Veganuary, Vegetari-anuary, Slightly-Less-Meat… uary!? We practise what we preach here at GoEco and we don’t believe in being ‘the perfect environmentalist’; actually we aren’t sure there is such a thing! Becoming fully vegan may not work for everyone, but every little helps. So, this January, we want to challenge you to do whatever you can in however seemingly small way, to reduce your animal product consumption. Whether that is having vegetarian dinners twice a week, trying out plant-based dairy products for the month or going whole-hog vegan (excuse the terribly-placed pun). We want you to make a realistic change in the way you eat that will benefit not only the Earth but likely your health as well.
The Growing Popularity of Plant-Based
Plant-based diets have become more and more popular in recent years. Thought to be driven in part by a shift in our priorities because of the global health crisis and repeated national lockdowns, record numbers took part in the Veganuary challenge in 2021. The alternative protein industry raised $3.1 billion in investments in 2020 – three times more than in any single year in the industry’s history, and the UK buys a third of all the plant-based alternatives sold in Europe. In January 2021, Asda supermarket trialled a fully vegan butchers counter at its Watford store with a range of plant-based meat products on offer, and Deliveroo revealed that vegan food orders shot up by 163% between 2019 and 2020.
So how does eating a plant-based diet benefit the environment? Visualise the food chain we find ourselves at the top of. The sun provides energy for plants to grow, and the plants provide energy in turn for livestock. But a vast amount of the energy herbivorous livestock consume will be wasted in their own life processes, be that keeping warm, digesting food or bumbling round a field. The energy is wasted before it reaches us. Livestock require vast amounts of space to feed our growing population, encroaching on rapidly dwindling wild areas, and the food supply chain – the movement of farming produce from farm to retailer, and all the product processing and transport that involves – additionally contributes enormous amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. In January 2020 food accounted for just over a quarter of global greenhouse emissions, and agricultural livestock accounted for 94% of mammalian biomass on the Earth (excluding humans) – meaning livestock outweighed wild mammals by 15:1.
From a health perspective, several studies have demonstrated that a vegan diet can give us a wellbeing-boost. A vegan diet has been linked with an overall lower rate of type 2 diabetes and obesity and has also been shown to lower cholesterol and rates of heart disease. Vegan diets tend to be higher in certain nutrients because of a higher wholegrain, fruit and vegetable, beans, peas, nuts and seeds content. These include antioxidants, potassium and magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C and E. It has also been linked to lower blood sugar levels and improved kidney function. An incredible study in 2009 in people with existing diabetes demonstrated that a vegan diet allowed 43% of participants to reduce the dosage of their blood sugar medication.
Let’s Get Down to It…
While saving the planet and improving your health may feel very ‘holier than though’, on a day-to-day basis avoiding plant-based products can sometimes get monotonous. So we want you to try and have fun with it! Here are our top tips for making a sustainable change that will see you sailing through Veganuary!
Set a Realistic Goal, Write it Down and Pin it Up
However hard you choose to go, decide on a specific intention for Veganuary and pin it up somewhere you will see it regularly. If you have decided that Wednesdays, and Fridays will be meat-free, create a schedule of recipes that you will eat on those days throughout January to prevent last-minute lapses. And be realistic. If you are a cheese fiend who would brie devastated to ditch the cheddar and ca-mem-bert the thought of leaving gouda behind, don’t! Go for plant-based milks instead or switch up your eggs on toast for beans.
Get Creative and Have Fun with New Recipes
Are you a passionate baker? Why not treat yourself trying out a new vegan cake or biscuit recipe each week? There is so much space to get creative with vegetarian and vegan meals, and there are some incredible recipe blogs out there. Renowned chef Jamie Oliver has some delicious recipes on his website, and household vegan names such as Deliciously Ella and Oh She Glows offer a multitude of tasty dinner options. We also highly recommend Miguel Barclay as a source of simple and flexible recipes that can be tailored to your vegan or vegetarian preferences easily. (P.s. if your a novice but want to try your hand at getting creative with a bit of vegan baking, be sure to check out our article, coming next week!)
Find a Buddy
It’s like a gym bud – when you’ve made a pact with your mate, you are NOT going to be the one to fail first! Find a friend to take the plunge with, organise a few Veganuary dinner dates and share tips and recipes. Not only will some friendly competition help keep you in check, you’ll have a lot more fun with it too!
Do Your Research and Appreciate the Positive Impact you are Having on the Planet
Being aware of just how much good your actions can do and recognising the effort you have taken to make a difference is so important for keeping you inspired. It won’t always be easy, and whether it is saving animals, reducing your carbon footprint, or increasing the Earth’s capacity for natural spaces, find a benefit of your diet that inspires you. And don’t forget to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back each time you opt for your veggie alternative, sustainable milk or vegan leather!