Veganuary began by the UK non-profit, Vegnuary; it is a month-long challenge of plant-based eating that has come to be celebrated and practiced worldwide. Becoming vegan overnight is not a decision one may make spontaneously. Since the project began, the organization had provided its participants with resources to make the transition to being vegan as seamless as possible. What began as a funded project whereby participants would access meal-plans, restaurant recipes, and product databases and then share their meals online, the challenge has evolved into one that is celebrated among platforms that include Tiktok, Youtube, and Instagram. As of 2021, Veganuary had over 1 million participants, but data has suggested that the challenge has reached upwards of 10 million people.
Embarking on this 31-day challenge does not come without serious impacts. Dr. Helen Harwatt of Harvard’s Animal Law and Policy Program documented that one month’s participation in the challenge saves 6.2 million litres of water (equivalent to flushing the toilet nearly half a million times) and 3.4 million animals. These facts merely touch the surface of what one month of eating plant-based can do for our planet.
If you have heard the phrase “eat local” in recent years, chances are that it was on social media. This catchphrase has captivated the hearts of many young people (hooray if you flock to the farmer’s market every week, too). Eating locally has many indirect effects on one’s health and the economy. Health-wise, many locally grown foods are free of pesticides and preservatives. In more complex terms, whatever fruit or vegetables you buy are likely to have been grown with natural pesticides and will not have required added chemicals to keep them fresh during importation. It ensures that you eat what is in season. There is then a greater chance that fruits or veggies will be more flavorful. It is very much a practice of knowing what you eat. Eating locally does not call for importation of food; what you see is very much what you get.
Shopping locally provides both environmental and economic benefits. Environmentally speaking, the lack of transportation of food over great distances prevents CO2 emissions from gasoline. With locally grown food, risks of air pollution and fossil fuel production are decreased. Small-scale farms may use less modern or commercial technologies as do large-scale farms: this helps to preserve biodiversity, which is healthfully beneficial to the consumer. Shopping locally stimulates the local economy. Simply put, it keeps money flowing within its community and protects farmers’ livelihoods, which are at risk of increasingly commercialized large-scale farms.
The underlying challenge behind the project is to consume more plant-based foods. Learning about vegan alternatives is just a tap away. Not only does eating plant-based encourage restaurants to expand their menus, but it fosters innovation among food-manufacturers to produce their food more ethically and invest in food alternatives.