This is how eco-friendly your sandwich is

Researchers are taking a look at the carbon footprint of your lunch.

Press Association
Last updated: 25 January 2018 - 11.50am

The sandwich you choose to have at lunch is a big decision; one that could make or break your day.

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While you might regret a cheese and onion sarnie if you’ve got a date later, the effects of the sandwich you pick are much more wide-ranging than that.

In fact, researchers at the University of Manchester have looked at the carbon footprint of different sandwiches, both home-made and store-bought.

The carbon footprint of your lunch

Scientists had a look at the ecological impact of each type of sandwich, taking into account the full life cycle of the sarnie. This means factoring in how the ingredients were sourced, as well as transport and packaging.

Unsurprisingly, the average carbon footprint from home-made lunches was around two times lower than of anything shop-bought.

The biggest contribution to the carbon footprint of any type of sandwich is its “agricultural production,” ie. the environmental impact farming the ingredients has.

The team looked at 40 different types of sandwiches and found that those with the highest carbon footprints were sandwiches that contained pork meat, cheese or prawns.

The worst and best of the bunch


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Okay, so here’s what you really want to know: what are the best and worst lunchtime options for the environment?

You might want to rethink your choice next time you reach for an all-day breakfast sandwich off the shelf, because the egg, bacon and sausage means it has the largest carbon footprint of any sarnie researchers looked at.

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You’ll feel a bit better about yourself if you make your own ham and cheese sandwich at home though – it was found to be the most saintly option.

If you think something as small as a sandwich can’t have much impact on the environment, you’re underestimating just how huge the industry is. The British Sandwich Association says that an eye-watering 11.5 billion sarnies are consumed each year in the UK, and that means a whole lot of ingredients and packaging.

What we can do to help

Don’t worry, this report hasn’t ended with the recommendation that we should stop eating so many sandwiches. Let’s face it, that’s never going to happen – not when cheese toasties exist.

Instead, researchers have shared advice for producers and consumers to help reduce their carbon footprint.

Shops can avoid keeping sandwiches chilled instore, and minimise the amount of packaging used, while those who make and eat sandwiches can reduce the amount of high carbon footprint ingredients they’re using, like lettuce, tomato, cheese and meat.

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