How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee
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.
In this book we learn about the carbon footprint of many different things, not too many of which are directly related to the bar world but enough are that it might get us thinking differently about certain items.
For example, bananas - though they're sent from where they're grown to points around the world, they're typically sent on ships (1 percent as bad as flying) rather than airplanes, they don't require packaging as they're self-contained, and they last a long time. So bananas are relatively low-impact!
Other relevant bits of info from the book:
- Bottled water has about 1000 times the impact of tap water.
- Hand dryers - The book looks at the individual impact of using one type versus another, but makes the point that the overall impact is relatively small. The lowest impact comes from the Dyson Airblade, primarily because it is unheated air. One paper towel has half the impact of a standard hot air hand dryer, but most people probably use at least 2 paper towels so they're about the same.
- Paper vs plastic - for standard bags, a paper bag is a little more carbon intensive than a cheap plastic one. However if the paper bag is recycled and the plastic one is not, the paper one is the better choice.
- Beer - A locally brewed pint of beer purchased at a pub is 1/3 the impact of a bottle of beer purchased at a store. This isn't as high as I would have imagined given the transport miles.
- Cans are slightly better than bottles in terms of impact, as long as they're recycled. But bottle weight impact can be significant if travelling a long way to reach the consumer.
- Wine - Locally made wine in a carton is about half the impact as a bottle of wine sent from a distance, and one-third the impact of wine shipped in an overly-elaborate heavy bottle.
- The road miles that your wine travels is more important than the origin of the wine, so French wine sent to New York is probably less impactful than California wine trucked to New York.
- A single egg has the footprint of 4 bananas, even before you cook it!
- Flying first-class has almost three times the footprint of a standard seat. The further you fly, the larger the footprint.
- "Road miles are roughly as carbon intensive as air miles." Whoah.
Those are the relevant tips to the industry but overall the book seeks to have us look at the relative impact of using a hand dryer versus getting on a flight, rather than if lemons are better than grapefruits for the environment.
Purchase the book on Amazon or order from your local bookstore.