How Bad Are Bananas?

How Bad Are Bananas?

The Carbon Footprint of Everything

Book - 2011
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Is it more environmentally friendly to ride the bus or drive a hybrid car? In a public washroom, should you dry your hands with paper towel or use the air dryer? And how bad is it really to eat bananas shipped from South America?

Climate change is upon us whether we like it or not. Managing our carbon usage has become a part of everyday life and we have no choice but to live in a carbon-careful world. The seriousness of the challenge is getting stronger, demanding that we have a proper understanding of the carbon implications of our everyday lifestyle decisions. However most of us don't have sufficient understanding of carbon emissions to be able to engage in this intelligently.

Part green-lifestyle guide, part popular science, How Bad Are Bananas? is the first book to provide the information we need to make carbon-savvy purchases and informed lifestyle choices, and to build carbon considerations into our everyday thinking. It also helps put our decisions into perspective with entries for the big things (the World Cup, volcanic eruptions, and the Iraq war) as well as the small (email, ironing a shirt, a glass of beer). And it covers the range from birth (the carbon footprint of having a child) to death (the carbon impact of cremation). Packed full of surprises-a plastic bag has the smallest footprint of any item listed, while a block of cheese is bad news-the book continuously informs, delights, and engages the reader.

Highly accessible and entertaining, solidly researched and referenced, packed full of easily digestible figures, catchy statistics, and informative charts and graphs, How Bad Are Bananas? is doesn't tell people what to do, but it will raise awareness, encourage discussion, and help people to make up their own minds based on their own priorities.
Publisher: Vancouver : Greystone Books, 2011
ISBN: 9781553658313
Branch Call Number: 363.738747 BER 2011 22
Characteristics: 232 p. : ill

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j
jbetzzall
Jan 07, 2012

Very interesting account of just how much carbon is poured into the atmosphere by our various luxuries. Most useful for awareness-raising discussion groups.

g
ghreads
Dec 27, 2011

The purpose of this book is to provide a sense of the carbon impact – i.e. the climate change impact – of everything we do, to help us develop an instinct for the carbon cost of our decisions. It analyzes the footprint of almost 100 items, including the complete supply chain of each item. The calculation of carbon emissions is far from an exact science but the book provides an excellent comparative framework.

The discussions around each item analyze all the considerations and implications involved, often raising issues we might not have been aware of. There are also quite a few surprises along the way, some of them unpleasant. There were a few spots where I felt a consideration was not addressed but these were rare. The author also points out where our efforts toward sustainability can have the greatest effect – he helps us choose our battles.

The sub-title of the book would lead one to expect a very dry read but this is not the case. The book flows easily, is very readable and is often humorous.

This book is a very worth-while read for anyone who seriously wants to reduce his carbon footprint. It provides an excellent starting point for analyzing our own life-styles and can help inform the choices we make.

d
Daphnestuart
Dec 27, 2011

Fantastic book that puts a lot of technical stuff into lay man's terms that are easily relatable to real life. Whether you're new to the environmental scene or a seasoned environmentalist like myself, you will learn something from this book!

a
AnneHanley
Jul 19, 2011

Quite fascinating! Quick to read and worth the time.

AnneDromeda Jul 04, 2011

<p>How neurotic an eco-geek are you? How neurotic would you like to be? These are important questions to ask yourself as you embark on the data-rich eco-journey that is *How Bad Are Bananas?* As Berners-Lee himself notes, the calculation of a given item's carbon footprint is a shifting target. It's never ending, the best we can do is use what we know to get it in the ballpark.</p>

<p>And that is precisely what Mike Berners-Lee does. As a member of Small World Consulting, a firm that calculates carbon footprints for the corporate sector, Berners-Lee has been crunching these numbers long enough to see the forest and the trees, and to have a sense of humour about how easy it is to confuse the two. He does a fine job of bringing the math and science around to a level that's easy to understand for people without a science degree. The best example of this simplification is his decision to represent greenhouse gas impact in units he calls “co2e”, or, carbon dioxide equivalents. Using this standard measurement makes comparing very different activities on the basis of climate change impact a much simpler proposition.</p>

<p>If you've ever been caught at the grocery store in the dead of winter, trying to decide between tomatoes from California and tomatoes from Leamington's greenhouses, this book is for you. Berners-Lee breaks the book down by carbon impact, beginning with society's least carbon-intensive outputs. This graduated format allows readers to get a sense of carbon use and impact at the daily level, and has roughly the same effect as asking physics students to comprehend the distance, say, from here to Shakespeare, before asking them to comprehend the distance from here to Neptune. One pleasant surprise? Bananas are actually a pretty low-carbon snack, even here in Canada. Also, flying from Niagara Falls to New York City isn't a whole lot worse than driving. Flying is *better*, actually, if you were considering taking your Land Rover to look rugged and established. Whether this is good news to flyers, bad news to drivers, or a very good reason to look into staycations is left to the reader.</p>

<p>Berners-Lee is open about the fact that good carbon sense doesn't necessarily make good moral sense, and in cases where the two diverge he frankly admits the contradiction. At the end of the day, though, *How Bad are Bananas?* was never meant as a moral treatise. Berners-Lee's goal is to help readers gain a more solid concept of the carbon consequences of our choices, so that we can make our own moral decisions about the footprint we leave. If your footprint has given you pause, but doing the calculations leaves you feeling neurotic, confused or apathetic, *How Bad Are Bananas?* can help, and it's a good little read to boot.</p>

p
prettyinpink1718
Jun 14, 2011

Meat has the biggest carbon footprint actually.

debwalker Mar 24, 2011

"We all know that any activity that consumes fossil fuels leaves a big carbon footprint, but how about those little quotidian choices. Mike Berners-Lee, director of a British climate-change consulting company, offers a number of shockers in this combination consumer shopping guide and popular science manual. For instance, plastic bags (for which many Canadians are now charged a nickel a pop) have not merely half the carbon footprint of paper bags, but the lowest measurable impact of any of the many items Berners-Lee discusses. It’s also clear that we need to modify our desire for tasteless, non-seasonal fare; imported strawberries, for instance, have a footprint more than 10 times that of the tasty local version. Cell phones are not great emitters, unless you’re a chatterbox; one minute’s use is about the same as the energy needed to produce an apple. Biggest villains: children, swimming pools, deforestation and universities. As for bananas, they’re the most innocent of foods: no greenhouses, keep well, are transported by boat (not plane) and use no wasteful packaging."
Globe & Mail Quick Reads March 21, 2011

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AnneDromeda Jul 04, 2011

<p>How neurotic an eco-geek are you? How neurotic would you like to be? These are important questions to ask yourself as you embark on the data-rich eco-journey that is *How Bad Are Bananas?* As Berners-Lee himself notes, the calculation of a given item's carbon footprint is a shifting target. It's never ending, the best we can do is use what we know to get it in the ballpark.</p>

<p>And that is precisely what Mike Berners-Lee does. As a member of Small World Consulting, a firm that calculates carbon footprints for the corporate sector, Berners-Lee has been crunching these numbers long enough to see the forest and the trees, and to have a sense of humour about how easy it is to confuse the two. He does a fine job of bringing the math and science around to a level that's easy to understand for people without a science degree. The best example of this simplification is his decision to represent greenhouse gas impact in units he calls “co2e”, or, carbon dioxide equivalents. Using this standard measurement makes comparing very different activities on the basis of climate change impact a much simpler proposition.</p>

<p>If you've ever been caught at the grocery store in the dead of winter, trying to decide between tomatoes from California and tomatoes from Leamington's greenhouses, this book is for you. Berners-Lee breaks the book down by carbon impact, beginning with society's least carbon-intensive outputs. This graduated format allows readers to get a sense of carbon use and impact at the daily level, and has roughly the same effect as asking physics students to comprehend the distance, say, from here to Shakespeare, before asking them to comprehend the distance from here to Neptune. One pleasant surprise? Bananas are actually a pretty low-carbon snack, even here in Canada. Also, flying from Niagara Falls to New York City isn't a whole lot worse than driving. Flying is *better*, actually, if you were considering taking your Land Rover to look rugged and established. Whether this is good news to flyers, bad news to drivers, or a very good reason to look into staycations is left to the reader.</p>

<p>Berners-Lee is open about the fact that good carbon sense doesn't necessarily make good moral sense, and in cases where the two diverge he frankly admits the contradiction. At the end of the day, though, *How Bad are Bananas?* was never meant as a moral treatise. Berners-Lee's goal is to help readers gain a more solid concept of the carbon consequences of our choices, so that we can make our own moral decisions about the footprint we leave. If your footprint has given you pause, but doing the calculations leaves you feeling neurotic, confused or apathetic, *How Bad Are Bananas?* can help, and it's a good little read to boot.</p>

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