I first learned about the zero waste movement when I listened to Bea Johnson’s interview on The Lively Show podcast in 2015 (fun fact: her book is on the list). That podcast greatly inspired me to create this very blog! Since then, I have very slowly but surely experimented with ways to reduce my family’s carbon footprint and read a number of zero waste books to learn more.
I started by experimenting with buying clothing exclusively from second-hand sources, trying low-waste grocery shopping, making zero waste bathroom swaps, eliminating our family’s need for paper towels, and more.
One of my favorite low-waste lifestyle shifts has been the transition to natural cleaning products and using sustainable (durable, recyclable, or compostable) cleaning tools. If this is something you’re also interested in, I recommend downloading my Free Green Cleaning Checklist.
Favorite Zero Waste Books
As I have slowly experimented with various ways to generate less waste, I have looked to these books as inspiration. Each book on this list was selected because it was a fun read and it provided easy to follow, actionable steps.
No Impact Man by Colin Beavan
No Impact Man is both a book AND a documentary. I highly recommend either as an introduction into the world of zero waste living. Colin Beavan and his wife were living in NYC with a toddler when they committed to a full year of sustainable lifestyle experimentation. The idea was to see if they could create more environmental good than harm.
While he was 100% into the idea, his wife required some convincing. She was a woman who loved shopping for expensive labels, watching TV, and enjoying modern conveniences. I watched the documentary in 2010 while I was living in NYC and it was my very first peak into what a more sustainable lifestyle could look like. It was both inspiring and entertaining!
I recommend the book or documentary to anyone who is still unsure about what a zero waste lifestyle can look like. Especially those living a dense, urban environment.
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
As mentioned above, Bea Johnson was the first voice I heard speak about the term “zero waste.” At the time, I knew nothing about this movement and my mind was blown! Bea Johnson is a French expat living in Mill Valley (Northern California) with her husband and two sons. She writes about how they made a huge transition from a large house with lots of “stuff” to a smaller, minimalist home in an effort to simplify their lives.
Along they way, she experimented with hundreds of ways to eliminate any waste generated by her family of four. She was one of the first people to advertise her family’s annual pile of trash in a single mason jar (you may have seen others do this as well).
I love that her book provides specific and actionable steps that urban families can take towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
This book is another helpful and practical zero waste resource. Like Bea’s book, 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste also provides practical suggestions for sustainable living in a modern home. I particularly liked her tips for recycling best practices and realistic suggestions for single-use item alternatives.
If you’re just diving into this topic, I highly recommend this book as a getting started guide.
Simply Living Well by Julia Watkins
This is one of my favorites for a few reasons. Simply Living Well doesn’t tout itself as a zero waste book, but in many ways it is. Julia does a fantastic job of explaining how she and her family do their best to outfit their home with low waste, high quality materials that are meant to withstand the test of time.
A large section of this book is focused on natural recipes. You’ll find recipes for DIY condiments, cleaning solutions, skincare, natural wellness, and more using ingredients bought in bulk or grown in a garden. She inspired me to start drying herbs from my garden for later use in the various recipes she recommended.
So if you’re already on the path towards zero waste, this fantastic book will take you even further!
Zero Waste Books on my “To-Read” List
Now that I have shared my very favorites, I want to also share a few of zero waste books left on my list! There are TONS of books about zero waste that I have yet to read. A few I’m excited about include the following.
Sustainable Home by Christine Liu
Is it wrong to judge a book by its cover? That is exactly what I am doing with Sustainable Home by Christine Liu! I’m not sure how many new or different tips I’ll gain from her book… but it includes beautiful, inspirational photos. As someone who appreciates nice imagery, this book is appealing.
I believe this book has been described as a very beginner’s guide to zero waste. Lots of simple, practical tips to get started with a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I would be curious to see if there are any tips included in this book that may have been missed in some of the others.
Life Without Plastic by Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha
A step-by-step guide for creative ways to avoid plastic including practical alternatives. I like that the authors of this book are also parents. They began their plastic-free journey when their son was still an infant. As a mom of a toddler (and a second on the way very soon!) I think I could take away a lot of helpful information from this read.
Cooking With Scraps by Lindsay-Jean Hard
Lindsay-Jean Hard turned her “Cooking with Scraps” column with Food 52 into a cookbook in 2018. My husband and I are both excited to someday give it a try! We are relatively new to backyard gardening (2 years strong) but we’re always interested in creative ways to cook with or preserve the full fruits of our labor.
Lindsay’s cookbook looks like a fantastic way to ensure that nothing we grow (or purchase) goes to waste in the kitchen!
As I continue to learn, I will continue to edit this page with more recommendations and reviews. Be sure to check back regularly if you’re interested!
Until then, if you’re interested in a zero waste or more sustainable lifestyle, don’t hesitate to grab a free copy of my Green Cleaning Checklist to get started.