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How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything [Kindle Edition]

Mike Berners-Lee
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


"deftly blends intelligence with entertainment, perhaps creating a unique genre: a page-turner for the climate conscious."—Publishers Weekly


• Winner of the 2012 Green BOok Festival Award

"deftly blends intelligence with entertainment, perhaps creating a unique genre: a page-turner for the climate conscious."—Publishers Weekly

“This informative book provides a workable way to think about how the elements of modern society and individual decisions contribute toward the insidious increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels--the "footprint"--that is the major contributor to global warming … Recommended. All levels/libraries”—Choice Reviews

"I can't remember the last time I read a book that was more fascinating and useful and enjoyable."—Bill Bryson

"An engaging book that manages to present serious science without preaching."—New Scientist

Product Details

  • File Size: 1257 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Greystone Books (April 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004VO4IZY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,054 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as helpful as I would have liked September 2, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was extensively researched but not very useful as a shopping primer. He has two whole lines in the book comparing hybrid to electric cars but doesn't compare them to biodiesel. This is the biggest reason I bought the book so I can purchase the best vehicle. He rates tea not on the chemicals used or region of the world it was grown but on how much milk you put in it. He rates rice on the efficiency of the farmer but never gives brands of efficiently produced rice. How would anyone know if a particular rice was grown efficiently. He gives the carbon footprint of a car crash, a forest fire , a space shuttle even a heart surgery. I'm sorry but I'm not going to choose to die because of the carbon footprint of a life saving surgery or decide whether to crash my car into a tree because of it either. Exactly what am I suppose to use this information for. There is some interesting things in the book but it is laid out so poorly you have to weed through all kinds of useless facts to get to it. This isn't very helpful for someone wanting to be a greener consumer.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I have a few problems with this book but the bottom line is everyone should have or have access to a copy.

Admittedly, I am no expert familiar with whatever may be in the field of analysis that this book inhabits. That said, this is the only book I know of that analyses in detail the "carbon cost" of almost everything we make, eat, do. It is absolutely an essential type of book, one that can help us judge what in our lifestyles is important and what is not. It helps us make innumerable value judgements on a daily basis beyond the obvious ones (carpooling vs. not, for example).

One line (p85, r.e. CO2 cost of asparagus out of season, as an example) perhaps is worth the price of the book: "... it is difficult to see how there can be any place at all for air-freighted food in a sustainable world." Berners-Lee gives us the numbers for air freight vs. ship freight, etc., to prove the point and to give us the tools we critically need to make unbiased, sane judgements pertaining to our lifestyle choices.

One qualm I have about the book is it's graphical style. I think it should have more "punch" and be a little more "ready-to-hand". But the data are there as is an index to look up our favorite activity or lifestyle choice.

Another small but disconcerting qualm I have is with a table of numbers in the back of the book (pp.194-195). There is a serious editing error in that population numbers are labeled "millions" but all the number are actually thousands. The resultant GHG (greenhouse gas) number thus becomes not "tons per person per year" but MILLIONS of tons per person per year, which is absurd. Apparently the author was tired when doing the table and obviously had no editorial help.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars for readability 3 stars for science July 22, 2011
For most people this book is a great primer about the world of carbon accounting.
While I haven't had time to fact check the results, the input-output model Berners-Lee uses is top notch and catches emissions that are typically overlooked in other analyses. The short topic format makes for a quick and easy to follow read. On other notes: Like other readers I found a couple of typos, and even though the edition I read was the US edition the UK home of the author continues to chow through.
In short a recommended light read for the average budding environmentalist. For people in the know about the science though, this book is frustrating. The methodology is there, but it is buried in appendixes. Additionally, most of the data makes use of second hand references which make it difficult to fact check and follow the same methodology for other items you might want to compare. Finally, you'll want to make sure your comparing your apples to your oranges properly. For example apples, oranges and bananas are given per piece, but potatoes and other vegetables are given per kg (2.2lbs). Which is the only down side for the typical American that is uncomfortable thinking in 2.2 pound increments.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A primer in "carbonomics" May 1, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you accept the scientific consensus that climate change is happening, is caused largely by humans, and is something that requires immediate action, then this book is a must-read. (If you don't accept the above premises, why are you reading this review at all?)

The author sets out to establish estimates of the carbon footprints of a wide variety of products and services--cherry tomatoes, e-mail, swimming pools, nylon pants, a lamb chop.... As he frequently reminds us, approximations are unavoidable and in many places the process is more art than science, particularly when examining something as complex as a computer, or an automobile, or a war (!). But he presents reasoning and arguments that seemed to this reader to be credible, if the results were sometimes surprising.

If we are to take carbon emissions seriously henceforth (and I'm sorry to say that it's not clear that we will, yet, especially here in the U.S.), we will need to "pick our battles", as the author puts it--understand that whether we dry our hands with paper towels or an air blower is utterly trivial next to the question of how many intercontinental flights we take each year. In a sense, we have only a very poor understanding of the carbon costs of all manner of things; this book is a helpful first step to remedy the situation, and contains quite a few surprises. (especially about cheeseburger-powered bicycles!)

I would have organized it a bit differently myself...presenting different alternatives for eg. vegetables (locally grown vs. air-freighted in etc) is quite useful, but I'm not sure how totting up the carbon footprint of "the world's data centers" helps anyone choose anything.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Our carbon footprints.
Very informative book, pleasant to read - everyone who cares about our world, should read it.
Published 1 month ago by Valerie Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Makes one much more thoughtful about being mindful of what we all buy and how.
Published 2 months ago by Eleanor Henke
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ for anyone who really CARES ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
On every page.
Find out what is really Green and Whats Greenwashing
Hint - Bottled water, isn't bad for the environment compared to ...........
Published 3 months ago by SaRAoRAH
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh new outlook on carbon footprints
I enjoyed it. The author works for a company that does work with companies, etc. on their carbon footprint so it was cool that he tried to give it a view for the everyday... Read more
Published 9 months ago by tleeminnieme
2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat interesting, but irritating and fuzzy.
It was a somewhat interesting read, but there are a few things in this book that I just cannot get past:
1. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Katie L.
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
The description led me to believe that this book offered a narrative on waste and the environmental impact of our everyday choices. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Kyle A J
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked but it's kind of boring after all
I truly recognize the efforts Mike Berners-Lee applied on the making of this book and there are really nice insights on it. However, after reading the first cases I felt bored. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Phil Stark
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting topic, painfully labored presentation
This book is filled with a lot of interesting information, unfortunately presented in a choppy, dry format that makes it near impossible to read through in very long sessions. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Reason
3.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to the 10 ton lifestyle (if you are willing to do your...
This reads like a special interests piece for a magazine.

While the set up is easy to follow, the book itself never delves into the depths of the subject. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't sweat the small carbons
This interesting book helps put everyday consumer decisions into ecological perspective. Some lessons are obvious (buying fruit and veggies out of season shipped in from exotic... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
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