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

Mike Berners-Lee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 May 2010
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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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (13 May 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846688914
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846688911
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`I can't remember the last time I read a book that was more fascinating and useful and enjoyable'
--Bill Bryson

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

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,author,Ten Technologies to fix Energy and Climate

An engaging book that manages to present serious science without preaching. --New Scientist

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

A book that somehow made me laugh while telling me deeply serious things
--Peter Lipman, Director of SUSTRANS

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 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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30 of 33 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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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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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides much needed perspective 20 May 2010
This is a great book - informative, thought provoking and fun.

It tells us what we need to know about the impact of the types of products we buy and the sorts of things we do. I was particularly impressed with the layout, ranking the items in ascending order is a great idea - it gives proper perspective to which things have the biggest influence on our carbon footprints.

The writing style is clear and conversational - never judgmental or labouring the point - the book left me feeling empowered rather than guilty.

Zestier than "Driving Over Lemons" fruitier than "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit", "How Bad Are Bananas" earns a prime place on my bookshelf, where the books I expect frequently to refer to reside.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative read 25 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is my favourite book on carbon footprint.

It is refreshing to find a book about carbon footprint that's also an enjoyable read. Unlike most books on carbon footprint, that I plough through for my research, 'How Bad Are Bananas' was hugely entertaining in a page turning way. I read the book from cover to cover in a weekend and couldn't put it down, thanks to the engaging style of writing, humour and clarity of presentation.

I have used the book over and over again for my research, and in my workshops for schools. The book gives a good sense of magnitude of carbon footprint and there are a few surprises (no plot spoilers in this review!) Whether or not low-carbon living is important to you, this book is well worth the read. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, this book can and will help.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that can really make a difference 13 Sep 2012
By Martin
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I myself like to think I am climate conscious, but I like many can slip up from time to time. This book is written is such a way, being humorous but still serious; it can picked it up by anyone. And precisely for that reason I truly believe this will have much more impact that many of the government's token environmental campaigns, for example "drive 5 miles less a week" in 2009.

As I expected this book uncovers some surprises, but hearing some of the items' carbon foot prints, it gives you a sense of guilt that's not too far off, how I'd feel being one those wealthy skiers in the Alps, who paid for a plane just to fly over their favourite breakfast from Paris.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Really interesting
Published 3 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 5 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 7 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 8 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 8 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 8 months ago by Svein Medhus
4.0 out of 5 stars Sustainability
Good book arrived in a week which i was happy about and cheaper than the other suppliers.
Book is interesting to dip in and out of, and raises some good questions, not going... Read more
Published 9 months ago by matthew j beckett
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting and not too intimidating for mere mortals!
Nice easy introduction to working out where you can start to make the biggest improvements in your carbon footprint without resorting to wearing hair shirts! Read more
Published 10 months ago by lily
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but could be diversified
This book is very well written and being aimed at the layman, everything is very clearly explained. It is certainly a very good guide to the significance of many common things you... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Looking for solid, functional with no unnecessary bells and whistles
5.0 out of 5 stars A great resource at your finger tips and a superb blue print to live...
If you are at all concerned about the environment or our effect on it, this is a must read. Very enlightening and educational, it is a factual book that is a joy and pleasure to... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr S Sheridan
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