By Emma Carroll-Monteil
Is the rise of Regenuary reliant on the fall of Veganuary? No, not necessarily. These campaigns are not mutually exclusive, and we’re here to explain why, and to also quick dive into what each of these campaigns mean.
What is Veganuary?
In the past several years, we’ve seen individuals, businesses, and big corporations all strive to take part in (and advertise) Veganuary: a campaign that encourages people worldwide to try to be vegan for January and beyond. Their 2021 campaign was a huge success, involving participants from over 200 countries and territories, and over 825 new vegan products and menu options were launched their campaign countries.
What are the environmental benefits of doing Veganuary?
A substantial number of studies have indicated that cutting out meat and dairy from diets is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact (including reducing the impact of climate change, deforestation, biodiversity, and more) on the planet (read some of the papers here: 1, 2, 3). In the Veganuary 2020 campaign, they found that in that month alone, the 350,000 people that signed up created the equivalent savings of:
- 41,200 tonnes of CO2eq from the atmosphere (that’s the same as 450,000 flights from London to Berlin)
- 160 Tonnes of eutrophication from waterways (the same impact as preventing 650 tonnes of sewage from entering our waterways)
- 2.5 million litres of water (the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool)
- 1 million animals
As the support for Veganuary continues to grow year by year – with last year engaging over 580,000 participants – these savings figures continue to grow as well. However (yes you knew this was coming), the potential limitation to Veganuary is that amongst eating plant-based meals, you might be eating heavily-plant-processed meals, or high-carbon-footprint-meals. When you frame the problem as ‘is it better for the planet for me to eat a vegetable, or a cow?’ the initial response feels easy: vegetable. But when you contextualise it, and ask, ‘is the avocado – which requires extensive land and water use, and has been flown over from Mexico – significantly better than the free-range pasture promise cow down the road?’, the answer gets more complicated.
What is Regenuary?
Regenuary was coined by the Ethical Butcher in 2020, and like Veganuary, is a campaign that runs throughout January. But, instead of cutting out animal products for the month, you are instead encouraged to eat locally and seasonally from regenerative agriculture sources, regardless of whether your diet is vegan or omnivorous. Regenerative agriculture encompasses a set of farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, can help tackle climate change by prioritising soil health. With Regenuary, it is all about “how” foods end up on your table, from how the ingredient is grown, to how it gets to you.
Can’t we do both?
According to the Ethical Butcher, no. They argue that because little grows in the UK in January, that without including animal products, you can’t get enough foods that contain the fats and the proteins our bodies need.
I don’t know how pre-imported / frozen foods would factor into this – one might argue that seasonal foods that were grown and frozen in the summer would be an appropriate choice to keep in your diet for this month. Yet, that avoids the key element of choosing foods that are local, seasonal, and available to be bought now.
I would raise the timeless and (nearly) always applicable quote: we don’t need a handful of people doing (insert sustainable behaviour here) imperfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly. I believe the same can be applied here – we should be doing whatever approach we choose, whether that be primarily Veganuary, primarily Regenuary, or a mix. Context is key, and it is up to you to decide what approach is most realistic and sustainable for you.
How can I get involved?
- Buy local. Shop at farmers markets, green grocers selling ethical and local products, fish mongers that have transparent relationships with fishermen, etc.
- Eat at sustainable restaurants that support these initiatives, such as Farmacy, Pizza Pilgrims (who use Wildfarmed regenerative wheat), or some of the other fantastic #foodmadegood restaurants recognised on this list!
- For food service providers, use this as an opportunity to communicate with diners about your sustainable choices. Veganuary can offer a chance to showcase your best plant-based dishes, and maybe experiment with some new ones. Meanwhile, Regenuary is a great way of highlighting your suppliers, and telling the story of the farms you source from.
- Continue to learn more about the issues. We’re proud to be supporting the ‘Regenerative Agriculture: A Conversation’ sessions at the Culpeper which are taking place for the rest of the month, where our very own MD, Juliane, will be chairing a panel on the 20th!