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How Bad are Bananas?

This was published in 2017. It may contain outdated information, broken links, and views I no longer hold.

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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? - Peter Lipman, Director of SUSTRANS

I bought a book on a whim last weekend. ‘How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ seemed like a nice, quick, and informative read.

At its core, ‘How Bad Are Bananas?’ is a reference book. Berners-Lee has calculated roughly how much CO2e is in almost anything.

From a text message to a war, from a Valentine’s rose to a flight, […] by talking through a hundred or so items, Mike Berners-Lee sets out to give us a carbon instinct for the footprint of [what we] do, buy, and think about.

It opens with a manifesto of sorts.

Mike urges readers to take issue with it. To use the book to empower them into first understanding, then changing. To think of its pages as an ‘early map, full of inaccuracies but better […] than what you had before’ is the right approach.

The book is useful for navigating the world of carbon. We talk of ‘tonnes’ of CO2 being emitted but that’s hard to imagine. Then there’s CO2e and, hang on, isn’t methane worse anyway?

Berners-Lee doesn’t cower, tackling the issues head-on.

This book is the best way to develop your own personal understanding of what a ‘carbon footprint’ actually is. That’s important because if you’re looking to help the environment, perspective on your own shortcomings is vital.

The book closes with handy suggestions on how to lower your own footprint. Some of them, if you read from cover to cover, will seem obvious by the end; reduce your meat and dairy consumption (1kg of beef is 18kg of CO2e, 1kg of cheese is 12kg of CO2e); recycle your packaging and reduce your waste.

Whether it’s a brief overview or full-on exploration of carbon, climate change, and the effect we’re having on the environment, ‘How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ is certainly a good starting point.

06 January 2017

My monthly dispatches recap what I've been up to. Get updates in your podcast app.

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