10 Best Books on Sustainability (2023 HIDDEN Gems)

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As an entrepreneur and engineer with a passion for sustainability and technology, I constantly seek out valuable resources to deepen my understanding of sustainable practices. While books like Small is Beautiful, Cradle to Cradle, and Diet for a Hot Planet are often lauded as the best books on sustainability, there are numerous hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In this blog post, I’ll unveil 10 underrated books on sustainability in 2023 that offer unique and insightful perspectives on creating a more sustainable future.

In the realm of sustainability, there are several noteworthy books that offer profound insights and timeless wisdom. Here are the “classic” sustainability books:

  • Small is Beautiful, written by E.F. Schumacher, stands as a true classic, emphasizing the importance of human-scale economics.
  • Cradle to Cradle, a modern classic authored by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, provides a groundbreaking perspective on the concept of waste.
  • Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappé, delves into the connection between our food choices and climate change.

These texts, alongside newer voices and their extensive research, contribute significantly to the understanding and promotion of sustainable practices.

The Best Books on Sustainability

Here are the most underrated and best books on sustainability:

1. The Ecology of Commerce Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability

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“The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken is a game-changing book that redefines the relationship between business and the environment. Hawken argues that it is not only possible but necessary for businesses to prioritize sustainability alongside profits.

He presents a compelling vision of a restorative economy and outlines eight imperatives for achieving it. The book is filled with eye-opening case studies and thought-provoking insights.

However, some readers criticize Hawken for being too idealistic and not providing enough concrete solutions. Despite this criticism, “The Ecology of Commerce” is one of the best books on sustainability and a must-read for anyone interested in the future of business and the environment. It will challenge your perspectives and inspire you to take action.

2. False Alarm

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False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg is a thought-provoking book that challenges the prevailing narrative around climate change.

Lomborg argues that while climate change is a real issue, it is not the imminent apocalyptic threat it is often portrayed to be. He provides evidence-based arguments against panic-driven policies and offers alternative solutions that prioritize investments in human capital and address global poverty.

What makes this book interesting is Lomborg’s ability to present a balanced perspective supported by research and data. However, some critics argue that Lomborg underestimates the urgency of climate action and overlooks the potentially catastrophic consequences. Nevertheless, False Alarm offers a valuable contribution to the climate change debate and encourages readers to reevaluate their understanding of the issue.

3. The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

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“The Urban Homestead” is an expanded and revised edition of the bestselling classic that provides a comprehensive guide to self-sufficient living in the heart of the city.

Written by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, this book covers a wide range of topics, including growing your own food, food preservation, raising chickens, and energy independence. The book includes step-by-step projects, tips, and anecdotes to help readers get started on their homesteading journey.

With its engaging writing style and practical advice, “The Urban Homestead” is a must-read for anyone interested in taking a more active role in growing and preparing their own food. However, some readers may find that the book lacks depth in certain areas and would benefit from additional information.

4. Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste

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“Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson is an inspiring book that tells the personal journey of Bea and her family towards a zero-waste lifestyle. It offers practical tools, tips, and insights to help readers reduce their waste and simplify their lives.

What makes this book interesting is Johnson’s relatable storytelling and the valuable advice she provides, such as making your own products and reducing consumption. However, some readers may find some of the suggestions extreme or difficult to implement. Overall, it is a great starting point for anyone looking to live a more sustainable and mindful life.

5. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

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Atomic Habits by James Clear is a highly popular book that offers a practical framework for building good habits and breaking bad ones. Clear draws on research from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to provide actionable strategies for daily life.

He emphasizes the importance of small changes and repeated actions in achieving remarkable results. The book is filled with inspiring stories from successful individuals who have used the power of habits to excel in their fields.

While this is not strictly a book on sustainability, changing our bad habits is essential for the 6 Rs of sustainability and transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle.

The book has received widespread acclaim, however, some critics argue that the concepts may be repetitive for readers already familiar with the topic. Nonetheless, Atomic Habits is a valuable guide for anyone looking to transform their habits and achieve their goals.

6. Sustainability Principles and Practice

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“Sustainability Principles and Practice” by Margaret Robertson is an accessible and comprehensive textbook that provides an interdisciplinary overview of sustainability. It covers a wide range of topics, from ecosystems and social equity to energy and product life cycles.

The book offers both conceptual understanding and technical skills, equipping students with tools to work towards sustainable solutions. The third edition includes updates on resilience, systems thinking, and the Anthropocene, along with case studies from around the world.

The book also features further reading, discussion questions, and a companion website with additional resources. While it provides a comprehensive overview, some readers may find the content dense and requiring careful digestion.

7. The Future of Fashion: Understanding Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

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“The Future of Fashion” by Tyler Little provides an eye-opening look into the damaging effects of the fashion industry on the environment and offers hope for a more sustainable future.

Little explores topics such as innovation, psychology, and entrepreneurship in sustainable fashion, highlighting the individuals and movements making a difference in the industry. The book is well-researched and informative, making it a valuable resource for those interested in the intersection of fashion and sustainability.

Some readers found the book to be a basic introduction to the topic, while others praised its informative and well-written content. Overall, “The Future of Fashion” offers insights and inspiration for readers to make a positive impact through sustainable fashion.

8. Sustainable Minimalism: Embrace Zero Waste, Build Sustainability Habits That Last, and Become a Minimalist without Sacrificing the Planet

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“Sustainable Minimalism” by Stephanie Marie Seferian is a practical guide for embracing a minimalist lifestyle while also prioritizing sustainability.

The book explores the negative impacts of excessive consumption and offers strategies for breaking the cycle of materialism. Seferian emphasizes the importance of incremental change and provides actionable steps for decluttering, organizing, and creating a zero-waste home.

The book also touches on the mental and financial benefits of minimalism, making it an accessible and comprehensive resource for those interested in living consciously. However, some readers may find the focus on sustainability outweighs the minimalism aspect of the book.

9. Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

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“Doughnut Economics” by Kate Raworth is a groundbreaking book that challenges traditional economic thinking and offers an alternative framework for the 21st century. Raworth argues that our current economic theories are outdated and fail to address pressing issues like climate change and inequality. She proposes a new economic model that prioritizes human well-being and planetary boundaries.

Raworth draws on various disciplines, from behavioral economics to ecology, to present a comprehensive and accessible analysis of the flaws in our current economic system. While the book has received praise for its innovative ideas, some critics argue that implementing Raworth’s proposals may be challenging in practice. Nonetheless, “Doughnut Economics” inspires new ways of thinking about economics and offers hope for a more sustainable future.

10. Silent Spring

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Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is a groundbreaking book published in 1962 that alerted the public to the dangers of indiscriminate pesticide use. Carson’s meticulous research and compelling narrative shed light on the environmental and human health risks associated with these chemicals, sparking a nationwide debate.

The book challenged the prevailing belief in the infallibility of science and the indiscriminate use of pesticides. However, Silent Spring faced criticism from the chemical industry, who attacked Carson personally and attempted to discredit her work. Despite this, the book’s impact was undeniable, leading to changes in policy and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Carson’s message remains relevant today as we continue to face environmental challenges.

  1. “The Upcycle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart – Building on the ideas presented in “Cradle to Cradle,” this book explores the concept of upcycling and how it can create a more sustainable and regenerative future.
  2. “The 100-Year Life” by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott – This book explores the implications of longer lifespans and how societies and individuals can adapt to ensure a sustainable and fulfilling future.


So there you have it, folks! The best books on sustainability that may have slipped under your radar until now. These hidden gems are packed with a wealth of knowledge and insights that will leave you feeling inspired and empowered to make a positive change in our world and pursue the 3 pillars of sustainability.

Whether you’re interested in delving into the world of economics, rethinking our approach to waste, or exploring the impact of our food choices on the planet, these books have got you covered. So grab a cup of tea, cozy up in your favorite reading nook, and prepare to be enlightened by these underrated treasures. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out on what these authors have to say!

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About The AuthorSimon
Hey there! I'm Simon, an entrepreneur and engineer with 15+ years turning ideas into reality, including senior roles in the automotive industry (Formula 1). Drawing from my expertise, I write insightful guides empowering readers to transform their lifestyles through efficiency, innovation and green tech. From renewable energy to hybrid and electric vehicles, sustainable living to gardening, boating to RVing - I cover it all! My aim is helping readers embrace emerging tech to find new, sustainable solutions.