By: Laura Gardner, Teacher Librarian at Dartmouth Middle School
Ever since learning that recycling is a myth (only 9% of all plastic is ever recycled) and participating in my first brand audit with Break Free from Plastic (learn more here), I’ve been obsessed with the zero waste/plastic free movement. The best zero waste books focus on refuse, reduce and reuse as the three main Rs of sustainability and find ways to help anyone and everyone make positive changes. I’ve read a few books that are elitist and unattainable in their goals. To help the average household reduce their carbon and landfill footprints, we have to meet people where they are and give various options for how to adapt. I’ve read lots of different books and these are my three favorite books on this topic.
How to Go (Almost) Zero Waste: Over 150 Steps to More Sustainable Living at Home, School, Work, and Beyond by Rebecca Grace Andrews, MA, MS
This one is great for beginners with steps big and small. Each of the steps is presented in terms of investment ($$), time, effort, and impact. Chapters are organized by parts of your life (food and dining, family, work/school) with a special chapter at the beginning titled “Baby Steps: Easy Swaps to Make Now.”
What I like: This book is well-organized and easy to read. A beginner can learn quick, easy, cheap ways to reduce waste in the bathroom with easy swaps like toothpaste tablets instead of tubes (#48) or making your own bathroom cleaner with apple cider vinegar and baking soda (#53)
Best tip: I love how the author acknowledges the fear so many of us have about the climate crisis. Her tip to “think love, not fear” (#145) is an important one. We can only control so much! Keeping the focus on what’s within our control (our own choices) is key.
Simply Sustainable: Moving Toward Plastic-Free, Low-Waste Living by Lily Cameron
I love this stylish, minimalist-focused book. The photographs of the author’s home are gorgeous and bougie, but the tips are practical, useful and attainable. Chapters are organized by parts of the home (kitchen, bathroom, cleaning, babies and pets, lifestyle) with a section at the end of each chapter titled “You can compost that” and a checklist of options for small wins and big wins toward a “plastic free(ish) action plan.” Small wins might be as simple as refusing plastic straws whereas big wins may be something like adding a bidet attachment to your toilet (we love ours!)
What I like: This book is all about celebrating your wins and taking “baby steps” to sustainability. I love how the author presents all of these tips as not only possible, but money-saving and aesthetically pleasing, as well.
Best tip: Did you know you can compost paper? I knew that already, but I did not know that you shouldn’t recycle shredded paper because it might clog equipment. Shredded paper should always go to the compost instead.
The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet by Anne-Marie Bonneau
Out of the books profiled in this blog post, this is the one you should buy instead of borrow from the library. The kitchen is the greatest source of waste so focusing on ways to be zero-waste while cooking and baking is essential. Her number one tip is to go big on glass jars (saved, found, etc) for storing and freezing food.
What I like: Most of the book is actually recipes including “save scraps vegetable broth”, sourdough everything, sides, mains, desserts, etc. Best of all, the recipes are easy and low waste. At the end of each recipe, it has recommendations for how to use the food waste from that recipe for another recipe! Genius.
Best tip: “Zero waste is not a consumer lifestyle. It’s a conserver lifestyle.” Rather than advocating for buying more things, Bonneau is all about using what you have and not falling into the trap of fancy zero-waste gear. I love it! Smart and manageable.