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How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,154 ratings  ·  166 reviews
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 battle ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Profile Books
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Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
My brother-in-law is obsessed with food miles. Obsessed. He flat-out won’t buy anything not grown in the UK. And yet his last holiday involved flying to Africa. And he eats a lot of meat. And he wants to have a child.

See the contradiction?

Trying to do the best for the environment is such a tricky thing. I consider myself a good environmentalist! And yet I’m sitting here on an internet/cloud-connected computer writing this book review, which isn’t great in terms of energy use. Short of going off-
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint
This book is about the carbon footprint, and how we can help to reduce it, by showing us where certain things and actions are regarding the heaviness of their footprint. The book is mostly US and UK centric with some side-Canadian examples, but I feel it can work even for those who aren't from these countries.

The book starts by explaining what the carbon footprint means, then we get things in heaviness from 10 grams to 1 million tons and beyond (the heavier, the more serious). The weight is show
M. Nasiri
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Due to global warming and healthy
hazards, we are responsible for the amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂) which we produce as our Carbon Footprints.
بررسی رد پای دی اکسید کربن در تمام فعالیت روزمره ما و گرمایش زمین
It’s hard to miss the news about climate change. Every day there seems to be a new story about melting polar ice, floods, endangered species and how we should expect more hurricanes and extreme weather. It’s up to us, as the citizens of Earth, to push our leaders into action and do our own p
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have always believed that you should get paper bags over plastic at the grocery store, but I'm somewhat ambivalent about that after reading Mike Berners-Lee's book, How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, plastic bags actually produce far less CO2 than their paper rivals. That is, of course, only taking one variable into consideration. Plastic bags don't break down over time and they are difficult and expensive to recycle. Then again, pap ...more
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a good reference book for rough ballpark ideas of how big your carbon footprint is (actually, an estimate of the total climate change impact of your lifestyle with various assumptions to get figures to work with) and to compare various actions (e.g. travelling by train vs. by car, by sea vs. by air, recycling vs. landfill). The author readily admits that it's a lot of guesstimation: it's just meant to give you a rough idea, and it's quite good at putting things into perspective by compar ...more
Tammam Aloudat
One would think that reading a two hundred page list of the carbon footprint of different things we do, eat, buy, or spend would not be the most entertaining thing to read. One would be wrong.

This is an enjoyable book that tells us how much CO2 equivalent are we causing, and hence our effect on the climate, by doing what we do every day. Is it better to read a book or watch a few hours of Netflix? well it is up to you but at least you know the comparison now. What is interesting is that Berners-
It seems common knowledge that riding your bike to work is a low carbon activity. What you might not know if that if you fuel your bike ride with air-freighted off season asparagus, then your carbon footprint increases dramatically and you'd be better off commuting buy Hummer. The art and science of taking into account many aspects of what constitutes a carbon footprint has often been ignored.

Mike Berners-Lee minutely examines and calculates the carbon footprint (by weight) of many activities an
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, natural-science
The author lives in the UK and does carbon footprint analysis for a living. He's taken his previous calculations, along with new ones, and turned them into a guide for figuring out your carbon footprint. It's interesting reading, though not useful for a quick lookup, but suffers from the fatal (and common) flaw of focusing on one environmental issue to the detriment of the rest. Sometimes he will point that out in the analysis (plastics may have low carbon output but they clog the oceans) and so ...more
Todd Wheeler
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the kind of book that will either inspire me or drive me crazy (or inspire me to drive other people crazy). The good news is bananas are a pretty good deal from the perspective of carbon emissions.

The author states clearly that any analysis of a carbon footprint is going to be an estimate and that different methods of making those estimates are debated and controversial. Berners-Lee's goal is to be as accurate as possible in order to provide comparisons of many products and activities th
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've read all year. Fascinating, extremely well researched and actually surprisingly funny too! If you are interested in reducing your climate change impact this is an excellent place to start. Could not recommend it more highly!
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
3,5 stars

Pretty interesting read especially for those who wish to gain a little bit more insight in the carbon emissions they are responsible for. Found the writing style a bit too conversational at times. Probably wouldn't re-read it cover to cover but will definitely use it as a reference guide in the future.
Isaac Yuen
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The short version: A great reference with a great title. The book itself is laid out in a logical manner, going in orders of magnitudes of carbon emissions equivalent (under 10 grams to 1 million tons and beyond). The author combines both top-down and bottom-up approaches in calculating his footprints, which is no easy task given the interconnectedness of everything we produce and consume nowadays.

Some interesting tidbits from the book:

-How bad really are bananas? They are a very low-carbon food
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it
There's a lot that surprised me in this book (for instance, bananas are not only okay, they have a smaller footprint than carrots or ice cream or a red, red rose) and a lot that made me think. The author points out that much of what we do in the name of saving the planet is foolish- the frequent flyer executive who wrote in to ask if he should use paper towels or the hot air dryer in public restrooms got the eminently sensible answer that hand drying is so minor in comparison to the airplane tri ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it liked it
This book has some interesting comparisons... One rose is equal to 11 pounds of bananas, which blows my mind. I enjoyed learning about what the carbon impact is of a lot of things. Basically if you want to decrease your carbon foot print the following are the biggest places you can make an impact for the average person: airplane travel, car travel, meat, milk and milk products. Its also interesting that its usually better to hold on to an old, inefficient product that works rather then buy a new ...more
An Te
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very fun and entertaining read considering the gravity of the topic: greenhouse emissions! I feel the central charm of the book are the number of things we encounter in daily life which are actually rather bad for greenhouse emotions (i.e. out of season overseas vine tomatoes). And bananas are extremely friendly emissions wise not simply due to emissions alone but for lots of other reasons for which I am pleased to hear, namely health and pre-packaged food. Where's the need for plastic to pres ...more
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A simple cheese burger will cost you 2.5 CO2 equivalent! Goes through all possible CO2 emissions from food to offspring. This book reincurnated me about carbon cost. I won't be the same person any more. That being said now I know how difficult it is to cut of CO2 from even your daily life. Then again with out excepting the difficulty how are we going to address the issue. Now that I know it's on my consience.

After reading this book I belive there should be a carbon credit card (or may be even a
Ok, so I really didn't read every page. I find it interesting when people pick random things they are going to obsess about, example plastic bags. I wanted to gain a little more information on the impact various things have on the environment. This book helped with that. Sure plastic bags aren't great, but paper bags (at least ones not made out of recycled paper) have a bigger carbon footprint than plastic. Anyway, I found it interesting but it is more of a list of items with their facts rather ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked it.
Somewhere between light reading, a coffee table book, a reference book. Helps with very ballpark estimates of everyday items -- mostly for personal interest, but could be used for decision making (what to eat, vacation options, etc.). Wasn't the greenest leaning guy; hardly a mention of electric vehicles, etc.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very interesting and easy-to-read book with loads of curious facts for those mindful about the environment and their carbon footprint. I especially recommend it to those living in the UK (as it has several facts and information about the UK in particular). Also, it was quite funny at times as it's a book written with passion, interest, and a bit of humour from time to time.
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Number 3 for the year.

Mike Berners-Lee's book - if the name sounds familiar it's because his brother is credited with inventing the Internet - aims to develop in readers an intuition for the carbon cost of things in general, but discussing the specific impacts of a hundred different things (e.g., an apple, a rose, a car crash, a baby, the World Cup, War).

A lot of reviewers talk about this as a book a reference to dip into here and there, but that's not really the point of the book. The example
Julie Maxine Bowers
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
An exhaustive analysis of the carbon footprint of everything, for those who wish to save the planet be reducing their own. Mike Berners-Lee details how he came to the three basic assumptions of the book: that climate change is a big deal, that it is caused by people, and we can do something about it. His approach is so rational, and seems to me so desperately needed (and not just in terms of climate change!) that I quote it here:
1.I look at the argument itself and see if the logic makes sense at
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
I had to give this one 5 stars because, well, it's me, and I'm into this kind of stuff. In fact, this has been one of the areas I feel my understanding has been lacking, despite my affinity for all things environmental, and despite climate change's special place in my heart among environmental issues.

This book reads like a reference - it categorizes different activities, products, and services according to the order of magnitude of their carbon emissions - but the author also provides narration
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco-politics
A thought provoking and well written book which could easily have been boring in other hands. However while his writing style is impeccable, I'm not so sure about his critical thinking. One thing that grates continually is his unsubstantiated claims that eating fewer animal products will help you live longer - for example, he says that eggs will kill you with their cholesterol - an idea which is at least 10 years out of date, as shown by the Heart Foundation now giving them a Red Tick of Approva ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must-read book on one of the most important aspects of dealing with our current environmental crisis on a personal level: the carbon costs of things we consume. Berners-Lee has done an admirable job with a nearly impossible task. Presented in easily digestible chunks, he catalogs the carbon footprint of not exactly everything, but a very good range: from a text message (not bad at all) to a war (pretty bad indeed). And while he admits that at times this can just be based on some very educated ...more
Tyson Titensor
In this book Berners-Lee tries to quantify the carbon footprint of practically everything. It's a pretty interesting read and helped me know where to focus my liberal guilt. Apparently bananas aren't bad at all from a carbon footprint perspective, but my cheese habit is worse than I realized. Fortunately I read the bus from a crowded and slow bus, which further assuaged my guilt.

The book is clearly preaching to the choir and unfortunately adds to the giant pile of media that fails to make globa
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting and light reading. Easy to browse and glean from. It's not a cover-to-cover read, so much as an item to pick up now and then and chat about. There are lots of surprising insights. My favourite was the carbon cost of a mortgage(!): when you factor in the financial sector (banks, buildings, computers, mail, etc.), a mortgage is a surprisingly carbon-intensive thing. And there are so many compelling little 'chapters' (each item is about a page). I liked reading about cars (given the car ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I made the fatal mistake of starting this book at one thirty in the morning, figuring that I would just read until I felt tired and go to sleep. Of course, I ended up being very tired because I read the entire thing in a single sitting, like the champion marathon reader that I am.
I always like things being neatly lined up and compared to one another. This, combined with my massive fascination with global climate change and my impact on the planet pretty much made my enjoyment of this book a for
Katie Lambrix
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: list2, kindle
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 p
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Even if you don't believe in anthropogenic climate change (and I'm sure there are some of you out there), this book is an excellent overview of the real cost of many of the everyday choices you make. For example, paper bags are better than plastic bags...but reusable bags are better than both, provided you actually reuse them. And if you're filling your shopping bags with air-freighted asparagus, it really doesn't matter what kind of bag you're using -- the bag's impact is dwarfed by the cost of ...more
Jul 12, 2011 rated it liked it
At first glance I would have though this author would be a completely "organic, free-the-animals, save the planet" crazy person. He's not. This book is simply the carbon footprint of stuff. Bananas, cell phones, emails, running, taking a trip, cheese. It was good, boring in some bits, but good. The best part is at the very end when he has you look at a period on the page, stating that by staring at the period, you probably helped save the planet, cause you were "plugged in" for three seconds. I ...more
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“At Booths, over one-quarter of the transport footprint comes from the very small amount of air freight in their supply chains—typically used for expensive items that perish quickly. Conversely, most of their food miles are by ship (partly because the U.K. is an island), but because ships can carry food around the world around 100 times more efficiently than planes, they account for less than 1 percent of Booths’ total footprint. The message here is that it is OK to eat apples, oranges, bananas, or whatever you like from anywhere in the world, as long as it has not been on a plane or thousands of miles by road. Road miles are roughly as carbon intensive as air miles, but in the U.K. the distances involved tend not to be too bad, whereas in North America they can be thousands of miles. Booths is a regional supermarket with just one warehouse, so their own distribution is not a big carbon deal, and they have been working hard on further improvements.” 1 likes
“We could do with spending less time charging around earning as much as we can to buy things we don’t really need. We would do well to become better at enjoying what we’ve got – and to disentangle our self-esteems from our pay packets.” 0 likes
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