This January is eganuaryand record numbers of people have joined the pledge to try vegan this month, with a reported 14,000 signing up on Sunday 30th December 2018 alone. Clare Day from Sweco talks about her decision to turn vegan, her top four sustainability reasons for switching to a plant based diet and advises that the "single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact is adopting a healthy plant-based diet".

Just under a year ago I decided to adopt a healthy wholefoodplant-based diet for a variety of health and environmental reasons. It was a gradual process starting with meatfree days, that turned into meat free weeks, and before I knew it, I wasscouring vegan recipe blogs, trying plant-based dishes and then ended upembracing a fully plant-based diet. Surprisingly,I started to thrive on the diet and saw a transformation of body and mind, wheremy quality of sleep improved, and I started feeling more energetic.

As my journey evolved and I transitioned to a plant-baseddiet I increasingly became more interested in issues that affect us all and howswitching to a plant-based diet could influence big issues like global hunger,climate change, water consumption and land use. As a Corporate sustainabilityand environment practitioner I used to dealing with science and like toquantify impacts and outcomes to track progress. So, I started researching andfound myself mapping the benefits against the Global Sustainability DevelopmentGoals (SDGs). I also faced new dilemmas like is locally produced meat moresustainable than avocados from half way across the world? Or how do you sourcea vegan hand bag which also contains alternative materials that are sustainablyand ethically sourced?

Through carrying out research and asking challengingquestions, I found very quickly that when you look at the scientific evidencethere are some solid environmental arguments for adopting a plant-based diet. Thereare also great studies out there that look at the management of livestock andthe potential role in Climate Change mitigation through soils.

This January is eganuaryand record numbers of peoplehave joined the pledge to try vegan this month, with a reported 14,000 signingup on Sunday 30th December 2018 alone. Each year since the movement began in2014, participants have more than doubled, with a total of more than 250,000people across 193 countries signing up. Over the last year there are more andmore vegan choices available and it never been easier to find vegan recipes,veganmeal plans and enjoy eating out.

Here are my top four sustainability reasons why going plantbased is the best way to live healthier and more responsibly so that we andfuture generations can thrive together within planetary limits and preventclimate breakdown.

Global Sustainability Development goals supported with a plant baseddiet.

It cuts GHG emissions

Researchers at the University of Oxford published a study in journal Science in May 2018 that found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent. Joseph Poore from Oxford University said vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet earth not just greenhouse gases but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car

It was also a major wakeup call when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5C Special report was released and leading scientists warned that there are just a dozen years left in which to keep global warning under 1.5 C. The report said eating less meat and dairy was important but said current trends were in the opposite direction.


It conserves land& prevents wildlife extinction

Meanwhile, the study also concluded that if everyone stopped eating these foods, they found that global farmland use could be reduced by 75 per cent, an area equivalent to the size of the US, China, Australia and the EU combined. This is turn would free up wild land lost to agriculture, one of the primary causes for mass wildlife extinction.

It cuts waterconsumption

You may be surprised to know that some estimates agriculture accounts for over 70% of water consumption globally. Furthermore, a 2013 study found that it uses up to 92% of the planets freshwater, with nearly one-third of that related to animal products. Based on the global average water footprint, to produce an average beef burger consumes a staggering 2350 litres, and the water footprint of 1 litre of cow milk is 1050 litres..

It alleviates globalhunger

Springmann published a study in the journal Nature which concluded that the world could feed its growing population without causing irreparable damage to the environment if people ate less meat, halved food waste and adopted better farming practices. Adopting these options reduces the risk of crossing global environmental limits related to climate change, the use of agricultural land, the extraction of freshwater resources, and the pollution of ecosystems through overapplication of fertilizers, according to the researchers.

A vegan diet is the single biggestway to reduce your environmental impact

In summary, the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact is adopting a healthy plant-based diet. Just to be clear, I don advocate any one particular diet as I believe we need to eat accordingly to our own individual requirements. However, this month is Veganuary and there no better time to try a vegan food or take part in the rest of the challenge. Record numbers of people have signed up to Veganuary and it still not too late to take part. Conservationist Chris Packham is an ambassador for this year Veganuary and is documenting every detail of his journey (good and bad!) with complete honesty on his social media via Twitter and Instagram.

Let face it dealing with environment and sustainability risks and opportunities can be hungry work! It worth considering joining the Veganuary pledge, but don put too much pressure on yourself and whether you are a vegan, flexitarian or trying vegan for the first time, why not practice some self-care by treating yourself to a vegan meal out. Lots of restaurant chains and supermarkets have vegan special offers on this month. For example, YouTube blogger and vegan influencer, Stefanie @NaturallyStefanie is collaborating with AllBarOne to offer a creative vegan menu

Why not Join Chris Packham and other IEMA members, as they Go Vegan for the environment this January and sign up to Veganuary.

For furtherinformation

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

Photo of Clare Day
Clare Day

Clare is a CSR Manager and plant powered Chartered Environmentalist and Full Member of IEMA focusing her expertise in Climate Change and collaborating with stakeholders in ways that also benefit society.