Nonfiction November: Books on how to reduce waste

This week’s prompt, hosted by The Thousand Book Project, gives me an opportunity to ask for help. So I’m calling out for expertise on books that deal with the topic of how to reduce our impact on the environment; as a society and as an individual.

There are scores of books already published on this topic and I suspect, given the increasing attention on the bigger theme of climate change, there are scores more waiting in the wings. Every time I go to the bookshop that section of shelves seems to have expanded.

My problem is that there’s actually too much choice. I can’t sift out the really good ones from the dross. The subject has become so ‘popular’ that I’m nervous about people just jumping on the bandwagon.

So many of the books around have titles that make me suspicious they could be rather basic like Six Weeks to Zero Waste: A simple plan for life by Kate Arnell or 101 Ways To Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg. I may be unfairly judging the authors here and the content has far more depth than the title suggests. That’s where I need your help.

What I’m looking for ideally are books that discuss the “reduce/reuse/recycle” topic broadly examining why waste is an issue, what needs to be done (by governments, manufacturers, retailers and consumers) to improve the situation and what barriers/obstacles exist. Then I’d like to get into practical steps I could take as a householder and consumer and whether there are community projects we could take in our neighbourhood.

I did come across one book that sounded promising: A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button, who is the founder of a website called Buy Me Once, a website that sells the longest-lasting version of everything. The blurb says the book goes beyond helping readers to reduce everyday waste, by examining the psychology of our purchase decisions and how we value things as consumers.

I’m interested also in authors who have tried to adopt a more waste-reduced life and have written about the challenges and successes. They could be people who have tackled plastic usage or food waste or paper wastage.

Or they could be individuals who have campaigned to get action by the people who manufacture and sell products — I was so impressed a few years ago for example about a story of two young girls who took on the Burger King chain over the plastic toys bundled into their meal deals which simply ended up in landfill. There was a similar story in Wales last year of a 10 year old girl who persuaded a major supermarket chain to stop stocking children’s magazines which contain plastic toys.

What I don’t want are books that are little more than listicles.

If you have any ideas, do pop them into the comments box below.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

15 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Books on how to reduce waste

  • November 24, 2021 at 11:02 pm
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    This is a topic I’m really interested in too, and I just finished reading a number of articles online about reducing plastic waste. I love my reusable bags and face wipes, though I still have a long way to go. I don’t have a good book recommendation but will be interested to see what others suggest.

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    • November 26, 2021 at 9:23 pm
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      Doesn’t look like there are very many suggestions for us unfortunately

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  • November 21, 2021 at 6:54 pm
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    A really good question. I agree that a lot of it is egg-sucky, and doesn’t help if you already wear clothes out, mend stuff, don’t buy things until the previous one is broken and make use of the places that recycle odd stuff. I hope you manage to make a list for next time if you get some good resources!

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    • November 26, 2021 at 9:33 pm
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      Not much coming in by way of suggestions yet – clearly there is a gap in the market

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  • November 21, 2021 at 6:46 pm
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    A book that Naomi at Consumed by Ink recently recommended, by J.B. MacKinnon, might suit you on this subject; it’s available from a mainstream press so perhaps is available overseas more readily than some Canadian authors’ work. There’s an interview here for theme and tone: https://www.greenqueen.com.hk/interview-j-b-mackinnon-the-day-the-world-stops-shopping/

    But even though I do most often turn to books for support and advice and information, in this case, I think the commenter above has pertinent advice. Forums and articles online are great sources for this kind of topic and there are loads of blogs about eco-living (as many as books!) that might be useful for you to explore too. Memoirs on this topic can be inspiring but ultimately this is a matter of doing, with some urgency too.

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  • November 21, 2021 at 6:32 am
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    Great topic Karen. If there’s one thing I did during our last lockdown it was to search for ways to recycle things that you do have – like blister packs for those increasing medications older people have, textile items that are too worn out to go to op shops, used pens, etc. It’s taken a while but I now have little bags of items ready to take to the places I found.

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    • November 21, 2021 at 9:26 am
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      I’m trying to imagine the recycle use of blister packs and used pens but have failed.

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    • November 21, 2021 at 9:22 am
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      I’ll take a look at the list you found. Thanks for spotting it

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  • November 20, 2021 at 8:20 pm
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    Good luck on your hunt! My experience of most self-help books as that they’re usually trying to teach their grandmother to suck eggs…

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    • November 21, 2021 at 2:47 am
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      I agree, with the emphasis on the ‘grandmother’. Most of the books I’ve seen suggest ways to stop doing things that my generation stopped doing decades ago, or never did at all. We are not the generation that wears fast fashion, has 100 pairs of shoes, drinks bottled water or feels a need to buy an entire Christmas collection of household linen and crockery that gets used but once a year. From what I see, for every Greta Thunberg there are a hundred foolish people who shop for a hobby because they can’t think of anything better to do with their time.

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  • November 20, 2021 at 7:32 pm
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    It was written 11 years ago, but I would highly recommend American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Half Its Food by Jonathan Bloom. Very insightful, and it seems to be along the lines of what you’re looking for.

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  • November 20, 2021 at 5:46 pm
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    No titles to suggest just expressing a hope that you’ll share on here if you’re recommended anything useful. There are some easy wins but I’m sure there are less obvious things all of us can and should do

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  • November 20, 2021 at 5:29 pm
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    First thing I would say is: dont overthink this s***. Too much reading etc only results in more shizzle in your list! Decide what is most important to you: reading and letting go; reading the faves and keeping; ‘Rescuing’ book from the landfill (via charity shops or other);

    I get mocked for wearing my clothes to destruction and then giving the “leftovers” to places like Oxfam/M&S who can deal with my discards. There must be similar for books (e.g. Oxfam or BHF).

    Please do not assume that this is all covered by Books. Much can be done via SM, and I have learnt much by talking to colleagues/networking without the need to buy a book

    Reply

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