The Worst Thing Since Sliced Bread - Your Sandwich Will Doom The Planet

By Josh Bloom — Jan 26, 2018
As if there aren't enough ridiculous things to study – and worry about. A group in Great Britain thinks that sandwiches are causing the Earth to warm. Now there's a baloney sandwich – if there ever was one.
Member of the British Sandwich Association Photo: Twitter

The following was written with a straight face. I swear.

"Do you take a packed lunch to work or buy a sandwich from the shop? The carbon footprint of your sandwich could be having a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions according to new research.

EurekAlert! January 24, 2018

So was this:

"Researchers at The University of Manchester have carried out the first-ever study looking at the carbon footprint of sandwiches, both home-made and pre-packaged."

Yes. It real.  And here's the paper that was referred to in the EurekAlert! 

"Understanding the impact on climate change of convenience food: Carbon footprint of sandwiches."

Journal of Sustainable Production and Consumption

Don't you find it astounding that this was the first study of its kind? I just don't get it. How did science possibly miss out on this until now? What else was missed? You're gonna tell me that these studies haven't been done either?

  • "The impact of annual horseradish consumption in Cleveland on the photo-magnetic spectrum of the Aurora Borealis on Arbor Day: A meta-analysis."
  • "How to talk to your potholders."
  • "Deuterated Cheeze-Whiz. A novel MRI contrast agent."
  • "Treatment of MRSA infections of the pinky toe with counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags filled with rotting mackerel heads: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study."

Let's get back to sandwich-footprint study. "According to the British Sandwich Association (BSA) more than 11.5 billion sandwiches are consumed each year in the UK alone." OK, I must confess that I not only do not belong to the British Sandwich Association but had never heard of it until now. Or imagined that such an entity could exist. Think about its annual meeting! What excitement! One can only imagine what such a gathering might look like.

Back to the paper. First, you better believe that there will be some pretty severe anti-sandwich restrictions in the cafeteria at the University of Manchester. These guys mean business!

The paper is very long and full of details. Some are worth examining.

The first Earl of Sandwich. There have been a total of 11. Warming the earth before it was fashionable (1). Photo: Wikipedia

Some of these include:

  • Egg & cress sandwiches are the 3rd most popular sandwich in the UK.


It would appear that this young woman doesn't much care for egg& cress sandwiches. 

  • "A total of 16 variations on 55 the recipe for ham & cheese sandwich were considered" (55 recipes for ham and cheese sandwiches??? Wonder what the average age of the first myocardial infarction is in that household)
  • The materials required to make a store-bought sandwich are equivalent to 1.205 homemade sandwiches. (In case anyone asks you)
  • "Overall, the highest carbon footprints (>1200 g CO2 eq.) are for the sandwiches with a combination of pork meat (bacon, ham or sausages), cheese and prawns." (Good thing people don't eat pigs feet sandwiches. They already have a footprint. Four per pig)
  • "The carbon footprint of home-made sandwiches ranges between 399 and 843 g CO2 eq./sandwich. The results are largely proportional to the amount of ingredients used —  the lightest sandwich weighs 99 g and has the lowest carbon footprint of 399 g CO2 eq. while the heaviest sandwich weighs 190 g and has the highest carbon footprint of 843 g CO2 eq." (The lesson? Light sandwiches weigh less than heavy sandwiches.)
  • "An alternative approach to reducing the carbon footprint of sandwiches (and the energy content) would be to reduce the amount of key ingredients such as meat, cheese and eggs."

(This one's not all that funny. There is indeed a push, presumably led my vegan groups, etc. to get us to stop eating meat. Hank Campbell's superb piece, "The Next Sin Tax - Meat" makes this very clear. I urge you to read it.)

Finally, there's this:

  • Excluding tomato and  lettuce lowers the carbon footprint by 3.3%–8.9%
  • Not using mayonnaise yields a further reduction of 1.7%–8.4%. 21
  • Similar reductions can be achieved by reducing the amount of food waste in the supply chain (3.1%–8.5%) and by adopting waste management options other than landfilling, combined with changes in sandwich packaging (2.5%–9.5%).
  • Substituting white bread with wholemeal bread achieves a very limited reduction in the carbon footprint (<0.1%).
  • Thus, combining these improvement opportunities could reduce the carbon footprint of commercial sandwiches by up to 50%

Hmm. Egg and cress sandwiches on wholemeal bread hold the lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Given that choice, why not just stop eating entirely? Your footprint will get real small.

Speaking of which, here are my footprints getting away from this stupid article as quickly as possible.

Bon Appétit!


(1) Turns out it was the 4th Earl of Sandwich who gave it the name. How the first three got the name of something that wasn't invented yet beats the hell out of me. I'd look it up, but I gotta run over to Subway. Sudden urge.



Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Recent articles by this author:
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