- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Greystone Books; 1st Edition edition (April 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1553658310
- ISBN-13: 978-1553658313
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything Paperback – April 1, 2011
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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.
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While the set up is easy to follow, the book itself never delves into the depths of the subject. The appendices do a better job of delving in, but I was still left feeling like somebody was quoting sources to me.
I was particularly annoyed by the fact that some of the findings weren't applicable to most people's lives. Though that might just be because I'm american and the author is British. A good example of this is when he discussed boiling potatoes.
While people do boil potatoes to make mashed potatoes, there are other reasons and ways to prepare potatoes, that don't get even a slight mention. What if I wanted to bake a potato, or heat a potato in the microwave? How would those preparations differ in the way of carbon output? There was a minor mention of microwaves taking up less energy, but beyond that I couldn't find another mention of the devices.
Another issue I had was with how he referred to alternate lifestyles. For bike riders, he put up some figures about how what foods you eat, change your carbon output, failing to mention that a person driving a car would still have eaten similar foods and thus were still creating that same ammount of carbon in addition from the carbon footprint of the car. For vegans he claims that he has vegan friends who don't seem to consider that lifestyle a hardship. I'm not saying I expect him to do an indepth explanation of veganism, or bike riding, but I'd have prefered if he actually seemed to pay any attention to different ways a person might choose to lower their carbon footprint.
All of these are minor issues, but since the book claims to show you a true carbon footprint, rather than the 'toeprints' it claims people are used to seeing, I was disappointed with how little the author did to consider multiple lifestyles or personal needs. I think perhaps a better summary of what this book is about would be how to live the author's 10 ton lifestyle.
Some people say his assumptions are flawed, BUT he does lay out all his assumptions. He does NOT say that his way is the best or only way. He clearly states that he was trying to come up with a total picture of an item's carbon footprint.
For example, rather than just look at how much energy a refrigerator consumes, he tries to factor in the energy used to manufacture all the materials that go into making the fridge.
I thought it was a fresh new look. He tried to take it a step beyond....here's how much electricity you use every year with your fridge. The TOTAL carbon footprint. I've never seen anyone evaluate it that way, so I enjoyed the fresh outlook
I would recommend it. It's different and thoughtfully put together. Even if you don't agree with his methodology, it's all presented and was thoughtfully arrived at.
The issue is that the author has chosen to analyze specific acts or items for their carbon cost, and then has organized the book like a dieter's calorie reference, ordering everything from low to high carbon cost. However, it would be much more useful and interesting to look at specific tasks, and then to compare the carbon costs of different options or choices. Like, how to throw a low-carbon wedding or is it better to have a garbage disposal or not. I've read articles like that, and those analyses are really fascinating. This book unfortunately is not fascinating.
1. The liberal use of the terms like "guesstimate" and "flaky calculation." I understand that this is not exact... Is it necessary to mention this multiple times on every single page?
2. Lack of continuity. The text jumps around too much. There were places where it mentions things that have not been explained with no reference, and other where it references back to things explained only a few pages back.
3. Inconsistency. Some of the factors considered in calculations for items were completely left out for similar items. No real clear explanation of why, and I can't imagine that there is no impact on conclusions.