Hello there Wallflower! It is January and you know what that means… the Veganuary challenge has begun! If you have never heard of this challenge before, it is pretty simple. The goal of Veganuary is to pledge to be vegan for the month of January (and hopefully beyond!). If veganism seems confusing or intimidating to you don’t worry. The non-profit that created this challenge has compiled resources and information to help you along your way, and so have I and many other vegan activists. This post was created with the goal of helping you learn a little more about veganism and to encourage you to take the next step.

If you have ever wanted to learn more about veganism or were curious about how to go vegan, you’ve come to the right place. I grew up vegetarian and went vegan three years ago, and it was honestly the best decision of my life. Since going vegan, I have learned so much about protecting the environment, fighting animal cruelty, and about the benefits of eating foods derived from plants, as well as becoming a part of the amazing vegan community all around the world. For me, being vegan is about aligning my beliefs with my actions. So many of us love animals and care deeply about saving the environment. As kids we are so curious and compassionate, and we question why things are the way they are, and we are curious about the world around us and the beings who live here, but as we grow up many of us lose that. And if you are a foodie, don’t think you’ll have to give up the things you love! I have rediscovered so many old favorites since going vegan and tried delicious new foods as well! Ready to learn more about veganism?

So what does it mean to be vegan? Being vegan means that you don’t eat any animal products (meat and fish) or any animal by-products  (dairy, eggs, honey). In short, you don’t eat anything that comes from an animal.

Why go vegan? There are three main reasons why people go vegan; for the animals, for the environment, and their health.

For the animals: Every animal on this planet is a living, breathing, and feeling creature, and no matter how much our society tries to normalize it, the senseless and unnecessary killing and mistreatment of these animals is unjust. Going vegan is about recognizing that and aligning your beliefs with your actions. In today’s world, there is such a large disconnect between the food on our plates and the animals we love, and we have grown up in a world that teaches us not to value every living being’s life as equal. The animal agriculture industry keeps a lot of terrible secrets hidden behind closed doors. In the wise words of Paul McCartney, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”. 

For the environment: Agriculture takes up 50% of the earth’s habitable land and over 75% of that land is used for animal agriculture and factory farms. The land used for this farming can lose an incredible amount of biodiversity and can put animal and plant species at risk of endangerment. Did you know that 80% of the deforested land in the Amazon is used for livestock? The deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal agriculture will only grow in the years to come, but if everyone on this planet went vegan, we could reduce our emissions by 70%. That is a big deal! Climate change overwhelms so many of us, especially teenagers who must watch as our future slowly crumbles before us. Going vegan and reducing your consumption of animal products as much as possible is something that you can do on an individual level to make a huge impact.

For your health: Despite widespread misinformation, scientists confirm that you can get all of the nutrients that you need from a vegan diet. Vegans are no more protein deficient than anyone else. The animals that we eat receive the protein in their diets from plants, and by taking out the middleman and eating plants for nutrients, vegans and vegetarians are often consuming even more protein than non-vegans. When it comes to dairy products, eating milk and cheese leads to increased risk of breast cancer, and the reason that so many humans are “lactose intolerant” is because our digestive systems were not meant for cow’s milk. Cows produce milk for their babies, and they are repeatedly impregnated until slaughter so that they keep producing milk for us to consume. And if their babies are male, then their lives are cut even shorter, because male baby cows go directly to slaughter.

How to go vegan? Making the decision to go vegan can seem intimidating, although in truth it is anything but. I have so many friends who care deeply about nature, animals, and making the lives of other humans better, but when they hear that I am vegan they express uncertainty. Here are some tips on how to transition to being vegan without making it difficult or stressful.

Go slow: Making the switch overnight doesn’t work for everyone, and even if you are committed to never eating something that came from an animal again, you are bound to make mistakes. Maybe you have a craving for your favorite milk chocolate, or you don’t realize that the bread you are eating has egg in it, and that is okay. You aren’t going to be perfect, but everything that you do makes a difference, no matter how small it may seem. Going slow will also give you time to discover your favorite things to eat…

Try new foods (and rediscover old favorites!): Trying new foods can sound scary, and when I was younger I pretty much lived off of pasta, peas, and bagels with cream cheese. But no more! Over the past few years, I have been trying more new foods than ever before, whether testing out a recipe or ordering from a new restaurant and I have tried so many things that I love. Going vegan is also a great way to discover new versions of your old favorites. There are so many different vegan renditions of everything, even things as simple as yogurt, or cheese. Do you prefer coconut, almond, cashew, soy, pea protein, or something else? Well, why not try them all!

Follow vegan chefs and activists: If you are struggling with finding resources or accessing knowledge about vegan life, and plant-based foods, I would suggest looking into some vegan chefs and activists for inspiration, motivation, and wisdom. Here are some of my favorites to search for:

I hope this helped you to understand more about what veganism is and why it is important, and maybe in the future, you will be mindful of changes that you can make in your life to move towards a healthier, happier planet. Please leave any questions you have for me in the comments. I am always happy to help!

Peace and love,

The Woodland Wallflower

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