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The List: 7 Environmental Books For Your Summer Reading List

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Take a look at our list of eco-friendly book recommendations for both kids and adults.

One of my favorite summer pastimes is relaxing on the porch with a good book and a glass of iced tea nearby. Luckily, my kids feel the same (If only I had a bigger patio couch). This year, we’ve all decided to intersperse some productive reading amidst the fluffy beach romances (me) and the Archie comic books (them) we are devouring.

Our goal: To learn more about the environment, and to be inspired by the people who have played a part in protecting it. Luckily, there is plenty of reading material for kids and adults alike. Take a peek at our summer reading list, and maybe you’ll be inspired to add a few book ideas to your own pile. Once you’ve taken a look at these, also check out these other kids’ book ideas.

1. The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story about Recycling
It’s sometimes hard for kids to understand the importance of recycling, and where that waste actually goes once it’s picked up from your curbside container. This book does a great job of bringing the journey of a plastic bottle to life. Told from the point of view of the bottle itself (complete with diary entries!), the story follows the bottle from its creation, through its life, to its recycling transformation into a fleece jacket. It’s a good story for younger kids to learn about the value of recycling. If your young reader enjoys this book, the author has also written one about an aluminum can.

2. Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet
Geared to older kids (ages 8 to 12), this book features the stories of a dozen people who are doing their part to combat pollution, conserve natural resources, and make a difference from an environmental standpoint. Kids will love that many of the stories are about young people, including an 11-year-old who started a program to dispose of electronic waste, and a Mexican immigrant teen who successfully spearheaded a protest against the construction of a proposed pipeline of explosive gas in her neighborhood. If readers are inspired by the stories, a section at the end offers suggestions on how to get involved.

3. Eco-Friendly Crafting With Kids: 35 step-by-step projects for preschool kids and adults to create together
The Minieco blogger Kate Lilley shares ideas for incorporating stuff around the house into fun afternoon projects. From classics, such as homemade play dough and interesting science projects, to homemade musical instruments and toys sewn from scrap fabric, these projects are sure to inspire.

4. Human Footprint: Everything You Will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime
Part of the stellar National Geographic Kids book series, this eye-opening book portrays just how much stuff we really consume. It’s chock full of statistics about the human footprint, with photo illustrations that depict this footprint in a easily digestible format. For instance, the average American will drink 43,371 cans of soda in their lifetime — and a photo in the book will show you just how big that pile of cans is. There’s fun trivia throughout, and most important, tips that can help you reduce your carbon footprint on the world.

5. Silent Spring
It’s an oldie but a goodie. First released in 1962, this book was indisputably a clarion call to question, monitor, and limit the toxic chemicals that have pervaded modern society. Although it is fifty-five-years old, it’s interesting to read it now and see how relevant it remains. This book is most appropriate for adults or college-aged people.

6. Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade
Who knew the waste industry could be so fascinating and so complicated? Anyone who loves getting a behind-the-scenes look will be compelled by Minter’s in-depth exploration of the recycling and solid-waste industries. You’ll learn about businesses around the world that are turning recycling into a profitable industry, as well as the dangerous and less favorable aspects of these businesses. Minter’s hope is that his stories will encourage everyone to consume less and recycle more.

7. All You Need Is Less: The Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity
In this book, the author hopes to make sustainable living approachable and realistic. Written in an irreverent and funny tone, Somerville has great ideas for taking baby steps towards reducing your carbon footprint. She’s got instructions for making homemade cleaners, tips on upcycling household items and on thrifting instead of buying new products. She even has ideas for how to get recalcitrant spouses on board with your green lifestyle.

So there you have it: Plenty of material to fill some lazy afternoons this summer while learning some intriguing stories about waste, recycling, and the environment.

What are your favorite books about the environment? Share your reading recommendations in the comments below.
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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Alicia W. 16 days ago
    I haven't read very many but I really liked Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days. She did one eco-friendly change a day.
  • Julia F. 18 days ago
    Great list! Consider checking these out of the library in order to "reduce" or pass on your copy to a friend in an effort to "reuse."