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How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything Paperback – April 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Greystone Books (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1553658310
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553658313
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

• 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

Review

• 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
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

She is getting really into healthier living and eating, so this was right up her alley.
Jenn
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.
Annette Sonnenberg
For my perspective it's difficult to understand but overall very informative for the reader.
Mary-Ann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Annette Sonnenberg on 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 17 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Schulte on July 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Radford on July 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. F. Laux on 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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