Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth.
The Vegan Society has recently relaunched its Plate-Up for the Planet campaign, which is now encouraging environmentally conscious individuals to make simple switches to their diets by replacing animal products with plant-based alternatives.
The campaign provides practical and manageable advice for those who want to make good environmental choices but don’t know where to start and offers a free eBook – One Little Switch - to help inspire people on their vegan journey.
The Society recognises that many of those who are at the early stages of their vegan journey, whether that be for animal rights, environmental or health reasons, simply do not know where to start.
Familiarity with certain ingredients and the habit of cooking with animal-based ingredients is a key barrier to transitioning to veganism. The One Little Switch eBook has tips and blog posts, alongside recipes, to answer questions and develop confidence.
People make the transition to a vegan lifestyle for various reasons - environmental concerns are high on that list. As time presses on, the need to make changes to our consumption habits becomes greater.
Systemic change is needed and is being fought for, including by The Vegan Society. However, we must recognize the role we play as individuals and the power that our consumption habits can play if enough of us make positive changes.
A study by Oxford University found that if everybody followed a plant-based diet, food-related climate emissions would fall by 70 percent.
The study’s lead author concluded: “Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth”.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has also presented data on the environmental impacts of diets, further demonstrating a vegan diet as the lowest impact across a range of environmental measures.
A 2019 Imperial College study found that your diet is where you can make the biggest difference, followed by travel and heating. However, expecting people to cut back heavily on their travel or heating isn’t realistic.
It’s not practical to expect each person to live completely sustainably – there is no perfect or all-encompassing lifestyle that can achieve this. However, what we chose to put in our shopping basket is one of the few ways we can have a real impact.
There have been many environmentally focused campaigns which encourage us to make little changes to our behaviour. Reusing shopping bags, washing with cold water, switching to energy-saving lightbulbs or recycling.
All of these little switches are important and have become widely accepted as ways for individuals to reduce our impact on the planet.
A 2017 study found that eating a plant-based diet is three times more environmentally friendly than washing clothes in cold water, four times more than hang-drying clothes or recycling, and eight times more than switching to energy saving lightbulbs.
Many non-vegans are already fully aware of this, and need no convincing on the environmental, health or ethical arguments for veganism and will make this personal change if given the correct guidance and helpful resources.
It’s estimated that about 2 percent of the UK population are vegan. However, of the 98 percent of non-vegans, great numbers are already sympathetic with the values of veganism.
It's believed that individual habit change plays a role in fighting the climate crisis. By offering encouragement, support and resources the One Little Switch campaign will guide many of these people to a more sustainable future.
Alexander Huntley is a research assistant at The Vegan Society. He graduated from SOAS University of London with an MSc degree in the politics of conflict, rights and justice. He is a passionate human and animal rights advocate.