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 In addition, they considered the waste produced in making them, as well as the stale, rotten, or simply outdated sandwiches that are thrown away.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.