Updated: Jun 19
No matter where you are on your journey to less waste, having a guide book to walk you through the next steps can be helpful. Zero waste guide books are plentiful now-a-days (thanks to the growing movement!) and cover a variety of topics. There are books targeted towards waste free cooking and books discussing less waste in the workplace. There are books about families going zero waste and instruction manuals for making products at home.
Here I've compiled the ultimate list of zero waste guide books for you to peruse! Although I have posts on my Top 5 Environmental Books and lists of recommended reading on climate change, I thought zero waste guide books deserved their own post. They are ordered randomly - not in a ranked system - so make sure to look down the whole list!
Which Ones to Read?
You definitely do not need to read all of the books on this list. Many cover similar topics and have similar recommendations for transitioning to a less wasteful lifestyle. Over the years I have read front to back only three of these books - because they start to get repetitive. But I have skimmed through each new one to find nuggets and new ideas!
Which ones you choose to read will also depend on exactly what information you want and how you want it presented. Are you looking for a day-by-day guide? General information or specific suggestions? Are you focusing on plastic free specifically? Or waste in general? Every author has their own voice as well so some books might resonate with you more based on that. I recommend picking 2-4 books to start out with. That way if you don't like how one book is presenting the information, you can move right on to the next one!
This article contains affiliate links to Bookshop.
Use Your Library
Checking these books out from your library supports your local community and helps reduce the resources required to print new books. I was able to find 11 out of the 19 books listed here at my library.
If you can't find the book you really want to read at your local branch, put in a request to have them order it! I have put in many requests and never had a single one denied. Within a few weeks it was available for patrons to check-out!
If you can't get your hands on it at the library, look into purchasing the eBook to avoid buying the physical book. If you do buy the book, consider buying it through the links provided below through Bookshop.org. Books purchased through Bookshop support independent bookstores throughout the U.S. and provide me with a small commission, without charging you more. And make sure to share your copy with neighbors and friends afterwards so they can enjoy it too!
Twenty Zero Waste Guide Books
*In no particular order!
Fondly referred to as the "bible" of zero waste living, Bea Johnson's book Zero Waste Home has been translated into over twenty languages. It is the most well-known and popular book on the zero waste movement. Her book is divided into sections around areas of the home, office, and travel. Each section provides information as well as suggestions for homemade alternatives.
After blogging for a few years, Kathryn Kellogg (@going.zero.waste) wrote a book compiling 101 suggestions for implementing zero waste changes as individuals. The book is divided up into areas of our lives such as Kitchen and Cooking, with each section containing things to stop using and swap out. The book covers a lot of areas so it doesn't go into particular depth on each topic. It is an easy read for beginners and contains very little scientific jargon (or scientific data) as it is mostly about behavioral changes. It doesn't contain any pictures so if you need colors and images to keep reading, this one might not be for you.
This guide books contains information on reducing waste through areas of the home, with an emphasis on properly recycling and composting items. Korst addresses many misconceptions about recycling certain items and provides a checklist to understanding what we throw out. She also provides suggestions for easy, moderate, and advanced switches to try out. This book does not contain any pictures and the information is a little outdated, although still very interesting.
Published back in 2012, Beth Terry's book is one of the oldest I have included on this list. She provides clear advice with handy checklists and charts to tracking your own plastic use. This book is focused heavily on plastic and doesn't dive deeply into other areas in the zero waste movement like food waste, diet, transportation, etc.
A huge part of reducing waste is understanding why we purchase things and the type of things we buy. Button takes readers through the steps of understanding the quality of products and how, when we invest in high-quality products, it saves us money and reduces environmental impact. She discusses ways for individuals to purchase products for life and take care of the items we already have.
Anita Vandyke (@rocket-science) brings readers a 30 day guide to implementing zero waste practices throughout the home. Designed for beginners, this book explains the changes we can make across various aspects of our lifestyles to reduce waste. With sketches and a non-judgmental tone, Vandyke's book is good for those wanting a step-by-step guide without having to dig through the pages.
Visually pleasing and a funny read, Zero Waste is a great book if you want to start implementing waste reduction techniques throughout your home and aren't sure where to start. The book contains beautiful pictures to help you see how the practices are implemented and includes recipes for face masks and DIY laundry detergent that Shia uses herself. Even if you don't read her book, Shia Su (@_wastelandrebel_) is a must follow on her blog Wasteland Rebel. She keeps it real and provides very down-to-earth information.
Food waste makes up 22% of our trash which makes this book a great start towards a zero waste kitchen. Set up similarly to a traditional cook book, The Zero Waste Cookbook provides recipes for using up ingredients like banana peels, egg shells, orange peels, and stale bread. Some recipes are quite easy - while others are fun for a date night project or as something to do with the kids!
This really is a handbook because honestly we should all keep a copy of it in our kitchens! Gunders not only provides recipes for reducing food waste, she also shows the reader with charts and diagrams how food should be stored and kept. Readers learn about expiration dates, meal prep suggestions, and what food scraps are safe to give to pets. With all the color and neatly organized lists, Gunders has created an amazing resource for any level of chef.
Erin Rhoads (@therogueginger) brings lightness and humor to the discussion of zero waste. In her first book, Rhoads discusses some of the ways she has changed her own habits and doesn't shy away from admitting the parts that have been difficult. The last section of her book is dedicated to waste reduction while "on the road" including travel and activism. Rhoads is also donating 5% of her book sales to Waste Aid Australia!
For her second book, Rhoads created a 365 day calendar-like challenge for going zero waste. Each day contains a suggestion for reducing waste, along with some interesting information about its benefits. These range from replacing plastic toothbrushes with bamboo ones to buying in bulk instead of over-priced plastic products. Rhoads is also donating 5% of her book sales to Waste Aid Australia!
On the title alone this one earns a spot on my top zero waste guides! Designed very similarly to Kellogg's book, each page has a tip with a paragraph or two discussing how to implement the practice. Because of its page by page suggestions, it's not necessarily an interesting read if you're just going straight through but is an amazing resource to keep on hand! It can also be fun to have each page be a day on the calendar and practice going one by one through your life.
I put in a request for my library to order this book because I absolutely love Megan Weldon. She runs the Instagram @zerowastenerd that I have followed for years and I honestly can't wait to read her book! Although I haven't yet taken a peek inside, I know it will be an honest, straightforward guide that leaves readers feeling empowered to take steps towards zero waste.
Founders of the online zero waste store Life Without Plastic, Chantal and Jay strive to make plastic free products accessible. In their book, the authors explain the harmful effects of plastic on both the planet and our bodies, making the case for its use only in truly necessary situations. The book also lays out steps to take to reduce plastic consumption and eliminate the associated chemicals from your home.
Christine Lui (@simplybychristine) has put together a truly beautiful book with zero waste suggestions. Her pictures are the classic bright, white photos with examples of reusable swaps and homemade products. The book is a mix of information, recipes, and personal recommendations from Lui.
Lindsey Miles (@treadingmyownpath) has created the ultimate guidebook to minimizing stuff in your life, without sending it all to the landfill. She guides readers on discovering those objects that are truly meaningful, with the goal of having less "stuff" in our lives that damage the planet. She also explains who to properly repurpose, give away, sell, and dispose of your unwanted stuff.
Lauren and Oberon, founders of @zerowastetasmania, tackle the issues of reducing waste when raising children. With three children of their own, these parents provide readers with the tools and kits to navigate school, lunches, cooking at home, and so much more!
This brightly colored cookbook includes easy to follow graphics about food waste in our kitchens. Each recipe includes a traditional dish (such as a smoothie) and then provides suggestions for using up items that are typically wasted (such as banana peels). This book would be a great place to start conversations with children about food waste and incorporate "food waste" cooking projects into classrooms.
Julia Watkins (@simply.living.well) just published this book - so I haven't gotten my hands on this one either! Seeing her beautifully curated and aesthetically pleasing Instagram though leaves me anxiously waiting to open the pages of this book.
Polly Barks (@pollybarks) explores how environmentalists in the zero waste movement can go beyond simply advocating for plastic bag bans and begin to create system wide change. Approachable, honest, and specific, this book is useful for thinking about the big picture! Her book is currently available as an eBook on Amazon or you can purchase it directly through her and skip the corporate giant! The paperback is just now being printed and you can pre-order that too!