We’ve all heard the saying: “too much of a good thing can be bad.” In my opinion, that saying couldn’t apply more to food. We all love ourselves some fast-food, but eat too much and we’ll end up overweight, not to mention more likely to die early with heart and liver problems. It’s science, look it up.
Just as scientists come to realize that almost everything on earth gives us cancer, the contributing factors to climate change are turning out to be broader than we might have first expected. Hold on to your bacon, folks.
One of the latest scientific discoveries suggests that our beloved breakfast sandwiches might be curing our hangovers but also harming the planet. The revelation comes from a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Manchester, and its finding are about as depressing as you’d probably think.
They concluded that the 11.5 billion sandwiches that the British Sandwich Association (a real organization) says the country consumes each year generates 9.5 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent output of 8.6 million cars.
As if that revelation wasn’t already hard to swallow, the team from Machester has especially bad news for fans of the breakfast sandwich. In their analysis of 40 different sandwich combinations (considering factors like homemade vs pre-packaged, what ingredients were included and how they were produced, food waste generated, etc.), the bacon, egg and sausage sandwich was the greatest generator of greenhouse gas.
It seems that making just the one triple-stacked sandwich (as opposed to the two and a half you need to get rid of that pesky hangover) has the same impact as 12 miles of driving. In general, the production and processing of ingredients is responsible for anywhere between 37 and 67 percent of all greenhouse gas associated with a given sandwich.
Despite the terrible news, there were some useful learnings that could help us reduce our collective culinary carbon footprint. The homemade ham and cheese sandwich was the “greenest” sandwich, according to the Manchester scientists. In general, homemade options generated fewer emissions than prepackaged alternatives in general.
Homemade things score “greener” than shop fare because they can be traced to the fact that store-bought options tend to generate excess food waste, use unnecessary packaging, and require more energy to keep cool in shops and supermarkets than your ingredients at home.
To reduce the impact our breakfast sandwiches have (because let’s face it, no one’s going to stop have breakfast sandwiches), study co-author and sustainable chemistry professor Adisa Azapagic systemic changes to cut down on food waste.
Adisa proposes that companies do something rather simple in order to combat our slow destruction of the planet. “Change the labelling of food to increase the use-by date as these are usually quite conservative. Commercial sandwiches undergo rigorous shelf-life testing and are normally safe for consumption beyond the use-by date stated on the label.” This such measure could ultimately reduce annual food waste by about 4.4 million pounds.
If you’re anything like me, it will probably suck to start your day with a sense of guilt the next time you order a meaty breakfast sandwich. You should, however, take comfort in knowing that if you make it from home from now on (or skip it entirely) you are technically saving the planet, three to five slices of bacon at a time. Isn’t that great?