The Great British Sandwich

By Stephanie Lynch on 29.01.17

Research led by the University of Manchester hit the headlines last week highlighting the incredible carbon footprint of Britain’s favourite lunch choice, the humble sandwich. Manchester has no shortages of places to grab a butty, with a wide selection of ‘on the go’ sandwiches sold at every supermarket and coffee shop. Yet, our convenient options are having a devastating effect on the climate due to the carbon dioxide created to get them our shelves.


The ‘All Day Breakfast’ sandwich containing egg, bacon and sausage generates 1,441g of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to a 19km car journey. This comparison might be hard to digest, but when considering the footprint of the meat, dairy and egg industries in the UK, then adding the emissions used for creating the paper and plastic packaging, plus transport of all the products, it actually makes sense.  The British Sandwich Association states that half the sandwiches consumed yearly are homemade. This is considerably more environmentally friendly as there is less packaging for the one sandwich, but the overall impact does depend on the filling. Meat and dairy have higher carbon footprints than many plant-based fillings. Tuna and prawn fillings are also very popular, but due to global demand over-fishing and intensive seafood farming has made them far from a sustainable choice. 


There are a number of ways to lower your carbon footprint at lunchtme. Try making your lunch at home as much as possible and consider the ingredients. Could you swap a meat or diary product for something plant-based like lettuce? Even better if it is a seasonal choice! Also protect your food in recycled plastic such as the plastic bag your bread loaf came in or butter containers. The University of Manchester also did a study on microwave use also which you can read about here. This is also worth considering when choosing your lunch, it goes without saying microwave ready meals are best avoided!


If all of Manchester’s residents and commuters made changes to their food habits, the city would be well on it’s way to becoming zero carbon and zero waste. The video below gives you further information on sandwich emissions. So what will you be having for lunch today?