Our lovely writer Violet is taking part in Veganuary and has shared her thoughts on why veganism doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing things…

Every January ‘Vegan’ becomes a buzzword. It feels like everyone’s aunt, friend or colleague is embarking on the month long challenge known as ‘Veganuary’ to try out a plant based diet. Last year, more than 582,000 people around the world took part.

Doing Veganuary is a great way to see how your body and mind reacts to a plant based diet, but can also be learning curve. We are now more acutely aware that our dairy and farming practices are having a negative impact on our climate.

For many, Veganism can seem like a closed off, restrictive group of dietary militarists who strive for perfection in completely eliminating all animal products from their life. But we have to acknowledge this version will never be achievable for everybody. It’s important to recognise that even doing Veganary is a privilege.

Not necessarily in monetary terms – as more affordable Vegan items start appearing on our shelves – but adopting a new diet relies on having the privilege of time. Learning new recipes, shopping for new food items and fitting this in with other people is a challenge, and not one everybody will be in a position to do.

This is why it’s so important within the Vegan movement, that people start to realise the value in making swaps and celebrating smaller changes because this opens it up to more people.

Even if you can’t be 100% vegan, you may be able to make a few swaps in your diet or lifestyle that will be better for the planet. Here are a few.

Diet swaps

Embarking on a fully vegan diet can seem daunting and is a massive change if you have eaten meat and dairy your whole life. Not everybody can commit to this, but we can all make some swaps.

  1. Cheese

Vegan cheese gets a bad reputation and is often one of the assets of the diet that people struggle with. But it has come a long way in recent years, and the brand Violife is leading the way.

Research has shown that Violife cheese has less than half the climate impact and uses less than one-third of the land than traditional dairy counterparts.

What’s great about Violife is it melts like regular cheese. It’s also good in a sandwich or as a pasta topper. Just swapping out your weekly block of cheese with some Violife is a simple swap to make if you are curious about a plant-based diet and want to make more environmentally conscious changes.

2. Beans & pulses

If you are looking to make more budget-friendly changes, you’ll want to be heading for the bean aisle of the supermarket. Although fake meats are great if you’re trying to transition into the vegan lifestyle, they can come with a hefty price tag.

Beans and lentils are often overlooked despite being a cheap source of high protein. They can seem offputting if you have never cooked with them before, but it’s surprisingly simple. What’s good about them is they are versatile and can be used as substitutes for your traditional meat-based meals such as Chilli con Carne or even a Bolognese.

Opting for more pulses in your diet is also better for the planet. Research has shown only 160 litres (40 gallons) of water is needed to make 500g of pulses, compared with 7,000 litres for beef. Additionally, getting just 1kg of beef emits 60kg of CO2 equivalent instead of 0.9kg for pulses.

Beauty and skincare

As well as making dietary swaps, we need to be mindful about the beauty products we are using. Although brands are starting to be more transparent, there is no excuse for testing cosmetics on animals.

Buying cosmetics that have been tested on animals further feed into the demand, which can often be a vicious cycle of cruelty that has little consideration of animal welfare.

More cruelty-free and vegan products are available now than ever, including the soon-to-be-launched Base Plus customisable skincare range. Beauty is a booming industry, but we all have the responsibility of making a better choice when buying skincare products.

Fashion

In the winter, we all love leather boots. They’re practical, durable and weather appropriate, but not so great for the environment.

Turning animal skin into leather requires a huge amount of energy and a cocktail of harmful chemicals like mineral salts and formaldeyhde. Tanneries produce harmful pollutants like sulfides and other acids which are not only harmful to the environment, but to people living in the area.

However, this is another easy swap to make by opting for vegan (animal free) leathers like those used by Doc Martens for heavy duty shoes. You can also opt to buy second-hand leather which is a more sustainable option.

Veganism and adopting a plant based diet has to be accessible to make a difference. It’s true that individual change is not enough to reverse the effects of climate change, but it’s one way of reducing demand and forcing dairy and meat industries to change their practices.

If we all try and make the swaps we can, we can make more of a collective difference.

Veganism shouldn’t aim for 100% elimination of all animal products, but encourage people to make small changes where they can.