Best sustainability books 2022: Do your bit for the planet with these reads



Sustainability started off as a buzzword many years ago, but it’s sticking around, with more of us than ever determined to do our bit in the face of plastic pollution, food waste and, above all, the climate crisis.

A survey by Smart Energy GB found that 75 per cent of us think we could try harder when it comes to living more ethically. However, despite one-third of respondents feeling anxious about their children or grandchildren’s futures, one-quarter said they don’t do more because “it’s too much effort”.

One in 10 felt they lacked the ability to make an impact, with many others unsure about how exactly they could make a difference. It’s understandable: these environmental issues seem – and are – overwhelmingly big. But if our planet is to be healthy and hospitable for future generations, they are also urgent.

If you’re looking to live a greener lifestyle, we’ve rounded up the books that will help. We were careful to avoid the books that point out the problems without offering solutions, and we favored those that approached serious topics with realism and without preaching.

There is only so much that the individual can do, though. Governments need to step up and make lasting policy changes. But doing something, however small it may seem, is better than doing nothing at all. You don’t need to be perfect, as many of these books make clear, but we can all do better.

Readmore:

The best sustainability books for 2022 are:

  • best overallThe Joyful Environmentalist by Isabel Losada, published by Watkins Publishing: £10.76, Agreatread.co.uk
  • Best for easy swaps The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide by Jen Gale, published by Green Tree: £10.59, Blackwells.co.uk
  • Best for fast fashion factsHow to Break Up with Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo, published by Headline Publishing: £13.99, Blackwells.co.uk
  • Best for reducing single-use plastic Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle, published by Orion: £8.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best motivational bookNo One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg, published by Penguin: £3.99, Oliverbonas.com
  • best cookbook Vegan(ish) by Jack Monroe, published by Pan Macmillan: £16.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best for eco-friendly travel Sustainable Escapes by Lonely Planet, published by Lonely Planet: £12.46, Wordery.com
  • Best for information about carbon footprint How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee, published by Profile Books: £8.19, Amazon.co.uk
  • best gardening book The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson, published by Vintage Books: £8.99, Blackwells.co.uk
  • Best for simple solutions No More Rubbish Excuses by Martin Dorey, published by Ebury Press: £9.99, Waterstones.com
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‘The Joyful Environmentalist’ by Isabel Losada, published by Watkins Publishing

Best: Overall

“Sustainability” can sometimes sound drab and boring, but it needn’t be! This surprisingly feel good guide grabs us by the hand and runs, joyfully, straight into the solutions. It examines every aspect of our lives and how we can do better, without losing our personalities and pals in the process.

From a meltdown over plastic cutlery in Wholefoods, to “being a little bit activist” by playing drums for Extinction Rebellion, Isabel Losada takes us on her own inspiring, and often hilarious, eco journey. Honest and humble, with many laugh out loud moments, it’s a genuinely enjoyable read for anyone who is feeling echo anxious.

‘The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide’ by Jen Gale, published by Green Tree

Best: For easy swaps

It was the crucial “ish” in the title of this new book that hooked us. Blogger turned author Jen Gale recently spent a year buying nothing new and documenting the challenge online. She’s relaxed her rules a little now but remains passionate about all things sustainable living.

Covering everything from food and fashion to work and travel, she offers hundreds of tips for doing good every day without radically changing your life. Get ready to go zero waste and plastic-free. ish.

‘How to Break Up with Fast Fashion’ by Lauren Bravo, published by Headline Publishing

Best: For fast fashion facts

Rarely a day goes by without fast fashion brands hitting the headlines. We’re waking up to the scary fact that global clothing production has roughly doubled in just 15 years, with many cheap clothes worn once and piling up in landfills.

Journalist and long-term fashion aficionado Lauren Bravo set about changing her fast fashion habits in an effort to be more sustainable. The result is a book that’s refreshingly honest and never patronizing, overflowing with fabulous tips for repairing, recycling and buying clothes that last, even on a budget.

‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’ by Lucy Siegle, published by Orion

Best: For reducing single-use plastic

Enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the planet four times. If we don’t act powerfully, and fast, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. These are just two of the hard hitting stats from sustainability journalist Lucy Siegle’s accessible guide to cutting back on plastic usage.

Given how many single-use water bottles, coffee cups and carrier bags we get through, Lucy reckons that if just 12 readers adopt her “reduce, rethink, refill, refuse” approach, it could save up to 15,000 single-use plastic items from landfill every year. Not too shabby, huh?

‘No One is Too Small to Make a Difference’ by Greta Thunberg, published by Penguin

Best: Motivational book

This pocket-sized manifesto by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg will motivate anyone who has ever felt powerless in the fight against climate change. That’s all of us, right? 11 speeches written and presented by the activist on the global stage – including her her historic United Nations address – have been collated into an 80-page call to arms. It’s impossible not to be inspired by this New York Times bestseller from a deserving Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Tiny book, big voice.

‘Vegan(ish)’ by Jack Monroe, published by Pan Macmillan

Best: cookbook

The very cool Jack Monroe has made a name for themselves campaigning on poverty issues and writing budget cookbooks. The plant-based recipes in Vegan(ish) are simple and affordable, with glossy color photos tempting you to try something new.

The recipes are 100 per cent vegan, with the “ish” referring to Monroe’s belief that forgoing animal products, even if only once a week, is good for both the environment and your bank balance. We’re trying the beetroot and lentil lasagne next.

‘Sustainable Escapes’ by Lonely Planet, published by Lonely Planet

Best: For eco-friendly travel

Lonely Planet is the leading travel guidebook publisher for good reason, so we were excited to see this new guide to the world’s best eco-friendly destinations join its extensive range.

Full of savvy tips on how to be a more sustainable traveler, it introduces us to nearly 180 “escapes”, including an Egyptian eco lodge that’s powered solely by beeswax candles. Each “escape” is labeled with its sustainability brownie points – from conservation opportunities to community homestays.

‘How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ by Mike Berners-Lee, published by Profile Books

Best: For information about carbon footprint

A decade on from its first publication, this groundbreaking green guide has been fully updated and expanded. Mike Berners-Lee, brother to internet inventor Tim, is an Oxford educated professor of social futures.

This book focuses on humanity’s carbon footprint, revealing the effect that everything from Google searches to volcanoes (and, of course, bananas) has on carbon emissions. He arms the reader with clear figures and tools to help us reduce our own carbon footprint and lobby government and businesses.

This is serious stuff delivered with a light touch, and never patronizing.

‘The Garden Jungle’ by Dave Goulson, published by Vintage Books

Best: garden book

During lockdown, those of us lucky enough to have some outdoor space indulged our inner Monty Dons. But did you know that there are ways of gardening that are kinder to our planet than others?

This book by bumblebee expert Dave Goulson will inspire you to grow your own wildflower meadow that bees, moths and beloved earwigs will be thrilled to call home. Though a tad too wordy in parts, this guide overflows with passion and Goulson’s lists of his favorite plants for pollinators and birds are particularly handy.

‘No More Rubbish Excuses’ by Martin Dorey, published by Ebury Press

Best: For simple solutions

Green activist Martin Dorey is the founder of #2minutebeachclean, which encourages beachgoers to spend two minutes picking up all the litter they can see. His new book by him takes this successful approach further, suggesting a host of ideas for making a difference every day, even when you’re busy. The chapters on where our waste goes, the uncluttered guide to what we can recycle and the suggestions for simple product swaps are particular highlights.

The verdict: Sustainability books

Our pick of the bunch is The Joyful Environmentalist by Isabelle Losada. Intelligent and fun, it’s a welcome antidote to the swathes of dry, problem-focused books that serve only to scare us. First and foremost, her guide from Ella offers simplistic solutions that empowered us to go out into the world and make small changes around us—and has maybe even encouraged us to take part in some collective action in the future, too.

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For more environmentally focused reads, take a look at our round-up of climate emergency books


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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