What is Veganuary?
Last January I successfully completed both Dry January and Yoganuary (a term coined by yoga and fitness influencer Cat Meffan), and I found they were both great ways to kick-start a healthy and mindful year, and to compensate somewhat for the overindulgences of the holiday season.
This year I will instead be doing Veganuary, which is a fairly new movement that was launched in January 2014 by a registered charity that encourages people to try veganism during the month of January.
I have actually very recently started transitioning to a plant-based diet and so I know it won’t be that difficult for me to do Veganuary, hence I have decided to use the month to also raise the profile of plant-based diets and veganism (so this article is a good start!).
Why would you want to try Veganuary?
In my case I found that there were many reasons to stop eating animal-based products.
I used to think people became vegan for purely ethical motives, but I have now realised that there are also compelling environmental and health reasons.
For example, it has been documented that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (more than the combined exhaust from all transportation) and for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today, and that in the United States 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced.
I personally feel that I can make a more positive impact on the environment by eating a largely plant-based diet than I could ever hope to achieve by trying to reduce my water consumption at home.
When it comes to the impact of a vegan diet on your health, it will probably depend on your current diet and lifestyle, but for most people there is undoubtedly an improvement due to the fact that the majority of meals are prepared at home, using a variety of wholefoods.
Some tips on how to approach Veganuary
If you have already been reducing your meat, fish and/or dairy intake, you may find that you are able to go cold turkey (excuse the pun) in the New Year and not let a single animal-based product pass your lips for the whole month.
If, however, plant-based diets and veganism are very new to you, then I think you might instead want to approach Veganuary as an occasion to understand more about why people choose to be vegan, as a chance to reduce your consumption of animal-based products and replace them with alternative ingredients, and as a good reason to buy vegetables and legumes that you have never cooked with before.
Indeed, it may be a bit of a shock to your system if you decide to go vegan from one day to the next. Instead, you might start by replacing dairy with plant-based milks and yoghurts, and cooking a few plant-based meals during the week.
A great app that you will probably want to install is Happy Cow, which will let you know which restaurants in your area offer vegan and vegetarian options, so that you can plan ahead before eating out.
Whilst you might not decide to become a vegan at the end of January, you will certainly have made a positive impact on the environment and the welfare of animals, you may have tried a number of new foods and varied your diet, and you will hopefully have developed habits related to reduced consumption of animal products that you will carry with you throughout the rest of the year.