In this book, Fred Pearce aims to travel to the places where his stuff comes from, investigating among others: Kenyan green beans, paper recycling in China, electronics recycling, fair trade coffee, fair trade organic socks and many other items.
He also investigates his environmental footprint - not just the carbon footprint, but the water footprint and mineral footprint, including looking at the travel he undertook to research the book and the publishing and printing footprints of the book's production. (The book is produced on paper that meets Forest Stewardship Council guidelines, but he looks into more than that).
This is a very informative book, very detailed and quite dense in the amount of information it gives without ever becoming hard going. Well it's readable anyway, though it is often depressing at the same time. As I read, it was often difficult to escape the conclusion that 'we're all doomed'.
It actually isn't all doom and gloom. There are chapters on environmental activists, ethical jewellers and recycling merchants. The last section of the book focuses on the positive too, considering how we can slow down climate change, how the population time bomb isn't as bad as we think and how cities can become environmentally friendly places to live.
I did think that the book didn't explore some issues in enough depth, which I guess is a natural consequence of wanting to cover as many relevant topics as possible. The section on transport I found particularly unsatisfactory, as the tricky issues of what forms of transport are genuinely less carbon intensive was covered in just enough detail to probably be actually misleading (yes, an empty bus trundling through the streets is more carbon intensive than a private car, but if all the people in the private cars leave them at home and take the bus then the bus is obviously less carbon intensive, plus it reduces pollution, reduces congestion and probably reduces the risk of traffic accidents - we need to look at the potential best scenario and work towards that, not bemoan the fact that some buses are empty).
This book is slightly out of date (published in 2008) but still very well worth reading as an overview on many environmental issues that affect many of us on a daily basis.
Confessions of an Eco Sinner by Fred Peake published by Eden Project Books