10 of the Best Environmental Justice and Sustainability Books
Looking for sustainability books? With most of us spending lots more time at home in recent months, there is no better time to do some in-depth reading and research. We compiled some of our favorite reads about sustainability and the environmental justice movement - books that have helped shape our own thinking on our company, product set and the impact we want to have.
Here's a list of 10 Sustainability books we love and why:
1. The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman
The geologic time period in which we are currently living, the Anthropocene, has had unprecedented human influence and alteration on all earth system processes including atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, and biospheric. Ackerman dives into the relationship of humans and the world around them to prove that no entity has ever had such an impact, both harmful and innovative, on the planet. She touches on the intertwined relationship of nature and humanity and what our future might look like in an anthropogenic world. She instills hope among readers through her scientific approach of explanation and brings about questions for further reflection.
2. Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders by Angelou Ezeilo and Nick Chiles
One of the best environmental justice books, Angelou Ezeilo’s Engage, Connect, Protect illustrates the issues and provides a framework for correcting them. As we become more aware and informed citizens of the global community concerned with environmental justice, some have been left behind. For many, these problems reside in the consciousness of white and affluent people but in reality this is far from the truth. Ezeilo and Chiles explore the deep concern of other racial and economic communities whose voices might not be as prominent. The book also offers solutions to unify the divides, engage the youth along with culturally different generations, and sheds light onto what curriculum is most practical. The main takeaway is that we can do more together than divided.
3. Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan
Fashion often feels like a sore spot for sustainability. It seems hard to weigh the pros and cons of buying the clothes we want and their impact on our planet. Eagan gives clarity in her guide to ethical fashion as she delves into how you can make more sustainable purchases without forfeiting style. She incorporates a system to rate the ethical impact of your purchase, rethink your wardrobe, and makeover various elements of your beauty and styling routines.
4. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio- Whitaker
We can learn a lot from the Indigenous members of our communities about activism and their fight for environmental justice. Gino-Whitaker provides an interesting perspective on the history of Indiginous people in the United States and their fight for resource security and land protection. Many Indigenous women have provided impactful direction in this fight and their story is diligently recounted to readers. She presents new outlooks on activism, environmental justice, and the policies that shape them and gives insight into the long-held resistance. A modern example of Standing Rock puts the historical outlook into a modern perspective.
5. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Our world today provides us with access to virtually any food, leaving us with the dilemma of “what should we have for dinner?”. Pollan presents the issues surrounding the foods we choose to eat in the context of human health, sustainability, and the agricultural practices that make it all possible. He explores the impacts of those choices on us and the environment to make readers reevaluate the way we think about the “politics, perils, and pleasures of eating”. This makes our must read environmental books list because it’s both impactful and offers practical solutions to the complicated problems that we face in our everyday lives.
6. Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism by Jed Greer and Kenny Bruno
“Greenwashing” is the term for corporate spending of time or capital aimed to make their products and company appear more sustainable or environmentally friendly. In reality it is a targeted marketing and advertising campaign that hopes to capture the consumerism of individuals who prefer to buy green products. In one of the most unflinching environmental books that look at corporations, the authors explore this concept perpetrated through transnational corporations and explain their impact using many well known companies as examples. The book tells readers how to spot these companies, how they may help hold them responsible, and take control of their consumer impact.
7. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
Described as “the most important book of the year”, Klein builds off the principle that either we must undertake extreme change into our lives or we will see detrimental impacts on the world, in regards to climate change. She argues for a “restructuring of the global economy” and a recreation of our political systems. We must change our relationship with the natural world in order to see any real impact. She discusses the capitalistic systems that directly contribute to a warming world. This makes our list of the best books on sustainability because readers gain perspective on how economic processes contribute to environmental harm.
8. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough
This book lays out the concept of a one-way “cradle to grave” model of manufacturing that has persisted through modern times which creates high amounts of waste and toxic by-products. By combining science and design, the authors reversed this idea of manufacturing to one where benefits, rather than drawbacks, are the resulting factor of production via “safe materials” and lesser waste. With the solutions provided, manufacturing would be a more positive process with a more sustainable footprint. This production-oriented sustainability book inspires readers to think of new ways of innovating and rethink the systems that exist today.
9. Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice by Julie Sze
What is it like to live in a New York neighborhood and deal with various aspects of environmental justice? Sze gives an in-depth view of what the life of a racial minority or low income person living in one of these neighborhoods is like in the context of unequal effects of “urban environmental problems”. She analyzes the history of activism for environmental justice with regard to the culture and politics that surrounds it. Readers learn about some of the unknown effects of “privatization, deregulation, and globalization” that affect people living in neighborhoods with a history of activism. Many far reaching effects are explored that offer insight into what occurs on an individualistic and local level.
10. Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River by David Owen
We all use water on a daily basis, but we tend to know little about the sourcing, distribution, and destination of it on a local scale. Owen answers these questions while studying the Colorado River, which provides water for many people in the US. He explains the ownership of the water and the many stops it takes during its useful life. He discusses issues as well as offers solutions that may seem simple but are very complicated in reality. It’s one of the best environmental books because it gives us an informative perspective on the future as well as the consequences of any snag in the system.
TWO BONUS BOOKS! The following are frequently highlighted as exceptonal books about Environmental Justice and....there is a good reason why. These books are awesome. We didn't put them above because we know they are discussed and highlighted in so many lists. But we wanted to make sure they were given their full due. If you haven't read these yet, please do!
Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States
A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind