The Banana Theory: realising the carbon footprint of bananas…and everything else

16 May 2012

Exactly how bad are bananas? Or anything else? Inspired by Mike Berners-Lee’s book “How bad are bananas?” The Banana Theory project demonstrates, using QR code technology and installation art, the difficulty we face when deciding how to change our lifestyle to become greener.

Between 16 and 27 May a two-part installation aimed at raising awareness of sustainability issues, developed by students at the UCL Engineering Urban Sustainability and Resilience DTC and Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, is open to the public.

The installation, in the parade ground of Chelsea College, transforms the existing grass square into a twelve metre squared QR code made entirely of grass and soil.

How bad are bananas? Using QR codes, your phone can tell you the greenhouse gas emissions your fruit choice causes.The second part of the project involves the placement of smaller QR code stickers around the campus. When scanned with a smart phone, each code will take the user to information on the carbon footprint of that particular object on our website. Objects on the Chelsea campus that are part of the installation include a sandwich, a coffee, cup, a bicycle and a bus stop.

The project aims to address concerns about the amount of information available to people about how to lead a greener life. The volume of information can become overwhelming and this can make decision-making even more difficult.

David Stefan, UCL Sustainability and Resilience student said:

“Sustainability issues are big and systemic. Nearly everything we do has an impact on our environment: turning on a light bulb, washing our hands, eating a banana, event searching on Google or walking up the stairs!

“But knowing how good or bad the impact is doesn’t necessarily make the decision about how to change our behaviour any easier, especially when there’s so much information which is often contradictory.”

On 21 May, a launch event is also being held to accompany the installation, where a varied panel of experts will discuss issues surrounding sustainability. Chaired by environmental journalist and author of Peoplequake Fred Pearce, the panel will consist of:

  • Chris Church, Advisor on Sustainable Development
  • Richard Jackson, Head of UCL Sustainability Steering Group
  • Tia Kansara, Director of Kansara Hackney Ltd
  • David Cross, Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London

Register here to attend.

Natalia Heredia, a student from Chelsea College of Art who is involved in The Banana Theory project, said:

“In the past people were worried about the price of food. Years later, we ask about the price and the calorie information in order to make our decisions. In the future peolple will also make choices depending on the CO2 factor.”

Visit their website to read more about the Banana Theory project, or the UCL Urban Sustainability and Resilience site to learn about other sustainability projects we run that might change the world.

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