Christian Arno

6 inspiring books for sustainability leaders

6 min Read
Arm taking a book off a shelf

I started Pawprint with the goal of creating a companion for people to have on their journey towards a lower-carbon lifestyle. I had plenty of ambition and a great team by my side, but I also had a lot of learning to do. Luckily, these books for sustainability leaders (though they’re really for everyone) made that learning curve not just an eye-opening experience, but a real joy. 

Inspiring, thoughtful and backed by science, these books suggest new and better ways of doing business, treating our planet and thinking about our lives. 

How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee

First up has to be the book that launched the Pawprint ship. When it first came out in 2009, How Bad are Bananas? completely changed our understanding of the way our daily choices impacted the planet. In the ten-or-so years since its publication, how we talk about carbon emissions has become more and more complicated—and I think this is a good thing! Climate change is a complex topic that requires many different kinds of solutions, but Mike Berners-Lee’s book is still, for me, the gold standard in cutting through the noise and helping us figure out what needs our attention most. We’re very lucky and grateful to have Mike on board as Pawprint’s scientific advisor, and to have his excellent team validate our carbon data.

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

The way we measure success in the economy doesn’t necessarily reflect success for humanity. Whether it’s the climate crisis, growing inequality or the various financial crises of these past few decades, our current way of doing things is putting our future in danger. Oxford academic Kate Raworth takes apart our economic model and highlights seven key areas for change, from doing away with GDP as the ultimate measure of progress, to transitioning from a linear to a circular economy. In painting a picture where human life flourishes alongside the environment, and placing the power for change in the hands of normal people like you and I, Raworth’s vision for a new economics is both reasoned and incredibly empowering. 

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

Part of the solution to climate change will require new technologies, and who knows more about tech than Bill Gates? In simple, practical terms, Gates’ How to Avoid a Climate Disaster lays out a roadmap for how we’re going to get to zero emissions, and the various technological innovations that are going to get us there. The book is also a great primer on the concept of green premiums, which is the difference in cost between a carbon-emitting product and its low- or zero-carbon alternative. Using green premiums as a guide to action, Gates details the strides that must happen in order to reduce green premiums and create a market for zero-carbon products. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and none of it will be easy, but How to Avoid a Climate Disaster makes a clear-eyed case as to why the change we need is right at our fingertips. 

Climate Justice by Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson’s Climate Justice has come highly recommended to me by several Pawprinters. In her book, the former Irish President recalls a famous saying by Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.’ Robinson witnesses this belief in action all across the world, recounting stories of individuals whose grassroots activism rippled out into their wider society. What also quickly becomes clear is that the various challenges we face—climate change, human rights, equality and justice—are all interconnected. Instead of being daunted by the task at hand, Robinson strikes a resolutely hopeful tone: if homegrown activism can become a global force for good, then the power to make a difference is already within us all. As big believers in the power of small changes, I’m not surprised that Climate Justice struck such a chord with my team. This one’s currently at the top of my to-read pile. 

Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration and Ultimate Food Security by Masanobu Fukuoka 

This book is a recommendation from my dad, the Pawdre. The English-speaking world was first introduced to Masanobu Fukuoka’s philosophy of natural farming in the ‘70s, through his bestseller The One-Straw Revolution. Though his farming methods are still a hot topic for debate, Fukuoka's call for us to rethink the earth as simply a resource to exploit has only grown more urgent. Sowing Seeds in the Desert is the last book he wrote before his passing in 2008, and it details his years working with others to regenerate broken landscapes. As he charts the growing desertification he sees around the world, Fukuoka provides critical insight into how our obsession with productivity has depleted the health of our soils and waters. Though Sowing Seeds provides more philosophy than answers, Fukuoka’s call for a recalibration of our value system and an end to limitless, meaningless consumption feels more timely than ever. 

Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg

This last book on my list is not strictly climate-related, but its ideas are ones that we strongly believe in here at Pawprint: the power of small changes in bringing about massive, lasting impact. Tiny Habits was recommended to me by Tom Sermon, a Pawprint board member. During Tom’s time at Virgin Pulse, he worked closely with Fogg, who is the founder of Stanford University’s Behavioural Design Lab.

In Fogg’s book, he draws upon his 20 years of research in the field of behavioural science to dismantle the idea that meaningful change must always start big, and can happen through willpower alone. Instead, he argues, if we focus on the smallest, easiest version of this change, finding a natural place for it within our daily routine and consciously celebrating its completion every time, this new habit will take root in our lives more effectively. This new way of thinking about habit-building—coined Fogg’s Behaviour Model—allows for a more positive self-transformation, as new opportunities and new aspects of our identities begin to emerge as a result. When our tiny habits begin building towards bigger, lasting change, we realise that change can not only be easy; it can actually be fun. 

Looking for some more inspiring climate reads?

Here’s a look at some of the best sustainability reports to have come out this year.
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