The increase in popularity of Veganuary has led to the question, what steps do we need to take to help save the environment? Megan L-Moran, a student who has recently become vegetarian, commented that ‘It is quite astonishing how the meat industry contributes so much to greenhouse gas emissions and how much land it uses. It’s one of the reasons why I have decided to permanently change my lifestyle to a vegetarian one’.

A recent study by the BBC has shown that dairy milk is the type of milk which has the most negative impact on the environment. The BBC compared five different types of milk on their land emissions, water and land use. Although dairy milk clearly takes the lead, it was surprising to see that almond milk still had a reasonable impact on the environment, requiring 130 pints of water to produce a single glass.

Products such as avocados and papayas have previously been declared as not vegan. The television show QI shocked viewers when declared that almonds, papayas, avocados and kiwi fruit are not vegan. The show explained that bees are used in their production and is therefore not seen as ethically vegan. The unclear categories and the different reasons for people taking up a vegan lifestyle make it difficult for companies to consistently categorise their products.

Especially as a result of Veganuary, people have taken veganism and plant-based eating into their own hands. Many companies have led the change. Indeed, Hellman’s have recently released a vegan mayonnaise, and Gregg’s have released their infamous sausage roll. Student Erin Bashford talks of the rise of vegan products in supermarkets, ‘Vegan products in mainstream supermarkets means that more working families have access to veganism. Even three years ago, when I first went vegan, there was hardly anything in Aldi or Asda etc, and if it was difficult for me, only cooking for myself, then it would be almost impossible for working families. This change is great because it means that veganism is becoming less of a luxury and is becoming easier for everyone.’ It is evident that supermarkets are recognising the importance of providing what the people want, and it is clear that we want to make a positive impact upon the environment.

It has become apparent that in order to save the environment, you don’t need to cut everything out of your diet, only reduce the amount of animal products you use. However, the messages across all articles are mixed. Some claim we only need to reduce our meat intake while others claim we need to pursue a completely plant-based diet in order to protect the environment from any further harm.

Walter Willet from Harvard University commented in a recent Guardian article that ‘The World’s diets must change dramatically’. But how dramatic should the changes we make be? Student Thom Yiangou commented on the importance of making changes that suit you. ‘I’d say cutting down is the key. If a plant-based diet is followed for the majority of the time, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having yoghurt or cheese every now and then if you crave it. As a one-off, it won’t detriment your environmental footprint. It’s the constant consumption of animal products every day that is so damaging, so try to avoid animal products for the high majority of time if you want to be environmentally active, but at the same time, do what’s sustainable for you in the long term.’

Making a positive impact on the environment doesn’t mean cutting everything out of your diet, reducing will still help to make a positive change. There are so many meat and dairy alternatives available in supermarkets that making the change to a plant-based lifestyle is now easier than ever. Yes, there are products out there such as almond milk that still require a significant amount of resources in order to be produced, arguing the case that maybe a plant-based lifestyle won’t make much of a difference. However, using a plant-based product is a much better alternative to dairy milk, and there are other milk alternatives that have a much smaller impact on the environment. It is clear that changes need to be made in everybody’s lifestyles in order for there to be a significant and lasting impact upon the environment.  


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