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How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything [Kindle Edition]

Mike Berners-Lee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

From a text message to a war, from a Valentine's rose to a flight or even having a child, How Bad are Bananas? gives us the carbon answers we need and provides plenty of revelations. By talking through a hundred or so items, Mike Berners-Lee sets out to give us a carbon instinct for the footprint of literally anything we do, buy and think about. He helps us pick our battles by laying out the orders of magnitude. The book ranges from the everyday (foods, books, plastic bags, bikes, flights, baths...) and the global (deforestation, data centres, rice production, the World Cup, volcanoes, ...) Be warned, some of the things you thought you knew about green living may be about to be turned on their head. Never preachy but packed full of information and always entertaining.

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It is terrific. I can't remember the last time I read a book that was more fascinating and useful and enjoyable all at the same time. (Bill Bryson)

an engaging book that manages to present serious science without preaching.It offers tools that any reader will be able to use and make informed choices, and even seasoned eco-enthusiasts will be in for plenty of surprises (New Scientist)

Mike Berners-Lee knows more about carbon footprints than anyone else in the UK. Enjoyable, fun to read and scientifically robust. A triumph of popular science writing (Chris Goodall.)

If we're serious about really addressing climate change, we need to become energy and carbon literate, and get to grips with the implications not only of our choices but also the bigger infrastructures which underpin the things we consume. How can we educate our desires unless we know what we're choosing between? Mike Berners Lee, to my complete delight, has provided just the wonderful foundation we need - a book that somehow made me laugh while telling me deeply serious things. (Peter Lipman, Director of SUSTRANS)

This book is amazing. I was either going "wow" or snorting with laughter. (Rachel Nunn, Director, Carbon Neutral Stirling)

Curiously fascinating to both climate geeks and well-rounded human beings alike. (Franny Armstrong, Director of The Age of Stupid and founder of 10:10)


'Mike Berners-Lee knows more about carbon footprints than anyone else in the UK. Enjoyable, fun to read and scientifically robust. A triumph of popular science writing' - Chris Goodall

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2196 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (9 Dec. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004E3X9ZC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,339 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love popular science books and programmes. As a trained scientist, who still does useful but not challenging science at work, (I'm a school lab technician), at best, these books are great at keeping the science bit of your brain ticking over while managing to also entertain, but it's great when you learn new things from them and use that to spark off question and debate.

That was definitely the case with this book. Berners-Lee which I shall abbreviate to B-L, (by the way, I was unable to find out whether he is related to Sir Tim B-L, the creator of the interweb - does anyone know?), is a environmental expert in calculating the total carbon footprint of everything. The important word here is `everything'. His method factors in not just manufacturing, but the footprint of the ingredients too and the corporations that make and sell things, plus the footprint of the item in use through to its eventual disposal - ie the total contribution of an item to global warming (its CO2e - equivalent). This complete way of looking at things throws up some amazing results, but more on that in a minute.

After the explanatory introductions, the book is presented in increasing CO2e from under 10g to 1 million tonnes and beyond, and is compared against a target lifestyle of up to ten tonnes per year for the average human. One thing B-L is clear on is that in aiming to improve our own carbon footprints we should all apply a sense of scale. What good is choosing a better hand-drying option when you spend your life on planes? But having said that, he says we should pick our battles, and work out where we can get the best return for our efforts.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives you a Carbon Instinct 16 May 2010
When it comes to climate change, I have often wondered what I should worry about. If I am going to change my carbon footprint, where should I put the effort in? How can I make sure I "don't sweat the small stuff?" This book helped me distinguish the big issues--the ones where I really need to focus, and the small ones that don't make much difference. Mike Berners-Lee approaches the whole subject with a light-heartedness and humour, so I never felt that he was preaching to me... More like we were having a chat.

Did you know that your plastic bags account for one thousandth of the foot print of the average weekly shop? Supermarkets would have you think it's a far bigger deal than that... But no, hidden on the supermarket shelves are some things with a truly extraordinary footprint.

The book is laid out in bite sized chucks, with each chapter dealing with things that have a bigger impact than the previous. Just flicking through the contents pages, I started to get a sense for where the big issues are. My copy of this book will get very well thumbed, and well quoted. Think I'll either be lending it out, or getting more copies come Christmas time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible information, not lecturing 4 Jun. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You want to live green but it's difficult to tell the wood from the trees on what's important and what isn't, and what ARE the small things you could do that would make a real difference? Mike Berners-Lee's mission is to reduce it to the common currency of carbon reduction, to get beneath the surface with the numbers, draw on the latest research and give you the information to get down to a footprint of 10 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent a year, compared to the 15 tonne (15,000 kg) lifestyle of the typical UK citizen. He leaves you to decide how to do it, given your priorities. And at the back for the sceptical or geeky, he tells you how he did it, with references.

The top tips that seemed relevant to me (or particularly funny):

Eat less meat - 50 fewer burgers a year would save 100kg
Get two heavily used 100W incandescent lightbulbs out of your house - save up to 1 tonne (or 800 kg if you replace them with low energy bulbs)
Save shoe boxes - they cost almost 1kg a go!
Reduce/ share newspapers - a daily newspaper habit, even when you recycle, costs 270kg a year
Insulate your or your parent's loft - save 1 tonne a year for many years of her retirement!
Don't bother flying return to Hong Kong - save 3.4 tonnes! Don't even fly for a weekend to Glasgow - save 500kg
Don't go back to university - it costs almost 8 tonnes a year per person.
Reduce plastic - throwing away plastic costs the average householder 140kg a year
Recycle all aluminium - recycling 1kg aluminium cans saves 9kg
Eat fruit and veg in season - tomatoes can cost as much as 30kg out of season
It's OK having shallow baths - certainly compared to power showers.
Bananas are OK - they come here by ship not plane and are a very carbon friendly source of energy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining 6 Dec. 2012
By Ivan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I work calculating carbon footprints, so I knew what I was getting. I enjoyed reading it, and actually when I finished I decided to start my own personal carbon footprint calculation. Recommended for those interested in knowing more about the environmental consequences of our daily activities and consumption.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best Kg of CO2 I've ever spent! 19 Jan. 2012
Bill Bryson said of `How bad are bananas'; "I can't remember the last time I read a book that was more fascinating and useful and enjoyable all at the same time" - I couldn't agree with him more.

This book is an essential read for anyone who cares about climate change. The author's aim is to equip us with the knowledge to make an informed decision about what we can do to cut our carbon footprint.

Berners-Lee turns complex sums into easy to digest concepts and explains the meaning of the numbers we all know but can't image; A tonne of CO2e is like filling a couple of standard-sized garden water butts with petrol and setting them on fire.

Berners-Lee's sums are both enlightening and terrifying, but the perspective he provides on the effect of our food choices on our carbon footprint is what I found most fascinating.

Berners-Lee has helped me to really understand how my choices will affect the planet. It's time for me to stop driving to the supermarket smugly with my re-useable shopping bag and get out and walk there.

Buying this book added about 1kg of CO2e to my carbon footprint, but it has changed my perspective and over the coming months and years will almost certainly be the best Kg of CO2e I have ever spent.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It's great if you need to refer
This is not a book to read. This is a reference book. It's great if you need to refer.
Published 4 months ago by Raibeart
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great and witty read about a very serious subject
Published 5 months ago by tony r bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening read!
Incredible read. Am still reading this but my first impressions are that this book is a real eye opener. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Molly-Valentino
5.0 out of 5 stars No compaints
Book was as described and delivered as promised
Published 6 months ago by geoff renshaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Really interesting
Published 11 months ago by Rainbow51
5.0 out of 5 stars Great perspective for any consumer!
Great Book, provides clear and scientific ways of (estimating) carbon emissions from everyday products ranging from flights, asparagus, war, hand-dryers etc. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Luke
4.0 out of 5 stars Bananas are good!
Part of my job is monitoring water usage for a large firm. This is a facinating extention of this subject.
Published 15 months ago by MR M SHAW
4.0 out of 5 stars Sorry but I can't give up Bananas
It's depressingly accurate. But with an ever increasing world population - what to do? Guess we have to get smarter on this planet.
Published 16 months ago by Mike Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book to buy on the subject!
Easy to understand and injects humour and well researched information. Exposes many myths about modern living and bogus 'green choices. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. R. J. Harrington-vail
4.0 out of 5 stars Good source for carbon footprints of stuff
Good source for carbon footprints of stuff, and easy to read. Seems like to author has been digging into the details real well.
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
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