7 Books To Kick-Start Your Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

Beautiful and accessible, they're full of information and practical tips.

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green lifestyle books
Books to help you live a more eco-friendly, waste-free life.

Treehugger / K Martinko

Whether you're new to the world of sustainability or wanting a quick refresher on how to do things better, these books about eco-friendly living are a valuable resource. Each has a slightly different approach to maintaining a greener, more sustainable home and life, but all are helpful and informative in their own way. 

"The Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living" by Sarah Lozanova

"The Humane Home" book cover

Princeton Architectural Press

Princeton Architectural Press, 2021

This short, compact book would be useful to anyone building or renovating a home and wanting a general overview of how to do it with minimal impact. It contains seven chapters that cover topics like energy efficiency, water conservation, passive solar heat, building materials, air quality, choosing where to live, and even borrowing money from local credit unions to finance home purchases, as this "creates a symbiotic relationship between lender, borrower, and the larger community." 

Author Sarah Lozanova is a sustainability consultant and environmental journalist in Maine, and she believes in the power of small steps to effect real change over time. The book contains numerous little projects, from building garden beds to preserving home-grown produce to conserving water by putting a brick in a toilet tank or switching out shower heads. There are beautiful watercolor illustrations throughout the short, concise chapters, as well as instructions for DIY projects.

It's a quick and easy read, easily finished in an hour or two, and it gives readers a good sense of what they want to explore further.

"An Almost Zero Waste Life: Learning How to Embrace Less to Live More" by Megean Weldon

An Almost Zero Waste Life Book Cover

Rock Point

Rock Point, 2020

This is a basic how-to guide for zero waste living. It offers suggestions for paring down waste in every area of life, from food prep and grocery shopping, to beauty routines and clothing, to kids, pets, and holidays. As someone who's written about all of these things, I can attest to the fact that Weldon covers pretty much everything. 

She had some good new suggestions, too, such as "taking pictures of your bulk [food] section so that you can reference the photos later for when you are meal planning," and melting down crayons bits to make new ones for children.

The book is jam-packed with information in short, easily-digestible paragraphs, and the chapters are accompanied by cute graphics and stylized minimalist photography. This, however, is a pet peeve of mine; zero waste experts urge people to make do with what they have, and yet no book shows a real-life version of this. The photos always look fancy and expensive. 

One thing that jumped out at me was the total absence of brand names. In urging people to choose bamboo toothbrushes and package-free cosmetics and plastic-free floss, Weldon never mentions a single company. This may be strategic—companies come and go and such references could potentially make the book feel obsolete—but it could leave the reader still wondering where to start.

"The Eco-Hero Handbook: Simple Solutions to Tackle Eco-Anxiety" by Tessa Wardley

The Eco Hero Handbook Book Cover

Ivy Press

Ivy Press, 2021

This small, square yellow book is an interesting one. It addresses the issue of eco-anxiety, that feeling of impending doom and gloom to which anyone concerned about the environmental crisis can relate. It does so by dedicating a one-page answer to a commonly-asked question and, hopefully, empowering the reader to feel like they can take action. From the introduction: "This book is a starting point for ideas that will help you take some control and make a contributing to solving the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity."

These questions range from "Is my water usage affecting the planet and nature?" to "How can I be an eco-conscious tourist?" to "Which foods are responsible for the worst deforestation?" The answers are the same length, regardless of the complexity of the question, which feels a bit odd at times; but they are solidly researched and well-cited responses, with resources for follow-up. 

Six chapters include the indoors (plastics and recycling, energy use, air quality, clothing), the outdoors (gardening, wildlife, pet waste), transport (aviation, electric vehicles), holidays (eco-tourism and overtourism, packing), work (temperature, paper waste, coffee breaks), food and shopping (meat and dairy, food waste, online shopping). It concludes with a set of simple rules to follow "if all else fails": 

  • — Use less and enjoy it more
  • — Find out about supply chains and support ones that are environmentally aware
  • — Use the option with the smallest carbon footprint
  • — Choose the option that results in the least waste, and make choices that support your local community and enable the natural world to be more resilient

"Sustainable Home: Practical projects, tips and advice for maintaining a more eco-friendly household" by Christine Liu

"Sustainable Home: Practical projects, tips and advice for maintaining a more eco-friendly household" (White Lion Publishing, 2018) by Christine Liu

White Lion Publishing

White Lion Publishing, 2018

This beautiful book could sit on your coffee table, with its gorgeous minimalist photography. Author Christine Liu is a sustainability blogger whose own home and DIY projects are featured in the book. She divides the house into areas (living, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, outdoors) and goes through all the steps and swaps you can make to avoid waste, reduce clutter, and adopt more eco-friendly practices.

While some of the advice is practical and easily attainable (buy more houseplants to improve air quality, sleep on natural fiber bedsheets, shop package-free at the grocery store), much of it also feels aspirational. Liu sets the bar so high, and so perfectly, that it's hard to imagine achieving that. I, for one, with three young kids at home, gawked at her photos in amazement. Real life doesn't look like that for me, though I do consider myself to be quite low-waste.

Liu's takeaway message is worthwhile, however, and she offers good advice for anyone who feels daunted by the climate crisis. She writes, "I've been asked many times, 'Christine, does it really matter if I make a change to live more sustainably? There [are] too many people in the world; why do my actions really matter?' And I response, I think about my own life. I think about the lives of other sustainably bloggers, activists, and professionals. Do the changes in my life, and in their lives, matter? To that I would have to say, 'Absolutely.'"

"Things You Can Do: How to Fight Climate Change and Reduce Waste" by Eduardo Garcia

"Things You Can Do" book cover

Ten Speed Press

Ten Speed Press, 2022

This attractive and practical book offers an overview of how global warming occurs, how energy is produced, and what both of those things mean to our modern-day consumption habits. Eduardo Garcia, who contributes regularly to Treehugger, is a strong believer in the power of individual choices to effect change. This book strives to educate and inspire individuals about the impact their choices and purchases have on the earth.

It gives practical solutions to a broad range of issues. For transportation, get out of cars and start using your own two feet. Garcia writes, "The best solution is often the simplest. Half of all car trips are less than 3 miles long. That means that we often take the car when walking or biking will do just fine." Regarding food production, Garcia takes an optimistic view of how urban farms can feed a growing population. When it comes to pets, choose pet foods made from meat industry byproducts, rather than human-grade ingredients.

It's a small book packed with plenty of well-researched information—certainly worth a careful read.

"How to Break Up With Fast Fashion: A Guilt-Free Guide to Changing the Way You Shop—For Good" by Lauren Bravo

"How to Break Up with Fast Fashion" book cover

Headline

Headline, 2021

If you've ever found yourself in a store, waiting for a fitting room with an armful of clothes, and suddenly wondered why you're there, then perhaps you need to read Bravo's book. It has something for everyone, starting with an overview of the fashion industry and its damaging effects on the environment, and then moving into "practical strategies" territory, with ideas for curbing shopping addiction, which is a real problem for many individuals.

The "guilt-free" part of her title is no joke, though. As described in a review for Treehugger, "[Bravo] recognizes that clothes are a necessity, as well as a form of identity and creative expression for many individuals, so they're not going away. Rather, we can learn to buy in ways that create less harm for the environment, our bank accounts, our mental wellbeing, and the distant garment workers who make the clothes."

She has lots of great ideas, including shopping alone (so as not to be influenced by friends who'll almost always say yes when you ask if you should buy something), never shopping unless you feel well-dressed and generally fabulous, naming three items that can go with whatever piece you're considering, and—best of all—remembering that pieces are auditioning for you to buy them, not the other way around.

"The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen: Simple Steps to Shop, Cook, and Eat Sustainably" by Lindsay Miles

"The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen" book cover

Hardie Grant Books

Hardie Grant Books, 2020

This is less a cookbook and more a manual for how to set up, stock, and use your kitchen in a way that reduces waste and minimizes work. Lindsay Miles is a zero waste lifestyle blogger whose book offers a step-by-step guide for people who wish to change the way they interact with food. There's a brief introduction that talks about the problems with plastic and the effect that changing personal habits can have. Miles writes, "We eat at least three times a day, every day—which means plenty of opportunity to make simple switches."

She explains how to compost, shop with reusables, and reduce one's carbon footprint by switching to local, seasonal foods. She explains which ingredients can swapped out for others to have less impact, e.g. soft cheeses use less milk than hard cheeses, and poultry has a smaller footprint than pork or beef.

Miles emphasizes that small shifts can make a big difference, without totally changing one's lifestyle. "As we learn that there's a great bakery next to the school, or a bulk store with late-night opening that we drive past after work, we can start to adjust our day to fit these trips in and avoid making separate ones." Her approach is reasonable, practical, and refreshing.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Senior Editor Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She has been writing for Treehugger since 2013, and has reviewed dozens of books during that time.