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DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Peter and Maria Hoey
Does eating bananas make you feel guilty? After all, they had to travel thousands of miles to reach your breakfast cereal. But the carbon footprint of a banana is only one-fifth that of a pint of imported beer. How about using plastic bags? It turns out that a paper bag has a carbon footprint two to four times larger than that of its plastic counterpart. These are among the surprising conclusions of Mike Berners-Lee's lively How Bad Are Bananas? (Greystone, 2011), which refreshingly fesses up to the "impossibly complex" fuzziness involved in calculating climate impact. A true life cycle analysis includes not only an item's manufacture and transportation but also everything from the extraction of raw materials to a prorated share of the company CEO's mansion. Berners-Lee makes a stab at precise numbers but is mostly concerned with "trying to get the orders of magnitude clear," as shown below. —Paul Rauber
"Once You Start Down the Dark Path..."