90 books like What a Waste

By Jess French,

Here are 90 books that What a Waste fans have personally recommended if you like What a Waste. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of We Are Water Protectors

Dianna Hutts Aston Author Of Mermaids' Song to the Sea

From my list on children mermaids scientists sea creatures.

Why am I passionate about this?

The shore was my first great love, the falling in love-kind. I grew up in Houston, a short distance from the Texas coast. My parents took us there often. Back then, in the 70s, I found a wealth of treasures: sand dollars, urchins, seahorses, starfish, and mollusks. Since then, the treasures have diminished considerably. It’s rare to find any of these animals that were once common. In my research on oceans, reefs, and Earth’s many animals and habitats, I’ve learned that many are endangered and that habitat loss due to human activity is the primary culprit. My contribution to help restore the Earth’s health is through children’s books.

Dianna's book list on children mermaids scientists sea creatures

Dianna Hutts Aston Why did Dianna love this book?

I love this book because its title reflects how I feel about water: protective. Young Nokomis, a girl of the indigenous Ojibwe people, learns that humans are born of water, and it is sacred. She says that the “river’s rhythm runs through my veins.” I feel the same way.

Finding ways to protect it is a large undertaking, but there are simple ways too. Praying, especially in song, is one. Nokomis reminds us that all of us, humans, animals, and elements, are interconnected. I agree with this sentiment: We Are One. Her prayer is mine. We must stand strong and work together, pray, and sing together as one of the everyday activities to acknowledge the sacredness of water.

By Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked We Are Water Protectors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal
#1 New York Times Bestseller

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.


Book cover of Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Erin Dealey Author Of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

From my list on making Earth Day every day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a teacher, author, & parent, determined to help keep our earth healthy for future generations. A few Earth Days ago, my students asked why we only set aside one day a year to practice eco-healthy habits. Good question! As a teacher, I know how crucial it is for authors to get our facts right. Before writing Dear Earth… I read stacks of books and articles on our environment. I am indebted to science expert & author Melissa Stewart, and my friend Patricia Newman (Plastic Ahoy!; Planet Ocean / Lerner), as well. I sincerely hope Dear Earth… and the books on my list inspire Earth Heroes everywhere--every day.

Erin's book list on making Earth Day every day

Erin Dealey Why did Erin love this book?

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez shows what an incredible difference “just a kid” can make, even when those in “power” don’t take her seriously. Not only would the kids in Room 5 support Sofia’s fabulous solution to the dangerous “Mount Trashmore” landfill, but I’m also certain they would learn a lot about the process of getting their own eco-conscious suggestions heard by the local government.

By Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sofia Valdez, Future Prez as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller!

The newest picture book from the creators of Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist stars Sofia Valdez, a community leader who stands up for what she believes in!
Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia (aka Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea-the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She…


Book cover of Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea

Erin Dealey Author Of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

From my list on making Earth Day every day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a teacher, author, & parent, determined to help keep our earth healthy for future generations. A few Earth Days ago, my students asked why we only set aside one day a year to practice eco-healthy habits. Good question! As a teacher, I know how crucial it is for authors to get our facts right. Before writing Dear Earth… I read stacks of books and articles on our environment. I am indebted to science expert & author Melissa Stewart, and my friend Patricia Newman (Plastic Ahoy!; Planet Ocean / Lerner), as well. I sincerely hope Dear Earth… and the books on my list inspire Earth Heroes everywhere--every day.

Erin's book list on making Earth Day every day

Erin Dealey Why did Erin love this book?

Ocean Soup sneaks up on you—in a good way! The wonderful rhymes draw readers into what seems like a fun story (and it is) but suddenly, the trash that lies beneath the ocean’s surface is revealed, and we learn what a messy soup we humans have made. I love that readers not only learn about environmentalism and conservation, but are also empowered with simple actions they can adopt to help keep our oceans clean.

By Meeg Pincus, Lucy Semple (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ocean Soup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

From the shore, the ocean looks like clear, sparkling blue but look closely at a small scoop and you'll find the ocean looks more like soup! Our oceans are filled with plastics, from water bottles and take-out containers to the teeny tiny plastic particles you need a microscope to see. But who exactly cooked up this stinky soup? And, more importantly, what is the recipe for getting (and keeping) our oceans clean? This bouncing, rhyming story pulls no punches about how we ended up in this sticky mess but also offers hope and help for cleaning up this ocean soup.


Book cover of The Old Man and the Penguin: A True Story of True Friendship

Erin Dealey Author Of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

From my list on making Earth Day every day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a teacher, author, & parent, determined to help keep our earth healthy for future generations. A few Earth Days ago, my students asked why we only set aside one day a year to practice eco-healthy habits. Good question! As a teacher, I know how crucial it is for authors to get our facts right. Before writing Dear Earth… I read stacks of books and articles on our environment. I am indebted to science expert & author Melissa Stewart, and my friend Patricia Newman (Plastic Ahoy!; Planet Ocean / Lerner), as well. I sincerely hope Dear Earth… and the books on my list inspire Earth Heroes everywhere--every day.

Erin's book list on making Earth Day every day

Erin Dealey Why did Erin love this book?

The Old Man and the Penguin is based on a TRUE story of how a Brazilian man, João Pereira de Souza, rescued and cared for a Magellanic penguin caught in an oil spill. It’s 1-part rhymed picture book + 1-part fascinating nonfiction + 2-parts sweet story of friendship that shows the importance of environmental awareness and stewardship. I can see kids reading it over and over, like I have. I bet it would start wonderful discussions about how human activities often threaten Earth’s wildlife—and how we might change that. 

By Julie Abery, Pierre Pratt (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old Man and the Penguin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Told in rhyming verse, this is the touching true story of an oil-soaked penguin, the man who rescues him and an unlikely friendship. João hears “a sorry screech” as he walks along the shore near his home. It's from a penguin, whose feathers are soaked in oil. Too tired to swim, too weak to stand, he's barely moving on the sand. João must save this little guy. Without his help, he'll surely die. João takes the penguin home. He cleans him, feeds him and nurses him slowly back to health --- and the pair develop a special bond. When the…


Book cover of Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

Years ago, I was a janitor. When I would take a shower, it was like I could never get the stench off my body. I like Susan Strasser’s book because it reminds me of the waste I use to clean up daily. She examines the most unprecedented commonplace act of throwing things out and how it has transformed American society.

Her classic book about trash world culture is fascinating to me because, in the last hundred years, the way of life has been replaced by mass consumption, disposable goods, and waste on an unimaginable scale. Her book could easily be used as a metaphor for the ‘homeless,’ whom some view as “disposable’ goods. Her book illustrates that what counts as trash depends on who counts it, and what we throw away defines us as much as we keep it.

Strasser argues that in Western society, popular understanding of cleanliness, gender,…

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Waste and Want as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life-throwing things out-and how it has transformed American society.

Susan Strasser's pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part of that culture-the trash it produces-and finds in it an unexpected wealth of meaning.

Before the twentieth century, streets and bodies stank, but trash was nearly nonexistent. With goods and money scarce, almost everything was reused. Strasser paints a vivid picture of an America where scavenger pigs roamed the streets,…


Book cover of Chattanooga Sludge

Sigrid Schmalzer Author Of Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming

From my list on inspirational scientists for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a historian of science who specializes in modern China. My professional life revolves around teaching history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and writing for academic audiences. But my not-so-secret dream has always been to write for children. I've been a regular visitor to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where I've gorged on illustrated books for children. Encouraged by a chance meeting with a publisher’s representative attending an event at the Carle, I decided to distill my academic book, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China, into a children’s story. I’m proud that my fans now include elementary-school students. (And at least one professional historian admitted he read the kids’ version first!)

Sigrid's book list on inspirational scientists for children

Sigrid Schmalzer Why did Sigrid love this book?

This book is sadly out of print, but readers looking for a lavishly detailed and colorfully illustrated account of technology in the service of ecological restoration should hit the used book market and add this to their home libraries. It tells the story of John Todd, a scientist from Massachusetts who created  “Living Machines” that use biological processes to transform sewage into clean water. Meanwhile, down in Tennessee, factory pollution has turned Chattanooga Creek into a stream of sludge that poisons the land and sickens the residents. The city council invites Todd to visit, and Todd adapts his Living Machines to handle not just ordinary sewage, but toxic waste.

Bang’s illustrations bring the reader to the microscopic level and back again to show just how the ecological principles of the Living Machine work. We learn that success doesn’t come easily, and science alone will not fix every problem, but an…

By Molly Bang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chattanooga Sludge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The true story of John Todd's ingenious plan to clean toxic waste from a Tennessee creek describes the 150 years of pollution buildup that prompted his decision and his construction of the Living Machine. Children's BOMC Feat.


Book cover of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

David Benton Author Of Tackling the Obesity Crisis: Beyond Failed Approaches to Lasting Solutions

From my list on understanding why you put on weight.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having studied diet and behavior for forty years, I realized that I had ignored obesity. However, after eventually considering the topic, I found that the actions of both politicians and the food industry had been spectacularly unhelpful. Why are so many people allowed to suffer? If politicians and the food industry are ineffective, there is a third group that could engineer change: the general public. It is scandalous that so many have been condemned to an early death following decades of ill-health. Something needs to change.

David's book list on understanding why you put on weight

David Benton Why did David love this book?

I learned how much food is wasted while so many people are hungry: in the USA, half of all food is wasted, and in the United Kingdom, 20 million tonnes of food are thrown out each year. Yet I also gained an implicit and unintended message: we need more than a good idea. I became certain that, although we need to understand the situation and have a plan, in industrialized countries, most dietary problems reflect a human reluctance to change behavior.  

It became clear to me that we need to factor in human behavior and offer more than good advice. Good ideas are often stymied by the reluctance of humans to change what they eat. For me, the unintended takeaway message was that the failure of attempts to encourage healthy eating, to a large extent, reflects paying too much attention to food. Rather, you need to concentrate on people as…

By Tristram Stuart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Waste as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With shortages, volatile prices and nearly one billion people hungry, the world has a food problem-or thinks it does. Farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard up to half of their food-enough to feed all the world's hungry at least three times over. Forests are destroyed and nearly one tenth of the West's greenhouse gas emissions are released growing food that will never be eaten. While affluent nations throw away food through neglect, in the developing world crops rot because farmers lack the means to process, store and transport them to market.

But there could be…


Book cover of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Oona Horx Strathern Author Of The Kindness Economy: A new currency for the future of business, work and life

From my list on showing that kindness is profitable (and not boring).

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about looking for new ways to see our future. As a futurist and trend researcher for over 30 years, I am drawn to books, ideas, and people that lead us away from narrow black-and-white thinking. With the help of these mavericks, outliers, and new systemic thinking, we can shift from a naive, optimistic, or miserable pessimistic mindset to what I call a “possibilistic” outlook on society and business. We all need purpose, and mine is to show that more things are possible than we think; sometimes, we just need to look in unusual places and into unusual minds and books to find new solutions for a better future.

Oona's book list on showing that kindness is profitable (and not boring)

Oona Horx Strathern Why did Oona love this book?

I loved this book because it goes beyond our typical ideas about how to “rescue the planet.” If there was ever a simple way forward and argument to be optimistic about the future of the products, consumerism, and building, then this is where I found it.

Written with enthusiasm and passion (not to mention humour) this is groundbreaking ecological thinking all wrapped up in a new systemic way of designing for the future.

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Cradle to Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can we avoid environmental disaster? Nowadays, in the home, most of us do our bit: we recycle. But what about industry, where the real damage is done? The strategy is the same: 'reduce, resize, reuse' - we try to minimize the damage. But there is a limitation to this well-intentioned approach: it maintains the one-way, 'cradle to grave' manufacturing model of the Industrial Revolution, the very model that creates immense amounts of waste and pollution in the first place.What we need is a major rethink, a new approach which directly combats the problem rather than slowly perpetuating it. An…


Book cover of Ship Breaker

Lauren Yero Author Of Under This Forgetful Sky

From my list on seeking hope after the end of the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Can stories bring a human scale to something as all-encompassing as climate change? In 2011, I began an MA in Literature and Environment with this question weighing on my mind. I finished my degree two years later with a draft of my debut novel, Under This Forgetful Sky. I’ve come to understand the climate crisis, in many ways, as a crisis of imagination. Its enormity tests the limits of the imaginable. What if the world as we know it ends? What would life look like on the other side? The books on this list reckon with the fears these questions bring while also gesturing beautifully, unsentimentally, courageously toward hope. 

Lauren's book list on seeking hope after the end of the world

Lauren Yero Why did Lauren love this book?

Kicking off this list are a few stand-out young adult titles in the climate fiction (or “cli-fi”) genre.

Ship Breaker is a speculative YA novel set in a not-too-distant future on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Ecological disaster, increasing social inequality, and resource scarcity have led to a world in which most people have no choice but to work in extremely hazardous environments while the hyper-rich jet-set around the globe.

The novel follows a boy named Nailer who works as a scavenger on the marooned oil tankers of the previous era (a.k.a. the “Accelerated Age”). It’s a dark and dystopian novel, but at its heart is the story of how one person can set in motion meaningful, systemic change. 

By Paolo Bacigalupi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ship Breaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Nailer's time is running out. He's getting too big for his work - stripping copper wire from old oil tankers - and once he's off the crew he's on his own, stuck in a shack on the beach with no food, no money and no way of earning his keep.

He has one last chance. The thing all crew members dream about, a lucky strike, has hit in the shape of a clipper ship beached during the last hurricane. If he can hold off the rest of the scavengers long enough to get the oil out, he might just have…


Book cover of Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris

Laura Resau Author Of Tree of Dreams

From my list on inspiring kids to protect our environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a lover of nature and travel, I’ve long been interested in how communities worldwide protect their environments. While living and traveling in Latin America, I learned how Indigenous knowledge and practices make our planet healthier for everyone. Several of my ten children’s books deal with these issues, including my novel Tree of Dreams, inspired by my time in the Amazon rain forest with a Huaorani community whose home was threatened by oil operations. This led me to collaborate with the Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga, on the picture book, Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest, available in English and Spanish in July, 2023.

Laura's book list on inspiring kids to protect our environment

Laura Resau Why did Laura love this book?

Since my son was adopted from Guatemala and I’ve traveled there several times, I was drawn to this colorful picture book. In the Mayan highlands, young Ixchel’s mother has no thread to spare for her to weave. Determined, Ixchel searches for her own material, and ultimately discovers that the plastic bags littering her village are just what she needs. She cuts them into strips, weaves her own creations, and sells them at the market—which also makes her village more beautiful. This book shows the power of resourcefulness while offering glimpses of Mayan culture and showing how kids can make a difference. As a multi-lingual mom, I especially love that this book has English and Spanish text, making it a perfect pick for those of us raising our kids to value other languages and cultures.

By Linda Elovitz Marshall, Elisa Chavarri (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel's mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.

Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in recycling, protecting the environment, and Earth Day?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about recycling, protecting the environment, and Earth Day.

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