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How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything Paperback – 13 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (13 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846688914
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846688911
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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)

Book Description

Packed full of information yet always entertaining. From text messages and plastic bags to wars and volcanoes, How Bad Are Bananas? has the carbon answers we need

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE on 21 Aug. 2010
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 By A. Meikle on 16 May 2010
Format: Paperback
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 By Emily - London on 4 Jun. 2011
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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 By Ivan on 6 Dec. 2012
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 By P. Elliott on 19 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
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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