cover image How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything

How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything

Mike Berners-Lee. Douglas & McIntyre/Greystone, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-55365-831-3

From its modest initial entry, a text message (which creates .014 CO2e [carbon dioxide equivalent emissions]), to its grand finale: burning all the world's fossil fuel reserves (2.5 trillion CO2e, or 50 years of current global emissions), this compendium of the specific costs to the climate (in carbon emissions) of our everyday behaviors deftly blends intelligence with entertainment, perhaps creating a unique genre: a page-turner for the climate conscious. Berners-Lee, founding director of a British climate change consulting company, doesn't claim absolute accuracy; although he believes that the carbon footprint is the essential "climate change metric," it's "also impossible to measure." His book is intended as "an early map," and it covers the carbon footprint gamut, with entries for a heart bypass operation and the World Cup, revealing some startling conclusions: "tomatoes, at their worst, are the highest-carbon food in the book," but grown locally in season are fine; the intensive electrical use of data centers may make paperless offices as carbon-heavy as old-fashioned paper-intensive ones. Berners-Lee also offers ideas about cost efficiency, giving readers a sense of how to "pick our battles." Refreshingly, the book shows how difficult it is to accurately track carbon usage while providing ways to realistically analyze day-to-day actions and make responsible and effective decisions for the most climate-friendly results. And bananas, by the way, at only 80 grams CO2e even when imported from across the world, are "brilliant!" (June)