Skeptics, however, argue that it is superficial to go vegan for just a month. Would you decide, for example, to only tell the truth or recycle for one-12th of the year? “I would say there are mixed opinions about people doing this for 30 days,” said Ewelina Augustin, 25, who runs the online store Vegan Warehouse from Hoboken, N.J. “I can understand the pushback there.”
But officials at Veganuary say that the campaign was designed to reach people who are not ready to commit to becoming a vegan year-round. “We know that the largest hurdles for people going vegan are convenience and taste,” said Wendy Matthews, the group’s U.S. director in Los Angeles. “Veganuary exists to help people discover delicious plant-based food and see how easy it is.”
And even if someone doesn’t commit to veganism, there are still benefits. Joseph Poore, an environmental researcher at the University of Oxford who has studied the environmental impact of food production, estimates that if Veganuary got 350,000 people to give up meat and dairy for month, it would reduce carbon emissions by 45,000 tons.
That’s welcome news to Heather Ramsdell, 51, the editorial director of The Spruce, a lifestyle website based in New York City. “I am the person who literally brings my compost to somebody else’s house,” she said. “But I eat way more than my fair share of meat and dairy. It’s such a huge, central part of my diet, and I don’t feel great about it because of the negative impact on the climate.”
As a personal challenge, she and her 13-year-old daughter, Eve Coleman, pledged to go vegan in January. “I now have about five new weeknight-type dinners and lunches in my repertoire, like being ambidextrous,” she said. “Bacon is no longer my only benchmark of happiness.”
While she hopes to eat less meat, she has no plans to remain vegan past January. “I’m trying not to dream about my first day back,” she said. “I think I will end up wanting cheese. I will buy a bowl of mozzarella and eat it like an apple.”