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Your light lunch has more of an impact than you might think.

Mike Pomranz
Updated June 23, 2017

Taking personal responsibility for protecting the environment can be hard to wrap your head around. Anyone who cares about our planet wants to do what they can to not destroy the Earth. But at the same time, if you let your mind travel down the rabbit hole, you begin to realize that pretty much everything we do, even enjoying a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, has an environmental impact that can be nearly impossible to completely comprehend.

NPR’s Skunk Bear YouTube channel recently proved that point with a three-minute video ominously entitled “The Carbon Footprint Of … One Sandwich.” Yes, that ellipse is the ominous part. The ellipse is pretty much the most ominous punctuation in the English language…

“People are always talking about the carbon footprint of cars and deforestation,” says host Adam Cole, “but what about something simple like – my lunch?” Even the first ingredient Cole looks at – a slice of bread – seems to create myriad paths of carbon production: the farming and fertilizing of the wheat, the drying of the grain, getting the grain to the mill, grinding it into flour… You can see how many energy-consuming steps there are. And you could even splinter off from there, taking into account all the energy needed to build the tractor or create the fertilizer, etc., etc., etc.… (There’s one of those ominous ellipses again…)

“But wait! That’s just the bread,” says Cole. “We could follow the leaves of lettuce from their field, the tomatoes from their nursery, all the ingredients in the mayo. Each journey puts a little more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.” And the worst offender of all: That’s the strips of bacon.

In the end, Cole says a single sandwich creates an estimated 800 grams of carbon dioxide: enough gas to fill 100 gallon jugs. “It turns out this simple sandwich isn’t so simple,” he continues. That’s why it’s probably best to worry about what you can do to help the environment instead of what you can’t – otherwise you wouldn’t find the time to eat at all…