The Veganuary challenge has seen a record 500,000 people sign up to eat a plant-based diet over January – that’s double the number of people who took part in 2019. And, the figure does not include the many individuals who take up the challenge unofficially.
“Even if you do not want to go full vegan, give plant-based eating a try. You might but be surprised about how much you enjoy eating vegan food."Charlotte Anderson
Launched in 2014, Veganuary aims to encourage people to eat a plant-based diet during January and hopefully eat more consciously in the future. Veganuary seems to be inspiring people - research by investment bank UBS has found that around half of the people trying plant-based alternatives in Veganuary continued to eat them at least once a week afterwards.
Reducing our environmental footprint
Most of us accept that eating more plant-based food is a critical way to reduce our environmental footprint. In this respect, eating more plant-based foods is important for humans as well as for animals. A plant-based diet can cut a person’s carbon footprint by 50 per cent. The meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation combined. And of those countries experiencing famine, 82 per cent use vast proportions of their grain to feed animals that will be eaten in first-world countries.
Encouraged by an increasing list of experts worldwide, including much-loved natural historian, Sir David Attenborough, there is no doubt that we are being urged to eat more consciously and kindly and choose less meat. It is no wonder that more and more people are also switching to a plant-based diet or eating less meat and animal products.
Human resources executive, Charlotte Anderson, not only took up the Veganuary challenge last year but has continued to choose plant-based foods ever since. Charlotte, who grew up in England, was brought up eating meat and two vegetable meals. She enjoyed vegetarian foods, including eggs with toast or yoghurt and fruit for breakfast. So, she realised that opting for a plant-based diet would be a significant change.
“I had seen a few documentaries and read articles about the health benefits of choosing vegan. I was particularly interested to learn that plant-based eating could help certain chronic conditions,” says Charlotte.
People have often questioned the health benefits of a solely plant-based diet. But a 2019 study by the University of Oxford found that adopting a plant-based diet could be the single most significant way for people to improve their health and that of the planet. And top athletes, including Venus and Serena Williams, who adopted a plant-based diet in 2012, would agree that it has not hindered them in any way.
Challenging at first
In the beginning, Charlotte says that making significant changes was challenging. “I didn’t have many vegan recipes or know what I needed to do to substitute macro and micronutrients. And this was mostly so for main meals.
“I bought some vegan cookbooks and began following vegan people on Instagram for recipe inspiration. I also signed up to a home delivery service because it made things a bit easier and helped to expand my recipe repertoire.”
It has been a year since Charlotte began her plant-powered journey and she feels just as healthy – if not healthier – than she did before. Charlotte takes vitamin B12 and iron supplements – which she did before her diet overhaul.
Friends and family
And what do friends and family make of Charlotte’s diet direction? “Friends vary in their response,” says Charlotte. “Some people feel that it’s a great life choice and others say that they couldn’t do it because they could not live without meat. Overall, though, people are supportive. So much so that one group of my friends now have fun finding vegan restaurants for us to try around Sydney, and it is surprising how delicious and how many choices there are. For all of us.”
“Even if you do not want to go full vegan, give plant-based eating a try – it is only a month of your life and not a lifelong commitment. You might but be surprised about how much you enjoy eating vegan food. I did not think that I could give up eggs when I started, and I did have one last year; I was surprised to find that I did not enjoy it. I feel that my tastes have changed,” Charlotte says.
For a long time, David Attenborough has been a hero of Charlotte’s, and she heard his unmistakable message to reduce the amount of meat we eat loud and clear.
Time to take part
“I know vegan eating isn’t for everyone, but if you can reduce the amount you eat, it has to have a beneficial impact. Yes, January has already started, but you still have time to take part in Veganuary.
I’m just one person helping the planet a bet; I feel it is vital to do something new for the earth and future generations. Think about what would happen if millions of us did the same,” ends Charlotte.