What is Veganuary?

Veganuary is a growing trend that challenges people to live a vegan lifestyle for the month of January. The campaign started in the UK in 2014 and has since spread globally and gained the support of prolific ambassadors. In fact, Veganuary has become so popular in the latest years that 2021 saw over half a million official sign-ups and hundreds of plant-based product launches from retailers to global fast-food chains.

The benefits of a plant-based diet are well-known – for our health, for animal welfare, and for the climate. However, a lot of people find a full-time shift to a plant-based diet challenging. In addition, many of those who venture it, get quickly demotivated by any ‘culprit’ that can easily happen during a ‘forever’ change.

Enter Veganuary! Veganuary employs a minimalistic approach for a good cause: A short-term horizon, the support of a community, and a nonchalant ‘just try it out’ approach to veganism. Moreover, the fact that it takes place in January when we are all apt to take on new challenges is a definitive factor. Nevertheless, when this minimalism spreads across over 200 countries and half a million people, the benefits are maximized.

Veganuary & Climate = BFF

The espoused reasons people pledge for are an immensely interesting add-on. According to the Washington Post, in 2019 almost half of the pledgers signed up citing health reasons, 34% cited animal welfare, and only 12% cited climate change [1]. This prompted the US director of Veganuary, Wendy Matthews, to make climate issues the flagship of the 2020 campaign – and she has good reasons for it! Food is a central topic in climate change. Research has shown that reducing ruminant meat by 50% is more or less necessary to meet the EU climate targets. Less dramatic readjustments in pork, poultry, and dairy are also a vessel to meet the targets – provided that technological advancements take place in the case of dairy [2]. The climate impact of our dietary choices is evident below.

Climate impact of dietary choices
Bryngelsson, D., Wirsenius, S., Hedenus, F., & Sonesson, U. (2016). How can the EU climate targets be met? A combined analysis of technological and demand-side changes in food and agriculture. Food Policy59, 152-164.

However, as we constantly preach (sorry!), individuals alone cannot solve climate change. Nevertheless, Veganuary has a positive ripple effect in the industry. With the market pressure from Veganuary, we witness the launch of plant-based products from food industry giants. Traditional meat-based vendors broaden their scope to include plant-based alternatives which later become regular menu staples. Retailers increase their range of plant-based products and provide premium placement for the whole month.

The industry gets a great momentum opportunity to campaign through. Consumers get more plant-based options and with more – and more delicious! – options, comes a greater chance to swap. The result? We reduce our collective climate footprint organically and in small chunks. And what any successful New Year’s resolution taught us is that fulfilling it is taking it one day at a time. Happy Veganuary!