By Stephanie Hurry
This year I decided to go Vegan for January to challenge myself and reduce my environmental impact.
Reducing meat consumption is one of the ways we can help the climate change conversations as well as save water due to certain meat products having very high water and carbon footprints. According to Veganuary – by going vegan for January those that have taken part will have collectively saved 2.5 million litres of water* – Now that is a stat that’s hard to ignore!
* “the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced”. It refers to the sum of the water used in the various steps of the production chain.y
Firstly, I will be honest – I did not start on the 1st January as planned. I was slightly worse for wear (I mean it was New Year’s day!) but started on the 2nd with a fridge full of almond milk, fresh greens and veggies. To begin with, it was definitely a lot harder than I expected, mainly because I thought it would be easy because I love vegetables and don’t tend to eat that much meat, but quickly realised I couldn’t have my favourite mac & cheese (Cheese), eggs benedict (Eggs) or cheeky chocolate bar (Milk). Once I got over this (and found amazing substitutes) I found that I was eating and cooking more adventurous foods and really enjoying it. Not only did I feel healthier, but I also noticed my energy levels improving and I looked forward to trying a different meal or recipe each night.
Here are some of the meals I cooked/ate during the month (they taste better than they look!)…
(Top left to right: Greens & Pea Risotto, Butternut squash, mushroom lentil Lasagne and Three bean chilli with wild rice and vegan ‘cheeze’
Below left to right: Bean chilli with jacket potato, Good Belly cereal with coconut & almond milk and Cauliflower Tikka Masala and rice)
The one area I did worry about was eating out – but how wrong I was! There was honestly an abundance of choice everywhere I went, it was so inspiring to see how many restaurants and businesses were getting on board with Veganuary or already offered plant based options. I ended up eating out quite a bit this month and tried the new vegan KFC burger, Leon Jack Wings, the Beyond Meat burger (which didn’t taste any different from a beef burger, if anything it was tastier! I would 100% order this again) and my favourite, a vegan wrap from Nando’s. Yes that’s right – you can even get something vegan at Nando’s you just need to ask to replace the yogurt in the wrap for vegan perinaise! I really enjoyed it and would happily order it again (in fact I did, 2 weeks later as I had a major craving – shh!) I also picked up a bottle of their vegan perinaise for home and it’s delicious!
Next on my list to try is Gregg’s vegan sausage roll and Costa’s vegan ‘cheese and ham’ toastie – there’s so many choices everywhere and I’ve been pleasantly surprised each time.
(Left to right: Nando’s Sweet potato & pumpkin wrap with vegan perinaise, KFC zero chicken burger, Cafe Nero sweetcorn fritter wrap)
It was also great to see so many different vegan products in my local supermarket and made the whole switch far easier as I wasn’t having to go to specific health food or organic food shops to buy my produce – this also meant it wasn’t as expensive as I envisaged it would be! In fact, I found I was saving money when I cooked at home because lentils/beans are a lot cheaper than chicken breast, lamb or beef etc. It did take a bit of getting used to because I hadn’t realised how ingrained my previous meals were around ‘meat and two veg’, but once I got out of this thinking, there was so much to try. I also decided to order a vegan snack box online to try out some new items – I loved everything in this box, especially the ‘gooey cookie’ and I’d recommend vegan food boxes to anyone who wants to try something new (even if you’re not vegan!)
There are also lots of healthy recipe subscription boxes (Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef, Gousto) that offer vegan options so if you don’t know where to start, these are a really good way of trying out new meat free recipes without having to buy loads of ingredients you may not use again. This not only cuts down on time in the supermarket picking out dinner but also on food waste, as you are only sent what you need.
(Local supermarket – ‘veganuary aisle’ and The VeganKind subscription snack box)
Overall, I have really enjoyed doing Veganuary and haven’t felt like I’ve had to make too many sacrifices – I found some amazing vegan chocolate and cheese which covers my two loves and actually they taste just as good (if not better in some cases) than the original. I’ve grown really partial to plant based milks and find the flavours a lot tastier when mixed with coffee – my favourite is hazelnut or coconut and will definately be using these going forward. For milks with a lower impact I’ve been using oat milk and I’ve heard pea milk is really good too. I will admit I did miss steak and salmon but other than that I’ve really enjoyed this experience. Going forward I’m not going to go full vegan (just yet) but do hope to incorporate more meat free days into my diet and will look to be more ‘plant based’, whilst still allowing myself a treat here and there.
Making a few small changes to our diet can ultimately help save the environment, water, animals, health and much more and I feel proud for trying to do my part!
Take a look at this infographic below that highlights the amount of embedded water (all water used in production) that goes into meat and dairy products compared to turning the tap off. Crazy! Although these are global figures, the environmental impact of meat and dairy is known to be far higher than plant based products however, it’s also always worth checking where your food comes from. The further away, the more of an environmental impact it may be causing. Likewise some fruit and veg also have high water footprints so it’s not just a case of swapping one for another – avocado’s are notoriously high water users for example. It’s about making smart, educated choices that can benefit the planet overall.
Would you consider eating more of a plant-based diet?
For more information about how the vegan diet can help the planet check out this BBC podcast:
Recently, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) Report recommended reducing our consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by around 20% per person to achieve Net Zero targets by 2050 to find out more go to: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Net-Zero-The-UKs-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming.pdf
For more information on water footprints of products: https://waterfootprint.org/en/
Try the water footprint calculator here: https://www.watercalculator.org/
Try the climate change calculator here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714
For more info on Veganuary: https://uk.veganuary.com