New year, no meat: More Canadians are embracing 'Veganuary'
Challenge asks people to try out a month of plant-based eating
People inclined toward a 30-day New Year's challenge have a lot of options. They can give up alcohol for "Dry January," put their credit card away for "No Spend January," or ditch their razor for "Januhairy."
But for some Canadians, it's meat, dairy and other animal products that are getting the boot this month.
"It's been going really great so far," said Toronto's Mckensey Hanmer, who is challenging herself to go vegan until Feb. 1.
"I feel like I'm eating a lot healthier, and I feel like I'm spending less money," she said. "I like the challenge format, for sure — it's kind of fun."
Veganuary is a registered British charity that promotes the idea of trying out a plant-based diet for the first month of the year, and tracks online the number of people who take their pledge.
So far the non-profit has seen more than 200,000 sign-ups worldwide for this year's challenge, about 7,000 of which are Canadians — an increase of more than 1,500 compared to last year.
Allison Merz is one of the people who took the Veganuary pledge, signing up for the charity's daily emails, which include tips and recipes.
She kicked off her month of veganism with a trip to the store for vegan snacks and staples, like peanut butter and imitation meat made of soy.
"Last night I did some meal prep for the week. I made a vegan lentil vegetable soup and some vegan tacos for dinner," said Merz.
Both Merz and Hanmer say that they're taking on a month of veganism after months or years of trying to cut down on the amount of meat they eat and thinking about their carbon footprint.
While she acknowledges that she might not end up going permanently vegan, Merz said her month-long experiment could open the door to a more creative arrangement.
"Maybe I could be vegan during the week and more relaxed on the weekends," she said.
The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) runs its own version of Veganuary called the 7-day Veggie Challenge.
Participants are challenged to try out a vegan or vegetarian diet for a single week at the start of the year — and are then given the option of continuing for another three weeks.
"For a lot of people, they know they want to go vegan and they know it's a good idea, but they're just not sure where to start," said Barbi Lazarus, the association's donor and volunteer co-ordinator.
The Toronto group's challenge has also seen increasing numbers of people sign up, which Lazarus says reflects a growing interest in plant-based diets and awareness of the environmental toll of animal products.
At a recent vegetarian food festival, TVA had more than 450 people stop by their booth and sign up for the challenge, up from about 300 in previous years.
Having a specific goal is appealing for many, said Lazarus, especially one where you're supported with daily emails with tips and recipes.
"It gives you the opportunity to try it out without it being too daunting," she said.