We’re celebrating Earth Day every day with a comprehensive (and super fun!) Sustainability Series. Check back every Friday for a new article about how to live life in a more eco-friendly, mindful way. 

The idea of truly living sustainably is more than just a trend or casual hobby. It’s about a lifelong commitment to treating the earth with respect, through mindful consumption and education about the local ecosystems. With that said, living a more sustainable life does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, or planting some bee-friendly flowers in the garden. 

The following books aim to teach sustainability in a way that makes it accessible for everyone, whether you’re looking to live fully off the land or are just dipping your toes in nature’s pond.

Our Favorite Books About Sustainability

1. The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan

Our first pick is the flagship publication in a series of homesteading books by Carleen Madigan. The Backyard Homestead is filled with so much information that it’s a helpful read for anybody— from the urban gardener to the hardcore prepper. In its 350+ pages, you’ll learn about building structures for your garden, the basics of beekeeping, growing large quantities of food in small spaces, harvesting crops like nuts, seeds and berries, and a whole lot more. 

If you enjoy this book, try other selections in The Backyard Homestead series, like The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner and The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals. Pick up a copy here.

2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

This next selection is by Barbara Kingsolver—recognized widely for her fiction writing—who released Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in 2007 to high praise. The nonfiction book chronicles her family’s journey to live off their farmland in Appalachia, documenting the highs, lows and learnings. The book is also credited with helping to kickstart the “locavore” movement (i.e., a person whose diet consists of locally grown or produced food). 

Ten years after the publication of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver released an anniversary edition that includes new chapters from her family in which they reflect on how their decision to eat locally has affected their lives. Pick up a copy here.    

3. The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide by Jen Gale

Oftentimes, the idea of living sustainably in a modern world doesn’t feel so… sustainable. Luckily, Jen Gale’s 2020 release, The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide, provides readers with small but impactful ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Gale offers helpful tips on recycling, decluttering, and simple ways your family can be more eco-friendly. It also digs into the culture surrounding humans’ excesses, examining the way we celebrate, travel, eat, work and shop. 

If the idea of living a more sustainable life fills you with more overwhelm than excitement, then Gale’s gentle delivery might be just the thing you need to get started. Pick up a copy here.

4. Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail Gehring

Abigail Gehring’s Back to Basics is not for the casual homesteader. Sure, this massive guide covers basic living skills like farming, crafting and baking, but there’s also a slew of information on raising livestock, installing solar panels and even building your own log cabin. Complete with detailed illustrations and blueprints, instructions and inspiration, Gehring’s book promises to spark the creativity in us all. 

Back to Basics was originally released in 2008, and since then over 250,000 copies have been sold along with several updated editions, the most recent being in 2014. Pick up a copy here.

5. Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth by Steve Bivans

For those who have a fascination with JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, check out Steve Bivans’ Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth. The nonfiction work connects the world of Mordor with our modern world, and examines how we can be more hobbit-like in our day-to-day lives. The book poses the question: “How can we transform our chaotic world into a Shire?” and breaks ideas down into easily digestible sections. 

Concepts like cutting back our reliance on fossil fuels, building local community gardens and farmers markets, and minimizing plastic use while maximizing more sustainable materials are all explored within the nearly 600-page book. Pick up a copy here.

6. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

New York Times-bestselling author Tristan Gooley takes you out of your backyard and into the great outdoors with his guide, The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs. While this book doesn’t teach you how to fight off a bear attack or survive in Arctic temperatures, it does explain how to use outdoor clues to find your way through nature. 

Learn how to identify animal tracks, locate water in the woods, and differentiate between varieties of plant life. Things like using the sun to tell the time, and using insects (like butterflies) to determine the weather, are all laid out clearly in this book. Pick up a copy here.

7. The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman

In 2015, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Diane Ackerman released The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us, a nonfiction work that explores the possible ways in which humans will blend science and technology in order to further the planet. Topics like 3-D printing, evolutionary robotics and nanotechnology are discussed in terms of where they’re at now, and where they might be able to go in the future. Ackerman also acknowledges the effect the human race has had on the planet, both negatively and positively, and how we can impact future change. 

The Human Age has won the National Outdoor Book Award and the PEN New England Henry David Thoreau Prize, and has been called a “dazzling achievement” by The New York Times. Pick up a copy here.

8. Better, Not Perfect: A Realist’s Guide to Maximum Sustainable Goodness by Max H. Bazerman

Negotiation and decision-making expert Max H. Bazerman’s book, Better, Not Perfect, focuses on self-improvement as a way to create a more sustainable planet. Rather than discussing how to change the world through recycling or minimalist initiatives, Bazerman explores how maintaining your own sense of values and principles creates a positive ripple effect on your surroundings. He provides tools on how readers can be smarter, more efficient, honest and aware of their surroundings.  

Through blending psychology with philosophy, Bazerman is able to provide an insightful yet practical guide on how to be a better, but imperfect, person. Pick up a copy here.

9. The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife by Nancy Lawson

No matter the shape, size or scope of your garden, it is possible to create it in harmony with the surrounding flora and fauna. At least that’s what journalist and gardener Nancy Lawson proposes in her 2017 book, The Humane Gardener. In the book, Lawson explains the idea of practicing compassionate gardening, in which you work with whatever insects or critters live in your outdoor space rather than trying to defeat them. You’ll also learn about creating safe spaces for butterflies, bees and birds, and planting for wildlife using vegetation native to your area. 

Lawson’s book has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and O, The Oprah Magazine. Pick up a copy here.

10. 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

If you’re interested in trying a zero waste lifestyle but think it’s impossible, check out Kathryn Kellogg’s 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste. In it, she shares tips, tricks, recipes and advice that all help slowly move the needle to a waste-free life. She presents nuggets of knowledge that people can enact instantly, and discusses America’s consumption problem without leaving readers feeling guilty. There are also directions for making zero-waste deodorant, dry shampoo and moisturizers. 

Kellogg emphasizes that it’s not about perfection but rather making better choices. Pick up a copy here.

Become a Certified Coach at HCI

If you’d like to learn more about health, wellness and living more mindfully, consider joining the Health Coach Institute. Whether you’re looking to shift careers or just want to expand your education, there’s a variety of courses designed to meet your needs. Check out our Become a Health Coach program and finish in just six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.


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