One of my Christmas reads has been Mike Berners-Lee’s How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything a riveting Christmas read if ever there was one…… I shit you not! It’s absolutely fascinating and I’ve been looking for a book on this subject for ages. Basically it gives you a back-of-a-beermat calculation of the amount of carbon emitted by buying or doing certain things.
For example a 500ml bottle of water is responsible for 160g of emissions while a pint of tap water is 0.14g – should be a total no brainer for all of us. A banana is 80g while a kilo of organic on the vine cherry tomatoes grown in the UK in March is a whopping 5okg! In fact anything grown in a greenhouse is BAD, worse than shipping stuff from Kenya.
It comes to the rather lovely conclusions that washing up by hand is just as bad or worse than putting on the dishwasher (yay), and that we really shouldn’t bother our pretty little heads over how much loo paper we use.
On the downside there are some things that many of us like to do which are unremittingly BAD – no two ways about it, if we really want to consider ourselves environmentalists we really should be cutting them down and better still cutting them out completely…. two of the main ones are:
- Eating/drinking anything to do with cows…. and eating most meat is up there with the direst of evils. Bang goes my filet steak – though it transpires that a lump of cheddar is just as bad so many veggies don’t do much better. Replacing meat with cheese just ain’t an environmental option.
- Flying – not much of a surprise here really. Clearly planes emit a shedload of bad shit, but the fact that they do so at altitude more than doubles the badness and guilt you should feel whenever you’re leaving on a jetplane.
The book’s not perfect – there are lots of things it doesn’t cover for example it doesn’t look in detail at different kinds of cheese (though soft is better than hard), and it doesn’t take account of fairtrade issues and the like – though often it does mention that you might like to factor these kinds of things into your decision making.
Mike Berners-Lee is the first to admit that many of his figures are based on a degree of guesswork and it’s clear that in many cases figures are very difficult to find. Governments and businesses just don’t want to do research in this area – it’s not condusive to consumerism and don’t we just need a good dollop of spending to get the economy going? Despite this, I recommend it highly as a guide to how you choose to live, particularly if you have an inkling that we are headed down a road to destruction and someone, somewhere needs to start putting on the brakes. It might as well be you.
If you like this post AND you’re a bookworm, you might like some of my other suggestions, alternatively you might like some of my other eco posts: here’s one on Being Green and another on Bottled Water.