Although 2020 undoubtedly brought its own set of challenges (understatement of the century), for many, the enforced pause gave us time to reflect on what we as individuals can do to help the planet heal.
The plight of single-use plastics first came to our attention in a major way, when David Attenborough’s ground-breaking Blue Planet II showed us just how much damage we were inflicting onto our wildlife. And while we’ll never be able to unsee that poor hawksbill turtle getting caught up in a plastic sack, hopefully, that shocking scene can encourage positive change.
At the same time, the disturbing stat that there will be more plastic in the sea by 2050 than fish was doing the rounds. While that is almost unfathomable, thankfully there is plenty we can do to ensure this doesn’t come to fruition.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a selection of books which aim to educate and inspire plastic-free living in all areas of our lives.
Whether you’re looking for tips and tricks to make your own cleaning products, want to re-look at how much waste you’re putting out into the world, or you’d like to learn more about the innovating products brands are developing, we’ve found a title for you to get stuck into.
By demystifying eco-terms and offering real-life solutions, we hope you’ll feel better armed with the tools you need, to be the change you want to see. Read on for a selection of the best books to live you best plastic-free life.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘Is It Really Green?: Everyday eco dilemmas answered’, Georgina Wilson-Powell, published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd
With so much greenwashing presented to us these days, (the “green sheen” brands and companies put out to make them look greener than they actually are), it can be tricky to know what’s really green these days. This new title aims to demystify some of the everyday eco speak, so you can make informed choices. For example, can you breath easy about getting that flight if you “off-set” the carbon. Is non-dairy milk, really better for the planet? And are paper bags more environmentally friendly than plastic? Even the book itself has been made sustainably, printed in black and white, on recycled paper locally, in order to reduce air miles.
Buy now £12.99, Waterstones.com
‘How to Save the World For Free’, Natalie Fee, published by Laurence King Publishing
Even for the most ardent environmentalist, saving the world can feel pretty daunting. In this book, Natalie Fee breaks down her suggestions for positive change, into more manageable chunks. Relating to all areas of your life, she explains how the small actions you make while getting dressed, exercising, or even having sex, can help to save the world. Whether that’s ditching the single-use plastic bottles or switching to a menstrual cup, all of the suggestions are completely free, or if they require a small initial outlay (like buying a reusable razor for example), they should save you money in the long run.
Buy now £12.99, Waterstones.com
‘Who Cares Wins: Reasons For Optimism in Our Changing World’, Lily Cole, published by Penguin Books Ltd
Written by model turned entrepreneur Lily Cole, (who famously ditched fashion for a first at Cambridge), this tomb of a book looks at how people are responding to our changing world. Although not completely dedicated to plastic-free living, it looks at the wider issue of plastic use and some of the innovative companies and individuals leading the way for change. With so many amazing people coming up with amazing solutions, we really were left feeling optimistic and that all was not doomed.
Buy now £13.99, Blackwells.co.uk
‘No More Rubbish Excuses: How to reduce your waste and why you must do it now’, Martin Dorey, published by Ebury Publishing
Following on from his inspiring book No .More. Plastic, based on the viral #2minutebeachclean campaign, Martin Dorey’s latest title gets tough on us, as individuals. Urging us to look at how much rubbish we are personally responsible for, he explains exactly what happens with the content of our bins, whether it’s recycling, the stuff we take to the tip or food waste. Just like the previous title, he offers simple two-minute solutions for us to implement into our everyday lives.
Buy now £6.45, Hive.co.uk
‘Clean Green Tips and Recipes for a Naturally Clean, More Sustainable Home’, Jen Chillingsworth, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd
Cleaning is not the sexiest subject, but this sweet, illustrated book is full of small suggestions to make it greener. It’s peppered with recipes targeted at every room of the house, including the likes of “how to make your own drain cleaner” and the slightly more palatable, “how to make foaming handwash”. The idea is that if we start making our own cleaning products (replacing unpronounceable chemical combinations with natural ingredients such as lemon and bicarbonate of soda) not only will you release fewer toxins into your home (and therefore the water system), but you’ll also cut down on single-use plastics in the process.
Buy now £7.31, Blackwells.co.uk
‘Waste Not Everyday: 365 ways to reduce, reuse and reconnect’, Erin Rhoads, published by Hardie Grant Books
Although this was written for an Australian audience, much of the advice can be applied here in the UK. The 365 bitesize snippets are easy to digest and take on board, and are helpfully divided into sections such as food, gifting and cleaning so you can dip in and out. Although Erin advocates recycling, she stresses that this should be the very last stage, instead urging us to repair, reduce and rethink before using a product in the first place, with suggestions including making your own Christmas crackers out of loo roll and buying second-hand gifts.
Buy now £8.50, Amazon.co.uk
‘Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act’, Orsola de Castro, published by Penguin Books Ltd
If you’re a self-confessed fashion addict, your wardrobe might be a good place to start on your journey to plastic-free living. Orsola looks at things like how washing your underwear by hand can reduce the number of microplastics being released, and how plastics in gym wear release toxins which can be absorbed into your body *immediately gets changed out of our leggings*. Again, it’s not all about the plastics, but there’s plenty on how the textile and fashion industry contributes its fair share to plastic pollution, which should help you make more informed choices going forward.
Buy now £8.99, Waterstones.com
‘Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (And You) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again’, Lucy Siegle, published by Orion
A journalist and presenter of BBC’s The One Show, Lucy Siegle provides plenty of real-life examples of encounters with unnecessary plastic in her life, and how to overcome it. The “daily plastics diary” she encourages everyone to keep really opened our eyes to just how much more we have to do. With plenty of product swaps, helpful links and detailed information on different types of plastics and how they can (and cannot) be recycled, this is a very useful resource.
Buy now £8.99, Waterstones.com
‘How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time’, Will McCallum, published by Penguin Life
As head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK, Will McCallum has been at the forefront of the anti-plastic battle for many years, regularly meeting with government and big companies to make positive changes. This book provides helpful tips for how to give up plastics in all areas of our lives – from the bathroom to the kitchen and everywhere in between. With shocking stats, alongside interactive lists and exercises for you to fill in, you’ll most certainly have reduced your plastic footprint by the last page.
Buy now £6.00, Oxfam.org
‘Save the World: There Is No Planet B: Things You Can Do Right Now to Save Our Planet’, Louise Bradford, published by Summersdale
“The Plastic Problem”, as Louise Bradford dubs it, is just one chapter in a title that covers all the major issues our planet is currently facing. From water conservation to shopping more ethically, there are practical bullet point suggestions for ultimately living a more minimal life, and limiting your impact on the world as a result. In it, she argues that we can’t wait for big corporations to clean up their acts. Instead, we all have a duty to do our bit to save the planet. If that sounds a little preachy, rest assured the book is clear that any effort is better than none, and that we can only do our best.
Buy now £4.98, Amazon.co.uk
The verdict: Books on plastic-free living
Even when you think you’ve incorporated every conceivable plastic-free switch into your life, out comes another book with yet more great advice. With more companies than ever jumping on the eco bandwagon, (without putting their money where their mouth is) we think Is It Really Green? is a particularly timely read. Not only will you be able to see through the spiel, but you’ll be left more confident that the everyday choices you make, are the greenest they can be.