Go Vegan for Climate Change (or Veganish)
Veganuary gets bigger each January as awareness over the benefits of Veganism and a plant-based diet increases. If you’re interested in going Vegan, Vegetarian or even a little Flexitarian, but are daunted by the prospect of completely eliminating meat, trying it out for a month is a great way to see if it works for you.
One of the greatest ways we can help reduce climate change is to change the way we consume meat and animal products - beef and dairy in particular. Even if you remove one type of animal product like milk or eggs, you will positively impact the environment. And doesn’t that sound great?
At Curlicue, you know that we’re all about simple swaps - the easy things you can do that are accessible and won’t break the bank. We’ve broken down the impact that going vegan can have and how you can make small sustainable changes.
According to The Vegan Society, while the world’s population has doubled since the 1960s, meat production has quadrupled, and there are now four times as many pigs produced than in 1961. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN predicts that by 2050, this consumption trend will continue and meat production will have doubled again.
But what does this have to do with the environment?
The rearing of animals for mass consumption uses many resources from large volumes of water, land, and crops to maintain our appetite for meat and animal products. This huge drain on resources has a negative effect on our planet from the amount of energy it uses and the emissions that are created in the animal agricultural process.
So what are the impacts of meat products? What can we do to reduce our intake? Are there any vegan simple swaps?
Saving the planet, one meal at a time.
There are many reasons to go vegan, from animal welfare, your health (please consult a registered nutritionist via your GP before you make major life changes!) or because you've heard it might help the planet. In our experience, there's no singular reason why someone makes this kind of decision - but whatever has brought you here, even it’s just curiosity, you’re awesome.
In this post, we're just focusing on the environmental factors and the impact of consuming a plant-based diet versus a meat diet on climate change. For this reason, we've posted a list of delicious resources from documentaries to organisations at the end of this post so that you can do your own research.
What? Honey isn’t vegan? Nope! The Vegan Society defines honey as an animal product because the impact of conventional beekeeping upon the animals to harvest their honey has a detrimental effect on honey bees' health - meaning that our native honey bees are dying at an alarming rate.
Firstly, because our native numbers are in decline, honey production in the UK is suffering, but our taste for the sweet stuff hasn't changed. 95% of UK purchased honey is imported - hello carbon footprint.
Secondly, we need the bees to survive before we end up in a Black Mirror style, robot bee world - and spoiler alert, it doesn't end well.
Bees don't just help pollinate flowers (although Greenpeace estimates that bees pollinate 80% of wildflowers), but bees also help us grow food. Apples, beans, squashes, and almonds are all pollinated by bees, not to mention crops like wheat. Without the bees, we'll struggle to feed our growing populations.
The Vegan Society has some fantastic information about honey harvesting and other links to interesting resources where you can learn more.
For a sweet simple swap, we love maple syrup - it is a little more expensive than honey and is also imported but its environmental impact is still lower than honey. It’s also the perfect example that not every swap is a perfect one, and that’s okay.
Don't have a cow, man.
Dairy me, if you give up one animal product this year (yes, give it a go for a year!) let it be cow products. The beef industry has a hugely negative impact on our environment.
Research has shown that without meat or dairy consumption, global farmland could be reduced by 75%! 75%! That's HUGE! Think of the solar and wind farms we could build. Oh, and don't think we'll all starve in the process, the research showed that we could still feed everyone...
And you won't lose much from your diet either. Meat and dairy provide an average of 18% of our calories and only 37% of our total protein BUT, the farming of these products produces 60% of agriculture carbon emissions.
Beef is the largest donor in the case of animal agriculture - for every 100g of protein from beef produced, 105kgs of greenhouse gases are released into our atmosphere. Nuts are less than 3kgs.
So what's a good alternative? Well, lentils make a fab substitute for beef mince in a cottage pie - we love this recipe from Jamie Oliver.
And for milk - oat, almond, soy? Take your pick! But if you want the lowest carbon emitter, then go for almond milk as they emit around 0.7kgs per litre (oat is 0.9kg, soy is 1kg, rice 1.2kg and dairy contributes 3.2kg of emissions per litre). Wherever you can, try and buy as locally and regionally as possible.
If you still feel a little lost on the milk front, we love this video from the team at Kurzgesagt. They have so many videos on a whole range of topics (including meat) and they are always incredibly reasearched, easy to understand and truly objective.
How can wrapping paper be vegan?
When we began Curlicue, we wanted to create a product that was as kind to the planet as possible. When we say that we have a vegan-friendly wrapping paper product, people often ask, "how can wrapping paper be vegan?" Let us tell you!
Some inks use harsh chemicals which are made using animal compounds or animal testing as part of their process, or their effects can kill animals and insects (like our beloved bees!) The impact that these chemicals have on the environment is huge and we wanted to ensure that we created a product that would be as environmentally friendly as possible.
All of our wrapping paper uses vegetable ink - so you can keep your choice eco-friendly with our beautiful printed gift wrap, all available to buy in our shop.
There’s a lot of information in the world these days, and it can be a little overwhelming, can’t it?
As with everything, there are always two sides to every argument, that’s why we don’t believe in an all or nothing approach but doing what can. Here are some of our favourite resources to learn a little more about being vegan.
Dirty Money (if you want a new appreciation for maple syrup!) - Season 1 - Episode 5 - The Maple Syrup Heist
Black Mirror - Season 3 - Episode 6 - Hated in the Nation (not technically a documentary...)
Kurzgesagt - Follow their YouTube Channel for up to date videos on a range of topics.