Top 15 Picks for Books on Sustainability and Business

By Danielle Crownover
Sustainability Analyst
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

Our friends at GBES, SIG’s education partner, have interviewed over 70 green building professionals through a series of podcasts, and one of the topics discussed focuses on book recommendations. Specifically, GBES guest speakers are asked what books they recommend concerning sustainability, green business and business trips. After listening through the diverse and insightful answers from those with professional experience in the field, I have compiled a top 15 essential book list, which includes the GBES guest and the podcast in which they were featured. The Book title, author, and an official description of the book is also listed. Without further a due, I present to you, a SIG spotlight: Green Reads.

GBES Guest Speaker(s): Charlie Cichetti, Trace Blackmore | Podcast(s): 8, 9

Tribe_of_MentorsBook 1: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
Author: Tim Ferriss

“This book Tribe of Mentors, includes many of the people I grew up viewing as idols or demi-gods. Less than 10% have been on my podcast (The Tim Ferriss Show, more than 200 million downloads), making this a brand-new playbook of playbooks. No matter your challenge or opportunity, something in these pages can help.”13

GBES Guest Speaker: Fernando Arias | Podcast: 21

Can Business Save the Earth?Book 2: Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability
Author: Michael Lenox

“In Can Business Save the Earth?, Michael Lenox and Aaron Chatterji explain just how the private sector can help. Many believe that markets will inevitably demand sustainable practices and force them to emerge. But Lenox and Chatterji see it differently. Based on more than a decade of research and work with companies, they argue that a bright green future is only possible with dramatic innovation across multiple sectors at the same time.”1

GBES Guest Speaker: Leslie Montgomery | Podcast: 24

Thirst for PowerBook 3: Thirst for Power: Energy, Water, and Human Survival
Author: Michael E. Webber

“Although it is widely understood that energy and water are the world’s two most critical resources, their vital interconnections and vulnerabilities are less often recognized. This farsighted book offers a new, holistic way of thinking about energy and water—a big picture approach that reveals the interdependence of the two resources, identifies the seriousness of the challenges, and lays out an optimistic approach with an array of solutions to ensure the continuing sustainability of both.”2

GBES Guest Speaker: Matt Grace | Podcast: 37

Building RevolutionsBook 4: Building Revolutions: Applying the Circular Economy to the Built Environment
Author: Dave Cheshire

“Drawing on illustrative methods and examples, Building Revolutions explains how the principles of a circular economy can be applied to the built environment where resources are kept in use and their value retained. The book describes how buildings and materials can be reused or salvaged to extend their life and proposes ways new business models can be applied to reduce capital and lifecycle costs, providing a positive architectural legacy for future generations.”3

GBES Guest Speaker: Marcus Sheffer | Podcast: 40

Regenerative Design for Sustainable DevelopmentBook 5: Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development
Author: John Tillman Lyle

“200 years of global industrialization have brought the Earth to the brink of environmental crisis. One of the most respected figures in environmental design presents methods for reversing past trends in practical and realistic ways. Describes a broad sampling of practices and technologies that are inherently self-renewing along with examples which demonstrate how they have been applied through carefully conceived design in various situations. Explores the roles of regenerative design in social, physical, and political contexts.”4

GBES Guest Speaker: Jason Kliwinski | Podcast: 43

The Green to Gold Business PlaybookBook 6: The Green to Gold Business Playbook: How to Implement Sustainability Practices for Bottom-Line Results in Every Business Function
Author(s): Daniel C. Esty, P.J. Simmons

“Whether you are a climate change skeptic or an environmentalist, sustainability issues cannot be ignored in today’s corporate world. With rising energy and natural resource costs, intensified regulations, investor pressures, and a growing demand for environmentally friendly products, sustainability is no longer an option–it’s a business imperative. Unlike many green business books, the Playbook skips the environmental ideology and deals exclusively with tools and strategies that have been shown to cut costs, reduce risks, drive revenues, and build brand identity.”5

GBES Guest Speaker(s): John Zinner, Brendan Owen | Podcast(s): 50,51

The Wizard and the ProphetBook 7: The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World
Author: Charles C. Mann

“In forty years, Earth’s population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups–Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book.”6

GBES Guest Speaker: Melissa Rappaport Schifman | Podcast: 57

Study Guide Questions for The Ecology of CommerceBook 8: Study Guide Questions for Paul Hawken’s the Ecology of Commerce Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability: A Workbook to Record Your Responses to 200 Questions
Author: Dr Jane a Talkington

“This interactive workbook is an indispensable study tool to accompany “The Ecology of Commerce: Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability” (published in 2010). It transforms reading about sustainability into being conversant about advanced sustainability topics. It was written by a professor with an MBA and a PhD in Environmental Science who is versed in teaching about the environment and business sustainability. Packed inside this workbook are 200 probing questions culled from the ten chapters in Hawken’s book.”7

GBES Guest Speaker: Jason Twill | Podcast: 58

The Well-Tempered CityBook 9: The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life
Author: Jonathan F.P. Rose

“In The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—the man who “repairs the fabric of cities”—distills a lifetime of interdisciplinary research and firsthand experience into a five-pronged model for how to design and reshape our cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity. Drawing from the musical concept of “temperament” as a way to achieve harmony, Rose argues that well-tempered cities can be infused with systems that bend the arc of their development toward equality, resilience, adaptability, well-being, and the ever-unfolding harmony between civilization and nature. These goals may never be fully achieved, but our cities will be richer and happier if we aspire to them, and if we infuse our every plan and constructive step with this intention.”8

GBES Guest Speaker: David Rodriguez | Podcast: 59

The Original GreenBook 10: The Original Green: Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability
Author: Stephen A. Mouzon

“The Original Green is the sustainability our ancestors knew by heart. Originally (before the Thermostat Age) they had no choice but to build green, otherwise people would not survive very long. The Original Green aggregates and distributes the wisdom of sustainability through the operating system of living traditions, producing sustainable places in which it is meaningful to build sustainable buildings. Original Green sustainability is common-sense and plain-spoken, meaning “keeping things going in a healthy way long into an uncertain future.” Sustainable places should be nourishable because if you cannot eat there, you cannot live there.”9

GBES Guest Speaker: Heather Holdridge | Podcast: 61

The Hidden Life of TreesBook 11: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World
Author: Peter Wohlleben

“Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.”10

GBES Guest Speaker: Lance Hosey | Podcast: 63

The Shape of GreenBook 12: The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design
Author: Lance Hosey

“Drawing from a wealth of scientific research, Hosey demonstrates that form and image can enhance conservation, comfort, and community at every scale of design, from products to buildings to cities. Fully embracing the principles of ecology could revolutionize every aspect of design, in substance and in style. Aesthetic attraction isn’t a superficial concern — it’s an environmental imperative. Beauty could save the planet.”11

GBES Guest Speaker: Dan Burgoyne | Podcast: 68

The Passive Solar Energy BookBook 13: The Passive Solar Energy Book: A Complete Guide to Passive Solar Home, Greenhouse, and Building Design
Author: Edward Mazria

“Provides comprehensive information on the design and application of passive solar-energy systems and assesses twenty-seven design patterns that offset a variety of factors influencing the effectiveness of solar heating.”12

GBES Guest Speaker: Mike Hess | Podcast: 72

Biomimicry bookBook 14: Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
Author: Janine M Benyus

“If chaos theory transformed our view of the universe, biomimicry is transforming our life on Earth. Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature – taking advantage of evolution’s 3.8 billion years of R&D since the first bacteria. Biomimics study nature’s best ideas: photosynthesis, brain power, and shells – and adapt them for human use. They are revolutionizing how we invent, compute, heal ourselves, harness energy, repair the environment, and feed the world.”14

GBES Guest Speaker: Teresa Coady | Podcast: 86

Last Child in the WoodsBook 15: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Author: Richard Louv

“Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they’re right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development—physical, emotional, and spiritual. What’s more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD.”15

I hope from this small collection of books you are able to gain insight about the urgency of recognizing the importance that sustainable green building practices represent in our modern world. For additional information on the books and authors, please find the corresponding link below to a full review.

To listen to any of the podcasts mentioned in this article, please visit:


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