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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
35
How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything
Format: Paperback|Change
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on September 2, 2013
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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on May 29, 2014
It was a somewhat interesting read, but there are a few things in this book that I just cannot get past:
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.
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on November 15, 2013
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. 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.
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on August 16, 2014
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 person.

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.
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on December 20, 2013
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. The author anticipates this criticism and says that the book is meant as a browsing reference, I guess something to read in the bathroom maybe? But it's painful to think that the info actually could have been rearranged to make a useful, engaging book.

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.
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on October 28, 2013
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 locales is worse than shopping and eating local). Some are surprising - for instance, washing dishes by hand may have a greater carbon footprint than using a dishwasher, and ditto for e-readers vs. paperback books given the resources required to manufacture the e-reader in the first place. Sometimes I think the author doesn't properly consider the impact on landfills and waste disposal (like when he seems to favor plastic over paper at the grocery store). But then at the end of the book, you see that even the collective impact of consumers is dwarfed by decisions made at the society / national / global level, such as what country to invade and where to drill for oil, so why even bother sweating the small stuff? It's a takeaway that could be a relief to some and staggeringly depressing to others.
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on December 13, 2017
This book is really more of a reference book, telling you how much greenhouse gases different things cause. Each and every one of us leaves a pretty big footprint. Argh.
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on March 14, 2014
The description led me to believe that this book offered a narrative on waste and the environmental impact of our everyday choices. Instead, it offered more of a catalog of items with brief descriptions about the effects of each item. The text grew rather monotonous and the anecdotes were uninspired. I would avoid buying this and look elsewhere.
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on February 25, 2013
This books breaks down GHG emissions from every day things you buy or decisions you make. It also shows that not all "green" choices are better than the alternatives (cloth versus disposable diapers is a great example). Realize that this book is just judging GHG emissions, not other environmental effects and you'll have a fascinating read and spark interesting conversations (if you run with the crowd I do anyway)- definitely recommend!
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on June 9, 2015
A fairly interesting book, but the numbers are laid out without much context, which makes interpretation difficult. Using some infographics would have helped. Still, a useful reference to own.
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