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Academic & Professional Books  Environmental & Social Studies  Climate Change

The Story of Upfront Carbon How a Life of Just Enough Offers a Way Out of the Climate Crisis

By: Lloyd Alter(Author)
181 pages, 10 b/w illustrations
The Story of Upfront Carbon
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  • The Story of Upfront Carbon ISBN: 9780865719927 Paperback Jul 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £16.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

When you look at the world through the lens of upfront carbon, everything changes

Think that buying an electric car or switching to a heat pump is going to save the planet? Think again. We must cut carbon emissions to mitigate climate change. But emissions are not produced just by driving your car or heating your home. "Upfront carbon" refers to all emissions involved in making your car, your home, or any other item.

As we seek to incorporate more renewables and less fossil fuels into our energy supply, upfront carbon becomes increasingly dominant compared to operating emissions, yet they are often ignored. This is why the pursuit of sufficiency, or making and buying just what we need, has become a powerful strategy for tackling climate change.

By focusing on consumption rather than production, The Story of Upfront Carbon:
- Demystifies the complex web of cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessments, demonstrating that the accepted concept of "embodied carbon" is just one part of the carbon accounting equation
- Establishes the compelling rationale for carbon minimalism, arguing that only through frugality, simplicity, and materiality can we address global inequality and avoid climate catastrophe
- Shows how big-picture thinking and a broad, systemic approach to determining a product's ecological footprint is indispensable to help guide the transition to degrowth and a zero-carbon society.

Packed with concrete strategies for minimizing the upfront carbon produced by transportation, agriculture, consumer goods, the built environment, and more, this highly readable and accessible guide is required reading for a world on the brink.


Chapter 1: Carbon Upfront
- The lens of upfront carbon
- What are upfront carbon emissions and why are they important?
- Why we are fixated on energy, not carbon
- Carbon takes command
- The IPCC does not say we're doomed
- OK Doomer
- History of embodied carbon
- The carbon footprint of everything
- The unbearable heaviness of carbon
- Transparency from shoes to motorcycles
- The future we want: supply vs demand
- Dematerialization and degrowth
- Enjoy the ride with demand-side mitigation
- Why sufficiency is the solution

Chapter 2: Strategies for Sufficiency
- Materiality: building out of sunshine
- Materiality: use less stuff
- Materiality: using less of the bad stuff
- Ephemerality
- Frugality
- Simplicity
- Flexibility
- Circularity
- Universality
- Resiliency
- Satiety and enoughness
- Electricity
- Intermittency
- Operating efficiency
- Design efficiency
- Inequity

Chapter 3: Stuff
- Introduction to stuff
- The single-use coffee cup
- From the 2X4 to mass timber
- The e-cargo bike
- The heat pump
- The puffer jacket
- The hamburger
- The folly of foam insulation
- The car
- The block of flats/ apartments
- The shoe

- Everything connects
- A prosperous ascent
- Conclusion

Customer Reviews


Lloyd Alter is a writer, public speaker, architect, inventor, and Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Design at Toronto Metropolitan University. He has published many thousands of articles on TreeHugger where he was Design Editor, and on such diverse platforms as Planet Green, HuffPo, The Guardian, Corporate Knights Magazine, and Azure Magazine. A former builder of prefab housing and a tiny-house pioneer, Lloyd is a passionate advocate of Radical Sufficiency – the belief that we use too much space, too much land, too much food, too much fuel, and too much money, and that the key to sustainability is to simply use less. He is the author of Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle. Lloyd lives in Toronto, Ontario.

By: Lloyd Alter(Author)
181 pages, 10 b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"Lloyd Alter is the most thoughtful, creative, funny, lucid, provocative person writing today about design. Probably nobody will agree with everything in this book. But every reader will learn much that is fresh and important."
– Denis Hayes, developer of the Bullitt Center, and national coordinator, Earth Day

"Lloyd Alter's The Story of Upfront Carbon is the book the world needs: fascinating, clear, and positive. Read this, get everyone you know to read it, and save the planet – as Alter shows, it's much easier to achieve than you may think."
– Dr. Barnabas Calder, Head of the History of Architecture Research Cluster, University of Liverpool School of Architecture

"In this important new book, architect Lloyd Alter, one of our most astute environmental analysts and writers, explains why we also must change our society from one driven by rampant overconsumption into one that adopts common-sense simplicity in our business practices and lifestyles."
– F. Kaid Benfield, co-founder, LEED for Neighborhood Development, and author of People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities

"Lloyd Alter explains why we need to ask: Do I really need this product? Will something much smaller serve my needs? and finally, How can this be built without adding carbon to the atmosphere? The Story of Upfront Carbon is enlightening and it is essential."
– Bart Hawkins Kreps, co-editor of Energy Transition and Economic Sufficiency

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