In this blog I will share a few tips how to make your sandwiches more sustainable and maybe inspire you to try a few new recipes.
But first the research and data: “Researchers at the University of Manchester […] considered the entire life cycle of sandwiches, including the production of ingredients, packaging, refrigeration and food waste.
The team scrutinised 40 different sandwich types, recipes and combinations and found the highest carbon footprints for the sandwiches containing pork meat (bacon, ham or sausages) and also those filled with cheese or prawns.
The researchers estimate that a ready-made (and highly calorific) all-day breakfast sandwich generates 1441g of carbon dioxide equivalent – equal to the emissions created by driving a car for 12 miles (19km).”
And it’s not just the carbon footprint of foods but also their water usage that has an effect on the planet and people. This is a hard point to bring across in a country that has an abundance of water sources but remember that not every food you consume is produced in Scotland with our own water. And considering that climate change brings with it heat waves and droughts, water will become more and more of a scarce commodity in many regions of the world.
Have a look at the table below to see how much water is needed for different foods:
So on a more positive note, let’s have a look at some yummy alternative sandwich ingredients that can lower the carbon footprint and water requirements of your lunch.
Eggs and Mayo
What is it about an egg that people find so irresistible on a sandwich? It’s squidgy consistency or maybe rather the taste? If you are after the taste then have a look into kala namak (also simply called black salt, more info here: https://www.spiceography.com/black-salt/). It has a sulphurous taste that is very similar to the taste of a hardboiled egg with salt. On a sandwich you can combine it with avocado (although see avocado also as a treat food since it does requires 74.1 litres of water to grow – though still less than an egg which needs 196 litres of water for just one egg).
If you like your egg mayo sandwiches, you can make your own chickpea “egg” salad as an alternative (source: https://www.ilovevegan.com/classic-chickpea-egg-salad-sandwiches/).
And if you like some scrambled eggs there is a tonne of recipes using tofu and kala namak but as I said before I haven’t mastered tofu yet, so I don’t feel that I am in the position to give any advice on it. But if you are skilled around a hob, then give it a go and tell me how you did it.
For the mayo I like to use the Hellman’s vegan mayo which can be found in many supermarkets along with other mayos or if you want to support a more ethical business that is plant based at heart there is Vegenaise which can be found in bigger supermarkets in the chilled section usually along with the veggie products.
Bacon is another climate offender people don’t seem to be able to give up. Luckily supermarkets have been releasing plant based bacon products over the past year. The only one I can vouch for is the Vivera Veggie Bacon Pieces I mentioned in my last post on Sustainable eating. But there is also these which I haven’t tried yet:
Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers Smoky Vacon Rashers
This isn’t Bacon available at Holland and Barret and possibly some bigger supermarkets
If you are looking for a healthier option why not try turning an aubergine into bacon: https://minimalistbaker.com/crispy-eggplant-bacon/. I still fancy trying this one out!
As mentioned in my previous blog post about sustainable eating I can still highly recommend the Richmond Meat Free sausages but also encourage you to try some Linda McCartney sausages or whichever else you find. Any supermarket these days usually stocks plant based sausages, so enough options to choose from.
Oh cheese! It is hard to find a replacement for cheese and even harder to give it up in the first place. But there is some good news: Applewood Vegan cheese exists now and it is very close to cheese in my opinion and I have tried a lot of alternative ones – none of which made me go back for more. It is currently available only at ASDA and some health food stores so it might be difficult to source but since cheese is not a very healthy food anyways, it’s a nice treat to get whenever you happen to pass by any of those vendors. I will certainly keep my eyes open for more cheesy alternatives. Find out more here: https://applewoodcheese.co.uk/vegan/
Cannot imagine giving up cheese? Well there is a reason for it. “Cheese contains casein. It also contains casein fragments called casomorphins, a casein-derived morphine-like compound. Basically, dairy protein has opiate molecules built in. When consumed, these fragments attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to.
Some researchers believe this occurs as a way to ensure babies (humans, cows, etc.) continue to nurse during infancy, which helps the survival of the species. That helps explain why we look so happy when nursing and also why it feels so good to eat cheese. For perspective, a cup of milk contains 7.7 grams of protein, 80% of which is casein. When converted to cheddar, for example, the protein content multiplies 7-fold, to 56 grams. It’s the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store. Basically, if milk is cocaine, then cheese is crack.”
From personal experience I can say that I am not craving cheese and only once in a while fancy something cheesy. In fact about three months after I had given up dairy I had a cheese pizza I used to eat almost on a weekly basis and it was incredibly underwhelming. I assume that I had already beaten my cheese addiction at this point and was able to judge the taste of the pizza with some “sober” taste buds. Yes, addictions are hard to beat but knowing that 1kg of cheese requires over 3,000 litres of water to produce might just be the motivation you need to reduce your cheese intake.