Whether Veganuary Works Long-Term, It’s Certainly Better Than Nothing

Thinking of taking the Veganuary pledge? Here’s what you need to know.

Vegan chili bowl

Explainer Diet Health

Perhaps you’ve seen people taking the 31-day “Veganuary” challenge on social media and wondered: what exactly is that — and does it work? Veganuary was founded in the UK in 2013, then launched in 2014, by Jane Land and Matthew Glover. Over the last decade, it has grown into a global movement that aims to inspire individuals to try a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.

Today, Veganuary is also a non-profit organization that works throughout the year with individuals and businesses “to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people,” according to its website. The group offers resources, recipes and tips, and raises awareness about animal agriculture, sustainability and the impact of our food choices on the planet.

As a one-month challenge, Veganuary has seen a steady rise in participants each year, with the organization recording over 700,000 participants in 2023, not including the many who did not officially sign up on the website. But how much of an impact is the challenge having beyond the month of January?

Let’s take a look at what Veganuary is, the impact it has — and whether it works long-term.

Why Is Veganuary in January?

After the indulgences of the holiday season, January is often considered a time to start fresh, embrace healthier habits and detox the body and mind. Thus the New Year is known as a time for resolutions: to do and be better by setting goals like eating well and taking care of ourselves, others and the planet. January is also considered a time for new beginnings, making it an opportune time to try something novel, including a vegan lifestyle. As a 31-day challenge, Veganuary hopes to quell the overwhelm participants may have about committing to going vegan long-term, offering the option to simply give it a try for the month ( with the hope it will stick).

What Does Being Vegan for January Entail?

The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” It adds that by extension, veganism also “promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

As a month-long challenge, this means opting out of consuming any products of animal origin, including meat, dairy, eggs and honey throughout January. For some Veganuary participants, this may also mean using only cruelty-free home and beauty products, not purchasing any clothing or other items made with animal-based textiles such as leather, wool, down, fur or silk, and not visiting any animal-exploiting businesses such as zoos, aquariums, circuses, etc.

What Is the Impact of Veganuary?

In 2020, University of Oxford environmental researcher Joseph Poore estimated that thanks to the 350,000 people who participated in Veganuary that year, global carbon emissions would have been cut by about 45,000 tons. This is equivalent to removing nearly 8,600 cars from the road for a year. At the individual level, according to thevegancalculator.com, going vegan for one month can save approximately 33,000 gallons of water, 1,200 pounds of grain, 900 square feet of forest, 600 pounds of CO2 and 30 animal lives.

How To Take Part in Veganuary

While officially signing up for the challenge with Veganuary.com isn’t required, doing so allows participants to partake of a variety of resources for free, including a “celebrity cookbook, meal plans, nutrition guides, recipes and lots more,” according to the website. But for those wanting to go at it on their own, there is also an abundance of online information available for how to veganize your favorite meals, how to swap out animal products for plant-based ones in familiar dishes and how to get enough essential nutrients throughout the month and beyond.

For British Vogue, Tomi Makanjuola, author of “Vegan Nigerian Kitchen,” suggests: “don’t be afraid to take things slowly going forward. It takes time to adjust to a huge lifestyle change. If it helps, stick to simple and accessible recipes, plan ahead with meal prep and stock up on convenient, healthy vegan snacks, so that you’re never stuck on what to eat.”

Why Do People Participate in Veganuary?

The Veganuary organization releases data most years based on participant surveys from those who signed up through the site, and then took the survey after the month. According to that data for 2022, nearly half of those surveyed, 44 percent, said their top motivation for taking on the challenge was animals, “followed by personal health (21%) and the environment (19%). Other reasons included for a change/challenge/curiosity (7%), global health (5%) and for a friend/partner/family member (2%).”

In 2023, the group also notes that corporate participation has “seen a surge,” with over 400 U.S. businesses taking part in Veganuary, “including Lightlife, Wicked Kitchen, MALK, Aveda, Violife, Pacifica, Beyond Meat, LUSH, Sweet Earth, Mellow Mushroom, and hundreds more.”

How Many People Stay Vegan After January?

Some critics of Veganuary argue it focuses too much on short rather than long-term commitments to sustainable dietary changes and lifestyle choices. While the Veganuary organization has increased its attention on sustained change, it generally remains focused on the single-month challenge.

Veganuary does report growth each year (which again, is likely an underestimate due to the large number of participants who don’t sign up), even as the percentage of people who report they plan to remain vegan after January may be considered low by some, at 36 percent.

Still, it’s not all or nothing. Veganuary also reports that as of 2022, 74 percent of those not staying vegan “plan to at least halve their intake of animal products going forward and 76 percent are very/extremely likely to try vegan again in the future.” Further, 98 percent say they would recommend Veganuary to a friend or family member.

Plus, even if participants never eat vegan again, for the month they participate in Veganuary, they have a significantly lower carbon footprint than they would have otherwise.

The Bottom Line

Veganuary is considered a user-friendly way to introduce veganism to those who may not otherwise try to drop all animal products from their diet in the long-term. While the success of the challenge is difficult to measure, the Veganuary organization has had some notable wins — including helping the author of this story go vegan — particularly with guiding businesses toward reducing or eliminating animal product consumption among staff.

Overall, the Veganuary challenge is one helpful tool among many that can be used to motivate the masses to drop or curb their consumption of animal-based products and lower their carbon footprint.

Support Us

Independent Journalism Needs You

Donate » -opens in new tab. Donate via PayPal More options »