14 books about reducing waste to help you save the planet

14 books about going zero waste to help you save the planet

In Reading Lists by Molly Hurford

14 books about reducing waste to help you save the planet

As the no-garbage or low-waste movement grows, you may be inspired to join. After all, the amount of plastic and packaging and overall trash we’re putting into landfills is harming the planet and our health. For too long, we’ve been skipping the “reduce” and “reuse” steps in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, relying heavily on recycling — which in the case of plastics, has turned out to be a big lie

Being frugal and learning to do more with less are critical steps not just in saving money, but in saving the planet. Whether you’re looking for practical tips, information on what happens to your garbage, or some inspiration to keep going, these books about reducing waste and trash reduction will help you on your way to living a zero-waste lifestyle. 

Without further ado, here are some of the best books about producing zero-waste and overall consuming less, whether that’s food or fashion.

1. Simply Living Well by Julia Watkins

This is a practical guide that can get you started on your low-waste journey today. 

Watkins compiles hundreds of helpful tips for making your home beautiful, cozy, and low-waste. She covers kitchen, cleaning, wellness, bath, and gardening, explaining how to cut down on packaging and harsh chemicals. 

Rather than just tell you what not to do, she shares easy checklists and home remedies as well as recipes to replace your old staples. There are even recipes for some of your favorite processed food classics (including ketchup) for going plastic-free in the kitchen. 


2. The Zero-Waste Kitchen by Stephanie Marie Seferian

Did you know that studies show up to a third of food purchased by households in America is thrown away? This wastes not only food, but also precious planetary resources like water and energy used to produce the food, as well as your hard-earned money.

With The Zero-Waste Kitchen, learn how to simplify your kitchen practices and reduce food waste with tips from Sustainable Minimalists podcast host Seferian. This concise guide is insightful and actionable. 

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3. Sustainable Minimalism by Stephanie Marie Seferian

Love Seferian’s aforementioned podcast? Want to know what all the fuss about minimalism is about? Then her full-length book is here to help hit the highlights.

Seferian explains how you can be environmentally conscious and go lower waste while moving toward a more minimalist lifestyle. It’s a great read if you want to be convinced that a shift to low-waste will actually improve your life as well as the environment.


Want even more tips on how to prevent the vegetables you bought from rotting, or your leftovers from going to waste? Want to save hundreds of dollars a year on your grocery bill? This is the book for you.

Here, Chavich shares easy ways to get the absolute most out of every single grocery item you bring home, never wasting a single scrap — but still eating tasty meals every day.


5. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Going low waste starts with consuming less, and this memoir will show you the power of saying no to shopping and yes to living. Flanders’ memoir offers guidance on how to become a more thoughtful consumer so you can lighten your ecological footprint.

While Flanders isn’t advocating for no-waste in this book, it is one of the best reads for someone looking to cut back on their purchasing. Many of the zero-waste books assume you’re already not buying much, but if you consider shopping a hobby, this book reveals the benefits of cutting back.

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6. A Zero Waste Life by Anita Vandyke

If you’re the kind of person who likes a schedule and a goal, this is an excellent place to start. Vandyke breaks down the process of embracing low-waste living over the course of a month. Her popular Instagram — @Rocket_Science (yes, she’s also an actual rocket scientist) — is packed with great videos about living comfortably in a modern world while producing little or no waste. 


If your low-waste goals include actually getting off the grid and homesteading, you’ll want to read this hefty book. (Honestly, even if you’re not planning to move to a cabin in the woods anytime soon, this is a worthwhile read.)

Because Hess has broken her guide into the months of the year and added projects (of all difficulty and ability levels) for each month, it’s worth taking your time with as you slowly incorporate these changes into your life. Whether you live on a farm or in the city, learn to cultivate crops, can food, and more vital life skills.


8. Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

If you have kids and a busy work life, going zero-waste might sound impossibly difficult — and it certainly is tougher and trickier when you’re a parent. But this book proves that it’s possible, and that the results are worth it. 

Johnson details her story of going zero-waste despite having two sons and a husband along for the ride. Between them, they produce less than a quart of garbage per year, and, in doing so, they’ve cut costs by 40% while also getting healthier and spending more time together. (For reference, the EPA estimates that, based on total generation of municipal solid waste, there’s 4.9 pounds of garbage per person created per day — nearly 1,800 pounds per person a year — in the U.S.)

This book is half memoir, half practical guide — and a fantastic read. 

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9. 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

Kellogg is another author who can now fit her yearly trash into a standard Mason jar. But it wasn’t always this way. She started small by cutting out plastic, single-use straws and bags before moving closer and closer to zero-waste. 

This set of practical tips hits everything from makeup to fashion to office supplies to snacks, and it offers a smorgasbord of ideas for lowering consumption in a realistic way.

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10. Plastic-Free by Beth Terry

Terry understands that it’s not easy to opt out of our garbage-heavy culture, and that plastic is everywhere. But she also knows that ditching plastic is an important step for us to take. 

In this book, she presents a tiered way to begin cutting back on plastic. She also gets into the psychology of environmentalism, digging into feelings of guilt and how to use those feelings for good. She even touches on the community aspects of lowering plastic consumption, something many other books miss.


11. Zero Waste by Shia Su

While fast fashion and fast food add to the world’s garbage problem, fast tips and tricks for going zero-waste simply make the process easier and more fun. This quick read from Su, who only creates a single Mason jar of garbage per year, is packed with practical ways to shift to low-waste living. This book about trash reduction includes DIY cleaner recipes, food prep tips, and ways to go completely trash-free without sacrificing the fun in your life.


12. Trashing the Planet by Stuart A. Kallen

Want to better understand what happens after your trash gets picked up? It’s pretty darn scary, and this short book will open your eyes to the issues with garbage on a worldwide scale. 

Kallen explains that humans create roughly 2.6 trillion pounds of waste every year, including everything from tossed-out clothing (that’s still perfectly good but slightly out of fashion) to toxic chemical sludge that leaches into the ground. While some of this is a government-level issue, he explains how lowering our personal consumption and garbage output can help to solve the garbage crisis.


13. The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard

Perhaps you’ve seen Leonard’s short video detailing how products move through the materials economy, from extraction to disposal. It starts with her showing off an iPod Classic, asking if you’re obsessed with it, and if you’ve ever wondered what happens when you throw it out. 

Today it’s an outdated product and reference, since Apple doesn’t make iPods anymore. Which means you probably did, indeed, get rid of yours. Which even more alarmingly proves Leonard’s point: We have too much stuff — exploiting natural resources and the labor of people to produce it all — and we don’t use the products to their full potential. 

Both a study and a call to action, Leonard’s unflinching look at our drive to accumulate, consume, and dispose of stuff reveals our environmental impact and becomes a rally for change. 

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14. No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

Is zero-waste really possible, especially in our increasingly globalized, interconnected world? Beavan, a bleeding-heart liberal, is determined to find out. He and his family spend a year off the grid in New York City, forsaking air conditioning and subway travel.

The findings are both hilarious and illuminating. As you probably realize from all the other books on here, or already trying to incorporate some tenants of reduced or zero-waste living into your lifestyle, cutting down on waste requires conscious thought and planning. And that sort of mindfulness is exactly what makes it worthwhile and can lead to lasting change, as Beavan discovers.

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About the Author: Molly Hurford

Molly is a writer and bookworm in love with all things wellness related. When not playing outside, she’s writing or podcasting about being outside and healthy habits for The Consummate Athlete. She also writes books, including the Shred Girls series. In her spare time, she runs, rides bikes, and hikes with her mini-dachshund and husband.