How bad are bananas?

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.

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6 Responses to How bad are bananas?

  1. Hi Fiona.

    Banannas are almost the perfect food.

    I like the flying dots, does it indicate stars in space?

    If you are interested in space, flying and all that, I’ve been learning how to make paper airplanes recently. You should check it out.

    Good luck Fiona on your site.

    Rob Gutierrez recently posted..Make Paper Airplanes, It’s Fun!My Profile

  2. Eric Storch says:

    Erm, call me highly mis-informed (or even stupid) but why is eating/drinking anything from a cow bad?
    Eric Storch recently posted..Weekly recap #1My Profile

  3. Amanda says:

    Oooh this is a great piece, right up my alley. I have come to the same reluctant conclusion about beef. BUT I can’t do it! I LOVE steak. We only have it once a week but I still feel guilty – and to make matters worse, I am a lapsed vegetarian! Are you going to definitely give it up? Maybe we could motivate each other!

  4. nlpmum says:

    Hi Eric – If you have any eco persuasion at all then what I say next will be a bit of a blow, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know…..

    OK, you’re still here, so I can assume you either have no eco persuasion or you are wanting to know the low down. I wrote a post about it here. The basic problem with meat and cows in particular is that it is incredibly intensive in production – it takes 7kg of grain to produce 1kg of meat, 1/3 of the world’s grain production is used to feed livestock (contributing to massive deforestation) and a staggering 1/2 of the water used in the US is used to grow grain for cattle feed! Clearly if we were all willing to eat the grain rather than the cow, many, many more people could be fed. A kilo of veg takes 0.3 sq meters of land to grow while a kilo of beef takes 20.9 sq meters. The sums are complex, but whichever way you cut it, eating meat is bad for the environment, eating cheese is nearly as bad (since a hard cheese takes as much effort to make as a kilo of beef) and drinking milk is pretty bad too. At the other end of this sorry tail is the fact that cows emit a shedload of methane, which is 25 times as potent as CO2 in terms of it’s greenhouse effects.

    I guess the political will to stop this message getting out there is even stronger in the States than it is here.

    Hope this helps explain – any more questions and I’m fine to fire more facts atcha ;-) F
    nlpmum recently posted..Thought provoking questions – Part 2My Profile

  5. ooh do like the look of this – always wondering about stuff like the washing up – v pleased to hear I can use the dishwasher guilt free! Have to say I can’t see myself turning veggie but do think we should eat more veggie meals and as for flying well rarely get a chance these days so guilt free on that one!
    Rollercoaster Mum recently posted..Happy New Year – my (sort of) New Years ResolutionsMy Profile

  6. Eric Storch says:

    Wow, Fiona, I had no idea. You’re correct in the assumption that stopping it here is going to be next to impossible.

    Regarding the methane production: I’m reminded of a comedian I saw on TV once who said he’s actually helping fight global warming by eating cows. (He was funnier about it.)

    I’m not sure I will ever stop eating beef. I tried the life of a vegetarian once long ago (not by choice, my partner at the time was one) and I couldn’t stand it. I missed it too much. Now-a-days, I don’t eat much of anything and generally get MOST of my proteins from peanut butter and the like.

    I won’t turn down a giant medium-well burger though. ;P
    Eric Storch recently posted..What’s in a name?My Profile

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