Did you know more than 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the agriculture and food industry? Our plates hold the power to make a big environmental impact! With mounting pressure on the food industry, greenwashing on social media and false claims are increasingly circulating. If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ll know that we are in the full swing of climate change. From wildfires to droughts to flooding, the threat of natural disasters has never felt more imminent. Curious about where to start learning about your plate’s impact on climate change? We’ve curated a short list of sustainability books to get you started. Some climate change books can be technical, but this selection makes the information easy to understand.
There have been many sustainability books written about climate, food, or changes in weather patterns. However, these thought-provoking reads are packed with insights that’ll have you seeing the world through an environmentally conscious lens. I found all of these books at my local library, on Audible, and on Amazon. Pick your next read from this list of climate change and sustainability books!
Sustainability Food Books
This selection of sustainability books focuses on food both from the lens of consumption and cultivation. They are a thought-proving books that make you think differently about how climate change affects your food.
“Today’s optimistic farm-to-table food culture has a dark secret: The local food movement has failed to change how we eat. It has also offered a false promise for the future of food. In his visionary New York Times best-selling book, chef Dan Barber, showcased on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, offers a radical new way of thinking about food that will heal the land and taste good, too. Looking to the detrimental cooking of our past, and the misguided dining of our present, Barber points to a future “third plate”. A new form of American eating where good farming and good food intersect. Barber’s The Third Plate charts a bright path forward for eaters and chefs alike. Daring everyone to imagine a future for our national cuisine that is as sustainable as it is delicious.”
Listen on Audible here
“Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion. Most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become.
With In Defense of Food, Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.”
“A radically practical guide to making food choices that are good for you, others, and the planet. Is organic really worth it? Are eggs ok to eat? If so, which ones are best for you, and for the chicken—Cage-Free, Free-Range, Pasture-Raised? What about farmed salmon, soy milk, sugar, gluten, fermented foods, coconut oil, almonds? Thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or somewhere in between?
Using three criteria—Is it good for me? Is it good for others? Is it good for the planet? Sophie Egan helps us navigate the bewildering world of food so that we can all become conscious eaters. To eat consciously is not about diets, fads, or hard-and-fast rules. It’s about having straightforward, accurate information to make smart, thoughtful choices amid the chaos of conflicting news and marketing hype. Egan organizes the book into four categories: stuff that comes from the ground, stuff that comes from animals, stuff that comes from factories, and stuff that’s made in restaurant kitchens. This practical guide offers bottom-line answers to your most top-of-mind questions about what to eat.”
Climate Change Books
This selection of climate change books focuses on the looming environmental impacts of global warming. From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book, this selection shares the same message for urgent action. Climate change books plea for sustainability practices to be more widespread.
“The book that sparked the modern environmental movement, with an unprecedented collection of letters, speeches, and other writings that reveal the extraordinary courage and vision of its author.
First published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. “Silent Spring became a runaway bestseller, with international reverberations . . . [It is] well crafted, fearless and succinct . . . Even if she had not inspired a generation of activists, Carson would prevail as one of the greatest nature writers in American letters” (Peter Matthiessen, for Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the Century).”
The untold story of climate migration in the United States. This book shares personal stories of those experiencing displacement. Portraying communities being torn apart by disaster, and the implications for all of us as we confront a changing future are daunting.
Over the next fifty years, millions of Americans will be caught up in this churn of displacement. Many will be forced inland and northward in what will be the largest migration in our country’s history. The Great Displacement compassionately tells the stories of those who are already experiencing life on the move, while detailing just how radically climate change will transform our lives. Erasing historic towns and villages, pushing people toward new areas, and reshaping the geography of the United States.
In this urgent, authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical—and accessible—plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe.
Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases. But it also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.
“We still have time to change the world. From climate activist Greta Thunberg, comes the essential handbook for making it happen.
You might think it’s an impossible task: secure a safe future for life on Earth, at a scale and speed never seen, against all the odds. There is hope—but only if we listen to the science before it’s too late.
In The Climate Book, Greta Thunberg has gathered the wisdom of over one hundred experts—geophysicists, oceanographers and meteorologists; engineers, economists and mathematicians; historians, philosophers and Indigenous leaders—to equip us all with the knowledge we need to combat climate disaster.
Throughout, illuminating and often shocking grayscale charts, graphs, diagrams, photographs, and illustrations underscore their research and their arguments. Alongside them, she shares her own stories of demonstrating and uncovering greenwashing around the world, revealing how much we have been kept in the dark. This is one of our biggest challenges, she shows, but also our greatest source of hope. Once we are given the full picture, how can we not act? And if a schoolchild’s strike could ignite a global protest, what could we do collectively if we tried?
We are alive at the most decisive time in the history of humanity. Together, we can do the seemingly impossible. But it has to be us, and it has to be now.”
Sustainability Books about Agriculture
This selection of sustainability books shines a light on the agriculture industry. Both share the dark secrets of the food industry’s agriculture practices. They are thought provoking pieces that will make you think about sourcing your food locally.
Supermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright. But in Tomatoland, which is based on his James Beard Award-winning article, The Price of Tomatoes, investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry.
Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have fourteen times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. How have we come to this point?
Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee, Florida, a.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. He visits the laboratories of seedsmen trying to develop varieties that can withstand the rigors of agribusiness and still taste like a garden tomato, and then moves on to commercial growers who operate on tens of thousands of acres, and eventually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania, where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation’s top restaurants.
9. Forty Chances – Howard Buffet
“If someone granted you $3 billion to accomplish something great in the world, what would you do? In 2006, legendary investor Warren Buffett posed this challenge to his son Howard G. Buffett. Howard set out to help the most vulnerable people on earth—nearly a billion individuals who lack basic food security. And Howard gave himself a deadline: 40 years to put the resources to work on this challenge.
40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World captures Howard’s journey. Beginning with his love for farming, we join him around the world as he seeks out new approaches to ease the suffering of so many. Each of the 40 stories here provides a compelling look at the lessons Howard learned, ranging from his own backyard to some of the most difficult and dangerous places on Earth. But this message goes beyond the pages of this book, it’s also a mindset: a way of thinking that speaks to every person wanting to make a difference. It’s about reasons to hope and actions we can take. 40 Chances “recounts Howard’s personal and professional experiences in surprisingly candid and colorful fashion…successfully blending personal stories with a tough look at the struggle to fight domestic food scarcity and world hunger…A satisfying read” (Publishers Weekly) that provides inspiration to transform each of our limited chances into opportunities to change the world.”
Sustainable Living Books
These sustainability books help you implement practical, sustainability tips into your every day life. They will make you think about contaminants, clean living, and reducing your waste.
No one likes listening to smug hippies bragging about how they don’t use toilet paper, or worse yet, lecturing about the evils of plastic bags and SUVs. But most of us do want to lessen our ecological footprint. With this in mind, Farquharson takes on the intense personal challenge of making one green change to her lifestyle every single day for a year to ultimately figure out what’s doable and what’s too hardcore.
Whether confronting her environmental hypocrisy or figuring out the best place in her living room for a compost bin full of worms and rotting cabbage, Vanessa writes about her foray into the green world with self-deprecating, humorous, and accessible insight. This isn’t a how-to book of tips, it’s not about being eco-chic; it’s an honest look at what happens when an average girl throws herself into the murkiest depths of the green movement.
A few years ago, journalism professor McKay Jenkins went in for a routine medical exam. What doctors found was not routine at all: A tumor, the size of a navel orange, was lurking in his abdomen. When Jenkins returned to the hospital to have the tumor removed, he was visited by a couple of researchers with clipboards. They had some questions for him. Odd questions, like how much exposure had he had to toxic chemicals and other contaminants? Asbestos dust? Vinyl chlorine? Pesticides? From the moment he left the hospital, Jenkins resolved to discover the truth about chemicals and the “healthy” levels of exposure we encounter each day as Americans. He spent the next two years digging, exploring five frontiers of toxic exposure – the body, the home, drinking water, the lawn, and the local box store – and asking how we allowed ourselves to get to this point. Most important, though, Jenkins wanted to know what we can do to turn things around. Though toxins may be present in products we all use every day, there are ways to lessen our exposure. ContamiNation is an eye-opening report from the front lines of consumer advocacy.
Minimalism meets DIY in an accessible guide to household waste reductionWe all know how important it is to reduce our environmental footprint, but it can be daunting to know where to begin. Enter Kathryn Kellogg, who can fit all her trash from the past two years into a 16-ounce mason jar. How? She starts by saying “no” to straws and grocery bags, and “yes” to a reusable water bottle and compostable dish scrubbers.In 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, Kellogg shares these 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.”This is a practical, friendly blueprint of realistic lifestyle changes for anyone who wants to reduce their waste.
Climate Change Books on my List
This next selection of books are ones I haven’t read yet. But they are on my list! Feel free to comment below any others you’ve enjoyed reading!
“Provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.
There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. While it’s clear that women and girls are vital voices and agents of change for this planet, they are too often missing from the proverbial table. More than a problem of bias, it’s a dynamic that sets us up for failure. To change everything, we need everyone.
Intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide for knowing and holding what has been done to the world, while bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future. We must summon truth, courage, and solutions to turn away from the brink and toward life-giving possibility. Curated by two climate leaders, the book is a collection and celebration of visionaries who are leading us on a path toward all we can save.”
This damning account of the forces that have hijacked progress on climate change shares a bold vision of what it will take, politically and economically, to face the existential threat of global warming head-on.
It has become impossible to deny that the planet is warming, and that governments must act. But a new denialism is taking root in the halls of power, shaped by decades of neoliberal policies and centuries of anti-democratic thinking. Since the 1980s, Democrats and Republicans have each granted enormous concessions to industries hell bent on maintaining business as usual. What’s worse, policymakers have given oil and gas executives a seat at the table designing policies that should euthanize their business model. This approach, journalist Kate Aronoff makes clear, will only drive the planet further into emergency. Drawing on years of reporting, Aronoff lays out an alternative vision, detailing how democratic majorities can curb polluters’ power; create millions of well-paid, union jobs; enact climate reparations; and transform the economy into a more leisurely and sustainable one. Our future will require a radical reimagining of politics—with the world at stake.
15. The Uninhabitable Earth – David Wallace-Wells
The climate crisis that our nation currently faces, from rising temperatures, unfathomable drought, devastating floods, unprecedented fires, just to name a few, are alarming precursors to what awaits us if we continue on our current path. Global warming is effecting the world. If left unchecked, it promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and the trajectory of human progress.
In sobering detail, Wallace-Wells lays out the mistakes and inaction of past and current generations that we see negatively affecting all lives today. More importantly how they will inevitably affect the future. But readers will also hear—loud and clear—his impassioned call to action, as he appeals to current and future generations, especially young people. As he states: “the solutions, when we dare to imagine them . . . are indeed motivating, if there is to be any chance of preserving even the hope for a happier future—relatively livable, relatively fulfilling, relatively prosperous, and perhaps more than only relatively just.”
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