Veganuary. You hear the phrase thrown around everywhere during this month in trendy magazines and Instagram stories, so what is it? Veganuary is “the world’s largest vegan movement, inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.” Sparking a diet change throughout the country, Veganuary inspires those interested in trying veganism to dive into an animal product-free life for the 31 days of January. Going vegan means no meat, no dairy, no eggs or any other product from an animal. Many do this for health-related reasons, for the well-being of animals or to help save the environment. But one question remains—is this movement making a difference?
According to the Veganuary website, in 2014, only 3,300 people pledged to become vegan for January. This number is a staggering difference comparing 2014’s numbers to 2020’s 400,350 Veganuary participants. More people eating fewer animal products means less pollution made by meat and dairy producers. According to Wired, “For every gram of protein, beef production releases 221.6g of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) into the atmosphere.” It takes 120 ten-minute showers to produce one pound of beef. When so many people take the challenge to go vegan, the demand for meat drops for the month, creating a more sustainable environment. The goal of Veganuary is to show anyone that becoming vegan may not be as challenging as they thought. When posed with the question, “Why try veganism?”, Greenmatters wrote, “On a vegan diet, many people report improved digestion, clearer skin, weight loss, and more balanced energy levels in the short term. In the long term, you will reduce your chances of developing serious diseases including diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.” Health benefits and helping to save the environment are big enticements for trying veganism. With so many joining and showing interest in veganism, it is no longer a trend but a movement.
Mainstream media has picked up on the hype in veganism and has begun to create meatless and animal product free alternatives that are readily available in grocery stores and fast-food chains. Walmart has introduced plant milks and Gardein’s Chik’n Nuggets into their rotation. Publix stocks Beyond Burgers and Daiya’s New York Cheezecake. Amazon ships Dandies Vegan Marshmallows and Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. According to The Good Food Institute, the demand for vegan products has never been higher. “New SPINS retail sales data released March 3, 2020, shows that grocery sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products have grown 29% in the past two years to $5 billion.” Plant-based milks have been the highest-grossing product and have become readily available in most grocery stores. Fast-food companies are taking an interest in the plant-based approach as well. Most notably, corporate giant Mcdonald’s announced that their first plant-based burger, the McPlant, will be testing the markets this year. Burger King has their Impossible Whopper, a plant-based burger made with Impossible Meat, already on the menu. For a sweeter option, Dunkin’ Donuts has confirmed that they are in the process of making a vegan donut. Without an interest in veganism made in part by Veganuary, these products may never have been possible.
Veganuary continues to drum up interest in starting a plant-based lifestyle, and it is making big waves in the plant-based industry. Transitioning to a new diet may be tricky, but Veganuary has a helpful guide to becoming accustomed to a fresh lifestyle. “There is no need to reinvent your whole eating habits. If you like a sausage sandwich, have one—just make sure the sausages are vegan. If you want ice cream, go ahead. There are dozens of different delicious flavors out there. You can have almost everything you had before in a vegan version, so just switch like for like.”