How Bad Are Bananas?
The Carbon Footprint of Everything
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.
The book puts our decisions into perspective with entries for the big things (the World Cup, volcanic eruptions, the Iraq war) as well as the small (email, ironing, 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. Solidly researched and referenced, the easily digestible figures, statistics, charts, and graphs (including a section on the carbon footprint of various foods) will encourage discussion and help people to make up their own minds about their consumer choices.
From its modest initial entry, a text message (which creates .014 CO2e ), to its grand finale: burning all the world's fossil fuel reserves (2.5 trillion CO2e, or 50 years of current global emissions), this compendium of the specific costs to the climate (in carbon emissions) of our everyday behaviors deftly blends intelligence with entertainment, perhaps creating a unique genre: a page-turner for the climate conscious. Berners-Lee, founding director of a British climate change consulting company, doesn't claim absolute accuracy; although he believes that the carbon footprint is the essential "climate change metric," it's "also impossible to measure." His book is intended as "an early map," and it covers the carbon footprint gamut, with entries for a heart bypass operation and the World Cup, revealing some startling conclusions: "tomatoes, at their worst, are the highest-carbon food in the book," but grown locally in season are fine; the intensive electrical use of data centers may make paperless offices as carbon-heavy as old-fashioned paper-intensive ones. Berners-Lee also offers ideas about cost efficiency, giving readers a sense of how to "pick our battles." Refreshingly, the book shows how difficult it is to accurately track carbon usage while providing ways to realistically analyze day-to-day actions and make responsible and effective decisions for the most climate-friendly results. And bananas, by the way, at only 80 grams CO2e even when imported from across the world, are "brilliant!"