How often do you travel by plane? How much electricity do you use? These days everyone is worried about the size of their carbon footprint. In order to reduce global warming we need to make our carbon footprints smaller. But how much CO2 are we responsible for?
A new book by Mike Berners-Lee (a leading expert in carbon footprinting) might be able to help. How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything looks at the different things we do and buy, and calculates the amount of CO2 they produce. For example, to calculate the footprint of a pint of beer, he investigated how much CO2 all of the following created: the ingredients, the electricity used in the brewery, the equipment, the travel and commuting of the workers, the transport, the fermentation of the beer, and the packaging. It’s amazing how many different things need to be included in each calculation. And it’s frightening how much carbon dioxide everything produces.
But all of this can help us decide which beer to drink. From Berners-Lee’s calculations, it’s clear that a pint (568ml) of locally-brewed beer has a smaller carbon footprint than a bottle of imported beer. This is because the imported beer has been transported from far away, and it uses more packaging. The local beer only produces 300g of CO2 – but the imported beer produces 900g! So, one pint of local beer is better for the environment than three cans of cheap foreign lager from the supermarket.
Berners-Lee has even calculated the carbon footprint of cycling to work. Nothing is more environmentally-friendly than riding a bike, surely? Well, it depends on what you’ve had to eat before. To ride a bike we need energy and for energy we need food. So, if we eat a banana and then ride a kilometre and a half, our footprint is 65g of CO2. However, if we eat bacon before the bike ride, it’s 200g. In fact, bananas are good in general because they don’t need packaging, they can be transported by boat and they grow in natural sunlight.
So, does this mean that cycling is bad for the environment? Absolutely not. For a start, if you cycle, you don’t use your car; and the fewer cars on the road, the fewer traffic jams. And cars in traffic jams produce three times more CO2 than cars travelling at speed. Cycling also makes you healthy and less likely to go to a hospital. And hospitals have very big carbon footprints!
So, maybe it’s time for us all to start making some changes. Pass me a banana and a pint of local beer, please.
Language Focus: The Imperative
Look at this extract from the article, “Pass me a banana and...” The writer has used an imperative structure, “Pass me...” We form imperatives with the base form of a verb; and we form negative imperatives by placing not before the verb. We often use imperatives for giving orders. Transform these imperatives into negatives.
1. Stand up!
2. Do it now!
3. Tidy it up!
4. Make the food!
English Exercise: Reading Comprehension
Read the article again and answer these questions..
1. What’s the name of Mike Berners-Lee’s book?
2. What produces more CO2? A pint of locally-brewed beer or a bottle of imported beer?
3. How much CO2 would you produce if you had a banana before your bike ride?
4. How much CO2 would you produce if you had some bacon before your bike ride?
5. How much more CO2 do cars in traffic jams produce (compared to cars travelling at speed)?