Vegan Month

Orla Matthews

Let’s get one thing straight, going vegan was difficult for a person who likes her steak done rare and bloody, a carnivore through and through. So why go vegan for the month?

After spending an incredible summer in California and Minnesota with my young son the ‘eco-anxiety’ set in, especially after working out our carbon footprint. To get over and back to Los Angeles from Dublin via Minnesota we offloaded just shy of five tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, oh the #flightshame of it all. Although I offset this with the bogland woodland project, I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t enough to truly reduce our carbon footprint.

Some people can just wake up one morning and decide to go vegan, however, I am not one of those people. I slowly started cutting animal products from my diet. I started by removing meat and then dairy from my diet. I then cut out eggs and honey. I was still eating small amounts of all of these foods until the start of September so it wasn’t a shock to the system to suddenly cut them all out. After a visit to my Doctor who gave full approval, noting “if more Irish people, in general, ate less meat and dairy and more plant-based foods there’d be a lot fewer cases of heart disease in Irish hospitals.” 

Instead of chicken, tofu is full of protein and tastes great in a curry as are most legumes like chickpeas or lentils, so foods like falafels and hummus were now on the menu for lunch. Vitamin B12, K and D are the major vitamins in red meat and milk products respectively. These vitamins are added to most of the plant milk in the large range of dairy alternatives available in shops but there are plenty of great vegan-friendly multivitamins if needed. 

Food shopping wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of dairy-free and vegan products available in Aldi or Tesco and they didn’t cost the earth either. Recipes for tasty vegan dishes were so easy to find online, BBC Good Food has some simple ones with basic ingredients; a favourite of mine was the vegan Thai green curry or vegan sausage rolls. Eating out was also fairly fuss free. I downloaded the ‘Happy Cow’ App which conveniently geolocates all vegetarian and vegan restaurants in your proximity. 

Using the BBC Food Footprint calculator we managed to save 15kg of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere simply by switching from cows’ milk to plant milk, along with cutting out the 50kg emissions from the beef we would’ve consumed that month. We didn’t quite manage to claw back the five tons we emitted when flying, but sticking to a mainly plant-based diet in the future should help us overall with reducing our carbon footprint and living a healthier more sustainable lifestyle.

Orla Matthews

Image Credit: MacroVerch