I am extremely grateful and thankful  to have received a degree in Environmental Studies from NYU. It is where I got a lot of my foundational science education that really helped to shape the way I think about things from a systems perspective. However, most of my knowledge on sustainability came not from school, but from reading.

I am a big believer that school isn’t how we become well versed in something, it is a hunger for learning and a desire to constantly challenge and enrich ourselves. I have included the names of the books that have helped me to grow and expand as well as a link to where you can buy them secondhand on Amazon (I know, they aren’t the best)… so I suggest first getting books at a local library, then purchasing books secondhand or on an e-reader if you have one. If you buy books secondhand online, remember to ask the seller if they can package it plastic free in an envelope as opposed to a plastic mailer. They are typically very accommodating.

The book that started it all for me: 


Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: The book that was published in a series of 3 excerpts in the New Yorker in 1962 that led to the banning of DDT and helped to start the environmental movement.

Animal Agriculture/Food


Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: After becoming a father, Jonathan Safran Foer looked into why we eat animals and the stories behind them. This book is top 10 for me.


Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan: Through the question of what to have for dinner, Pollan looks at our food system and how America eats.


In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: This book looks at the American Paradox- the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become. He suggest a “new” diet that looks in the direction of making thoughtful food choices.


Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser: A look into the American fast food industry.


Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé: a look into not only how what we eat affects us, but the world.

Sociology/Business/Economics/Other 


Flammable by Javier Auyero and Debora Alejandra Swistun: The impact of a large oil corporation on an Argentine shantytown.


Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher: A statement against “bigger is better” industrialism.


Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough: Remaking the Way We Make Things.


Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond: Geography shapes the destiny of the world.


Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawkens: how businesses can be both profitable and environmentally responsible.

Collapse by Jared Diamond: How and why societies fail.


The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard: The impact of overconsumption on the environment, economy, and our health.


The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

Enjoy these books and please let me know if you have any additions that I might have missed!

 

 

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23 comments

  1. Great list – thanks for posting! One more book that was a big game changer for me was Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman. It's not a new book but it really opened my eyes & made me dramatically change how I do things.

  2. These are a few that would be in my top ten:

    Plastic: A toxic love story by Susan Freinkel. A history of the rise of plastic use. It is fascinating!

    Junkyard Planet: travels in the billion-dollar trash trade. By Adam Minter. Focuses on scrap yards and the scrap metal trade that used to be local but has now become global. Helped me understand global trade (Overdressed by Cline is another good one for this)

    Waste and Want: a social history of trash. By Susan Strasser. Early Americans used to reuse everything: example…they'd sell their rags to the rag dealer, who would sell to the paper mill to make paper.

  3. Great book list! A few I haven't read, but look forward to checking out. A fictional book that's had a profound impact on how I look at the world is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

  4. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn has been a favorite for years. It's a fantastic perspective of our species. Also, not a book but have you seen then documentary "I Am"? if not, it's a great one to watch!

  5. Great list! Right now I'm re-reading The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas Kostigen. It's a little outdated, but I like its premise: If one person makes changes at a small level, we can collectively make great changes at a larger level.

  6. Interesting, yes Omnivore's Dilemma was hard for me at some points because I feel like he tried to be so relatable he was not relatable. I'm excited to check out The Third Plate.

  7. I've been scanning your blog, and I am sorry if I missed the answer to this question. But what did you do with all of your plastics when you decided to go plastic free? Were they all recyclable? I am having a difficult time with wanting to get rid of my tupperware but also not feeling like I am contributing to landfills. Any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  8. Great List!
    I would add Bill Mckibben – The End of Nature. I second Colin Beavan's latest book as well as his "No Impact Man…" the narrative is great.

  9. Also, Porter Fox – Deep
    I love snow, winter and skiing this book has opened the discussion for many winter sport/winter lovers. Another great narrative!

  10. Awesome list! Thanks for sharing. I've got my work cut out for me this year – I think I'll start with Cradle to Cradle and Natural Capitalism. I am an interior designer, and I love it, but am really struggling with the consumption and materialism of my profession. I recently became a certified yoga teacher, but am still figuring out how I can make a living doing that!

  11. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to adding some of these to my reading list 🙂 If you're interested, 'Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating' by Jane Goodall is an amazing and heartfelt book.

  12. Factor Four would be another classical addition. And I believe everyone should have read the Agenda 21 (Download) and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Cheers Mecki

  13. Hey Lauren,

    Was wondering if you've come across any books on building a more sustainable home?
    I feel like there is a lot out there now in terms of eco friendly building materials and practices and was wondering if someone wrapped it all up into one book.

    Thanks

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