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Food for thought: sustainability professionals on books that inspired them

08 May 2024 10 min read
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The Greensider community is doing great work to grow and empower the green workforce. Here, they share a few recommended reads for sustainability professionals.

If you want to learn more about sustainability and eventually work in the field, you’ll need to do some old-school reading – no number of TikTok videos can get you there. But sustainability itself is a rabbit hole, not to mention there are tons of books out there. It can be tricky to start.

That’s why, having hosted the Greensider podcast, which features the stories of ‘green insiders’ pursuing interesting sustainability careers, we picked out the books they recommend to those aspiring to follow similar routes.

Want to be a better messenger?
The Art of Explanation, by Ros Atkins

Transferable skills such as communication, explanation and influencing, are vital when working in sustainability, as stakeholder buy-in can often be a challenge. The IEMA Sustainability Skills Map is a useful tool for identifying the skills and knowledge needed to develop in your career.

In The Art of Explanation, BBC presenter and journalist Ros Atkins shares the secrets he’s learned from years of working in high-pressure newsrooms. Identifying the ten elements of a good explanation, Atkins also outlines the seven steps needed to express yourself with clarity and impact.

Book cover for the Art of Explanation

Recommended by Dr Alaa Al Khourdajie, Research Fellow at Imperial College London:

“This book breaks down the steps of excellent communication in a useful, accessible way. Anyone who works in climate change, or has a complex, important message to get across, should have a read. The Art of Explanation is an excellent guide to making your point effectively, and persuasively in a professional environment.”

Want to engage with nature through words?
Landmarks, by Robert Macfarlane

What makes Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries so beloved? While the cinematography certainly plays a role, it’s his words that truly stir the hearts of the audience. Through words, we unite in the joy of nature even when physical access is limited and join forces in conservation efforts.

Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. A field guide to the literature of nature, it is a glossary of thousands of remarkable words used across the UK to describe land, nature, and weather. Macfarlane’s writing demonstrates how language can be used as a portal into deeply knowing and loving landscapes.

Book cover of Landmarks

Recommended by Lucy Jenner, Head of Natural Capital Management at Savills.

“There is a real power in the way Macfarlane talks about landscapes and land – how they impact us and how we have impacted them – as well as the importance of nature and the importance of nature restoration. He writes in an incredibly beautiful way. I highly recommend this book.”

Want to see sustainability from an indigenous perspective?

Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Indigenous people have done a way better job in preserving the ecosystem than others. They’re currently safeguarding 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Their knowledge and wisdom is inspiring but also indispensable.

In the gently joyful Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer highlights how our fellow living beings – asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass – speak to us with lessons and gifts, if we can only recall how to hear them. Weaving together a series of reflections rooted in her indigenous Native American heritage, the author argues that we need to wake humanity up to a wider ecological consciousness. And, to do this, people must acknowledge that they live in a reciprocal relationship with the rest of the life on Earth.

Book cover for Braiding Sweetgrass

Recommend by Alyssa Pek, Independent Renewable Energy Strategic Communications Consultant:

“I’m from Canada and grew up surrounded by indigenous knowledge and culture. This book was so interesting to me, in part because it is written by a scientist with an indigenous background. It gives you a distinct perspective on how we engage on environmental issues as well. I took a lot of fresh insight and new lessons from the book. I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique and intelligent perspective on environmentalism and sustainability.”

How to do good business?
Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard

To achieve a sustainable future, businesses must transcend mere profit-making. While it’s challenging to strike a balance between financial success and positive impacts on the planet and people, we can find our way forward by learning from the pioneers in sustainable business.

French-Canadian author Yvon Chouinard has a love for thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions and a passion for the great outdoors. In Let My People GoSurfing, he writes about how his love of climbing led him to begin creating innovatively designed mountaineering equipment, pursuing entrepreneurial success. This book is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life.

Book cover for Let my people go surfing

Recommended by Soumaya Merhi, CEO and Founder of Taqa Snacks:

“My friend Gino gave me this book. At the time I was feeling lost in what I was doing. I read it and it spoke to me.”

This is a guest blog written by Greensider for the Green Careers Hub. Greensider is a content partner for the Green Careers Hub. If you are looking for more inspiration, check out other Greensider book club recommendations for.

Photo credits: Penguin Books

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