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How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything
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How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,685 ratings  ·  229 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
Moh. 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
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
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
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
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
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
Jun 08, 2021 rated it liked it
A great loo read. Lots of interesting facts and puts everyday climate change questions in perspective but hard to read like a normal book. My favourite bit of insight was that electric bikes are the most carbon effective way to commute in the UK as you're getting so much of the energy from renewables rather than if you cycle and eat bananas that are shipped from south America. ...more
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
Stefan Preuer
Jul 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Considering facing the biggest thread to mankind and knowing that it is self-made, shouldn't everybody know what contributes to it to what extent and what we can influence on a personal level? Isn't it obvious that this should be basic knowledge everybody must get educated in? Unfortunately the reality is different, leaving mankind somehow paralyzed in getting the problem fixed, since it is so easy to fall into the trap of not seeing the worth of one's individual contribution. The big value of t ...more
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Absolute must-read - even as someone who has already done a lot of research, I still learned a lot and found it extremely insightful. It would also be a great introduction for someone new to the topic as it explains everything very clearly, in a simple and relatable way and without using complicated terminology. I will definitely be returning to this book to use the data and I recommend it to everyone regardless of how much they already know about carbon footprints. Because in order for us to ac ...more
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! ...more
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
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
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book gives you a short description & explanation of (near enough) everything. From sending a letter, to having a shower, to starting a war.

I picked it up in Foyles at the end of last year. I didn't realise the book was actually first published in 2009, so I'm not 100% sure how up-to-date Berners-Lee's figures are. I think this is an area that has developed in recent years, as the understanding of the carbon footprint of things like meat has grown enormously. However, this aside, it really i
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
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to think I'm quite well-informed about carbon footprints and the actions we can all take to reduce our lifestyle emissions, but I actually learned things here. It especially makes some interesting points about picking our battles, which is quite encouraging in a time of moral absolutism where we are shamed for using a plastic bag but will happily fly abroad several times a year. At the very least I will definitely be more mindful about air-freighted food after reading this! ...more
Feb 21, 2021 added it
I took it more as a guidebook rather than an imperative and I think that went well with the author’s intention. It can be controversial if taking ecology from a broader perspective rather than just carbon footprint, for example plastic waste is even more concerning to me than carbon emission in some cases. But to have a guesstimation, to use his own word, to mind our own actions and choices, this book is perfectly fine.
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.
May 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-general
An odd coincidence that this was a daily deal on the day I had a Carbon literacy for Leaders course at work. The author and his book was mentioned and so I picked it up. I found this to be a bit more of a glossary that I might go back to at later time.
Aug 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Found the calculation methodology difficult to understand, but certainly made me reexamine purchases and other life choices!
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It really makes thinking about the climate easier when you have actual numbers to work with. Otherwise, the carbon footprint of human activity seems like such an abstract concept. It's hard to wrap your head around.

For example, watching an hour's worth of television is 240g of carbon emissions on the kind of TV that I own. The manufacturing cost of that TV is about 240kg. So my carbon emissions from buying and owning this television would be = initial footprint from manufacture (240kg) + avg 5
Charlie Maden
An interesting read. It really opened my eyes to how bad some products are, particularly some foods that are shipped from overseas. It definitely made me think more about my carbon footprint which is probably important to think about considering the sea caught fire recently!
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
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