Have You Ever Thought About the Carbon Footprint of Your Sandwich?

A group of British researchers have, and they have some suggestions. (Image via pdphoto.org)

Most of us go about our lives not obsessing over the environmental impact of our lunches, and we’re probably better off for it. But if the environmental busybodies had their way, we would be sweating every morsel of our meals in fear of what we’re doing to the planet.

Researchers at the University of Manchester (UK) have studied the carbon footprint of several different varieties of sandwiches to determine how much sandwich consumption contributes to – you guessed it – global warming.

According to the British Sandwich Association (BSA), the United Kingdom spends £8 billion (US$11.3 billion) annually on 11.5 billion sandwiches, with half made at home and the other half bought at shops, supermarkets, kiosks, and service stations. To better understand the environmental impact of all these sarnies, the Manchester team looked at over 40 different sandwich types, recipes, and combinations as well as how they are made, packaged, transported, and stored. In addition, they considered the waste produced in making them, as well as the stale, rotten, or simply outdated sandwiches that are thrown away.

The existence of the British Sandwich Association is fascinating in and of itself, but I digress…

Of course, the researchers concluded that different types of sandwiches have different impacts on the environment. Sandwiches containing prepackaged and/or refrigerated meat obviously tax the planet more. For instance, breakfast sandwiches containing eggs, bacon, and sausage had the largest impact. But homemade sandwiches had a smaller effect on the environment. The packaging and amount of refrigeration involved in a sandwich played the greatest role in how “green” the sandwich was.

The researchers claim that they aren’t “anti-sandwich,” but they are concerned with the way sandwiches contribute to the doom and gloom of our certain environmental apocalypse. (Aren’t we all?) They believe that changes in sandwich packaging can help, but there’s one factor of their findings that can truly benefit all of us: the revision of sell-by dates to omit some food waste.

"We need to change the labeling of food to increase the use-by date as these are usually quite conservative," says team member Professor Adisa Azapagic. "Commercial sandwiches undergo rigorous shelf-life testing and are normally safe for consumption beyond the use-by date stated on the label."

It may be worth knowing that you don’t have to throw that sandwich away just because the expiration date has passed. I suppose that when it comes to sandwiches, to be more green, don’t throw them away until you see green.

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If all of the carbon footprint obsessed researchers would self terminate there would be higher use thresholds for the rest of us and we wouldn’t have to listen to any of their nonsense any longer.

Just kidding...... (well, maybe not entirely...lol..)


I personally don't have much of a problem figuring out when I can safely eat a sandwich---ham and cheese, more flexibility in time after sell-by date. Tuna sandwich, not so much. But it's the "global warming" whine that I find so funny. Evidently the only thing more threatening to the Earth and to all mankind is not just a sandwich, but Trump eating a sandwich. Go ahead and make more reasonable rules for packaged foods. Have three dates---a sell-by date and an eat-by date, and in the middle a donate-by date so sandwiches in the middle range can be legally and safely donated to homeless shelters and the poor. Deal with the real issues in a way that is productive and addresses real problems. But it's not necessary to try to tie everything into the AGW meme.


I admit it is faintly obscene that people starve to death all over the world while we toss unused food in the garbage. Global warming fears aside, a "use-by" date for food and drink would be more helpful to the seller and the consumer that a "sell-by" date which is mostly guesswork about how long the average consumer will have the item on the shelf or in the fridge.


I'll go pick up a box of premade breakfast sandwich and eat an extra one just for them.

I wish food had use-by dates, rather than sell-by. It would be more applicable for most people. I'd rather toss some food as to get sick eating bad food. They date them for a reason. However these guys just want the dates expanded. Some products are affected by the opening, so that lends to a sell by date plus a use with X days of opening.