seem to use two buzzwords without thinking much of what they are really Means. So, spoil me for a second while I refer to the EPA for some help:

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. The pursuit of sustainability is the creation and maintenance of conditions under which humans and nature can live in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

Sustainability can touch many aspects of our lives, from food to clothing to travel and even the way we do business. But the message across everyone remains the same: It is up to all of us to work together and make some changes in life now that will greatly benefit us in the future, not to mention generations to come.

This list contains a mix of sustainability books that discuss sustainable living in these different regions. Also because we can’t separate sustainability from environmental activism and climate science, there are quite a few of these titles as well.


Laurent Savoy follows the cover of the book, there is a pale yellow paper on the cover

Tracing: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lorette Savoy

This powerful book combines a personal memoir with a study of the composition and culture of the land. In a collection of eight essays, Savoy (a professor of environmental studies) takes the reader through childhood memories and family history of her ancestors, all while talking about the environmental erasure that has occurred over the years.

design + architecture

The cover of The Upcycle, there is a zigzag line on the cover that starts yellow and becomes green

The Recycling Cycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Plenty by Michael Brongart and William McDonough

You’ve likely heard of Cradle to Cradle, the first book from this author pair. If this book is the roadmap, this is the blueprint. McDonough and Braungart consider sustainable design and best practices for everything from product design to building architecture to personal business.


Conscious Cabinet Cover

The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good Doing Good, by Elizabeth L. Klein

Fashion is quickly becoming a way you can make personal changes in your life that benefit the environment. In Cline’s book, she’s covered everything from how to build a sustainable wardrobe, ways to keep clothes in good shape for several years, and smart shopping. This is a very eye opening book that will change the way you look at your closet.

slow fashion cover, there are yellow butterflies

Lazy Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics, by Safiya Minni

Minney interviews a group of entrepreneurs and pioneers from around the world who represent alternatives to the big-name brands we’re used to hearing about. Each section gives these people the opportunity to explain their motivations from all parts of the fashion industry, from influencers to designers to store owners.

sustainable books about everyday life

Zero Waste Life book cover, there is a plant illustration on the left side

A Life Without Waste: In Thirty Days by Anita Vandyk

If you are a beginner to sustainable living, this is a great place to start. It’s totally basic and really explains the basics. Vandyke offers a 30-day plan to explore zero waste options and incorporate these behaviors into your life.

Plastic disinfection book cover, bright pink water bottle illustration

Plastic Cleanse: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body and Help Save Turtles! by Michael St. Clements

This book does little more than cover how plastic can be harmful to our environment. We also learn about the history of plastic and how it became a mainstay in our lives. Eye opens, but writing He is kind of density.

101 Ways to Get Zero Waste Book Cover

101 Ways to Zero Waste by Catherine Kellogg

Another good resource for beginners looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Since there are 101 tips here, it doesn’t go too deep, and it definitely calls for more research to develop an implementation plan.

minimal book cover

The Bottom Line: How to Simplify Your Life and Live Sustainably by Madeline Olivia

Madeline Olivia is a popular YouTube content creator with over 500k followers who makes videos about living a minimalist. In this, her first book, she conveys all her thoughts, knowledge, and advice. It’s a great way to look inward, learn about the areas in your life that are doing nothing for you, and learn how to reduce and let go.

Environmental Activity / Agriculture

As long as the grass grows book cover

With the Grass Growing by Dina Gillio Whitaker

This book focuses on indigenous activists and their struggle against the “mainstream” environmental movement. History also goes back to moments of resistance and how not only environmentalists but the general public can learn from looking at new approaches inspired by the leadership of Indigenous women.

Rooted in the cover of the Earth book, a black person's hand extends toward the grass

Rooted in the Land: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage by Diane D

From the early days of farming to the harrowing days of lynchings and beyond, this book focuses on the relationship that black Americans have with nature. Glave is an environmental historian who does a great job analyzing the connection with nature and the importance of environmental protection for blacks.

Climate justice book cover

Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future, by Mary Robinson

Robinson wore many hats, including Ireland’s first female president, but is now the face of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which seeks to serve the victims of climate change, primarily marginalized groups, from around the world. The essence of the book is to feel the urgency to join the fight against climate change and to research ways to improve our individual contributions to sustainable living.

Agriculture while black book cover

Farming While Black by Leah Penniman

This book looks at the history of black farmers and how the total number continues to decline. Penniman has developed an influential and powerful educational book for black farmers to reclaim the occupation and contributions of the BIPOC community that introduced sustainable agriculture.

Braiding book cover sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass: Aboriginal Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and Plant Teachings by Robin Wall Kemmerer

As the title suggests, this book merges three seemingly separate and distinct narratives: Aboriginal wisdom, scientific knowledge, and botany. She uses them to tell a bigger story about the beauty of the natural world, how we as humans are destroying it, and how we can work together to build a better future.


Children's book cover of the third culture in the world

Children of the World’s Third Culture: Exploring Sustainable Travel Mindsets, by Priyanka Sorio

Priyanka is herself a multinational child, perfect for giving voice to third culture kids. With guidance and advice from activists, scholars, and travel industry professionals, this book outlines ways we can make positive impressions on the world while traveling sustainably.

a job

Sustainability strategy book cover

Sustainability Strategy: A Business Statement by Adam Werbach

Werbach is the first book in the sustainability strategy conversation, looking at how successful companies set up CSR policies. It also covers why this makes companies more competitive and even a strategic advantage.

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