This list is focused on books that can directly inspire the individual to be more sustainably minded in their everyday activities. Below is my list of sustainable books that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. If you are looking to get started on your environmental reading, this is a great place to begin. The list is dynamic and growing, so please check back and comment on any books you have enjoyed.
Basics on Energy and Energy Policy:
The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World - Paul Roberts
- Despite the title, this book is on all forms of energy, not just oil. It goes into the very basics of what energy is, and then looks at the technical/political issues behind each form of energy, including: oil, coal, natural gas, solar/wind, hydrogen, etc. If you are one of the people who thinks that there is a direct relationship between oil and electric power generation, you should probably read this book to get some things cleared up.
- This is Friedman's follow up to The World is Flat with a focus on clean energy. The majority focuses on decisions our policy makers need to be making and the public needs to be demanding for a clean energy future. He also sets a vision for what the clean energy future looks like. It is a realistic assessment of where we are and where we have to go. A large portion of his argument of his for clean energy is focused on Global Warming, but he points at out many of the benefits aside from slowing Global Warming.
Sustainable Living and Decision Making
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future - Bill McKibben
- Bill's book is awesome. It gets down to the roots of what "happiness" is. Are you happy working 50 hrs a week and rarely seeing friends or family? Would you be happier spending more time with the ones you love and your community. It's a whole new perspective on how we approach sustainable living. I've taken things I've learned in this book and tried to apply them in my sustainability focused conversations and thoughts; mainly: Doing what is right makes us happier. If living sustainably doesn't make you happier, then don't do it (but you probably need to re-analyze your priorities in life).
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution I've just recently read Natural Capitalism and I'm amazed it has taken me this long to get to this book. The book was written in 1999, but so much of it is still valid. The author team of Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken understand Sustainability and how to apply it to society like few others. While the book was partly inspired by Ecology of Commerce, if you are short on time I would recommend just reading this book as it is a bit easier to read. If you really want a good basis though read Ecology of Commerce first, then this book. Ecology of Commerce is more focused on business, while Natural Capitalism is a combination of business and society. Amory Lovins has been preaching many of the same things written in this book for over 30 years, but nowhere are the thoughts more eloquently laid out.
The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability - Paul Hawken
- This book is suited more for the business-person, but its values can be applied to everyday life. Mr. Hawken looks at our current economy which is focused solely on "profit at all costs" and suggests a different way of doing business. Most of the focus is factoring in external costs and treating the environment as something of value, and not just something that provides us with natural resources to be exploited. As Paul points out, one of the most natural systems that we know of (that of the ecosystem) uses a model of no-waste, so why can't our current economic model and way of life?
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan
- The book is split up into three main sections summarized as follows: Corn (and how our food supply relies way too much on it), Sustainable Farming (Polyface), and Making your own dinner (the author's attempt to catch, hunt, and grow a meal). The main focus is on our food supply and how we make eating decisions, but his section on Polyface Farms is fascinating. Polyface is truly a sustainable enterprise. Think about how you can apply some of their operating principles to your daily habits! Along with Polyface, Michael analyzes where all of our food comes from and focuses on how our current model of mass-marketed food takes some of the joy out of eating. Shares many ideas with Deep Economy.
- Ray really got me thinking about what it means to be sustainable and his book really set me on this path back in the Summer of 2004. If he can turn a massive company into the right direction, you can do the same for your home or business! He is the founder of Interface Carpets and it was actually Paul Hawken (see above) who helped Ray see that their was a different way of doing business. There are only a handful of companies out there who are actually doing all they can to follow the advice in Ecology of Commerce, and Interface is one of them.
Energy Self-Help Books
- Now that your motivated to take action, this is the book to figure out what to do first. It's so simple to follow that anyone can do it. Couple that with the fact that it is backed by Mother Earth News, and you know you are in good hands. Paul looks at how your home uses energy and provides tips and analysis to make it more efficient. I've modelled a lot of the sections and posts on this blog after this book. Please comment on any other book ideas!