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How Your Sandwich Changed The World

What if you could go back in time and follow your food from the farm to your plate? What if you could see each step of your meal's journey — every ingredient that went into its creation, and every footprint it left behind?

Back in February, The Salt reported on English researchers who did just that: They rigorously investigated the origin of a single loaf of bread, from wheat field to supermarket. Their report is full of incredible detail. How big a field would you need to grow enough wheat for a loaf of bread? Seven square feet. How much fertilizer? About a third of a cup. How much greenhouse gas is released in the creation of a loaf? The equivalent of 1.7 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Now, NPR's science YouTube channel Skunk Bear has tackled a BLT in the same way. The latest video walks through the myriad steps involved in creating this simple sandwich, drawing on research into the production of bacon, the lettuce, the tomato and the mayonnaise. Scientists have estimated the carbon footprint for each ingredient.

The video is a reminder that every product we buy or consume has traveled a long way before it enters our lives. By understanding those journeys, and the impact each step has on carbon emissions, we can figure out how to change our own impact on the world.

You can see more by subscribing to the Skunk Bear YouTube channel. If you have a question you'd like Skunk Bear to tackle, submit it here.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Kellman is a producer and visual reporter for NPR's science desk. Kellman joined the desk in 2014. In his first months on the job, he worked on NPR's Peabody Award-winning coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He has won several other notable awards for his work: He is a Fulbright Grant recipient, he has received a John Collier Award in Documentary Photography, and he has several first place wins in the WHNPA's Eyes of History Awards. He holds a master's degree from Ohio University's School of Visual Communication and a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute.