Published on: 25 January 2021. Written by: Selene Nelson
With Veganuary in full swing, the topic of veganism is hard to ignore. Here, Selene Nelson, author of Yes Ve-gan!, offers some handy advice for living a more ethical life this year.
Since 2014 more than a million people have signed up to Veganuary, and it’s not hard to see why: studies show that switching to a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth, and plant-based eating may help prevent and reverse many chronic health problems.
But as I learned while writing my book Yes Ve-gan!, many people aren’t ready to go full vegan and prefer to dabble in veganism without committing fully.
The positive news is that there are many easy ways you can live more ethically. From foods you can swap and be none the wiser to the best ethical and sustainable brands to support, here are six simple wins to incorporate into your life.
1. Buy your clothes and shoes from vegan, eco-friendly brands
Though a lot of people see veganism as a diet, it’s actually a philosophical belief that aims to exclude all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation. This extends beyond food and into the clothes that we wear, too.
While materials such as linen, cotton, denim, nylon, hemp, and tree-based materials like bamboo, rayon and viscose are vegan, silk, wool, and cashmere are derived from animals. Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice style in order to pursue more ethical fashion, and there are lots of vegan clothing brands around.
People Tree is one of the original pioneers of sustainable Fair Trade fashion, and every item is made to the highest ethical and environmental standards. Thought, Tentree and Shrimps make accessible, sustainable fashion that’s also cruelty-free, and on the designer front, Stella McCartney is a 100% vegan and sustainable luxury fashion brand.
2. Try vegan and cruelty-free beauty products
Cruelty-free beauty is becoming increasingly popular and more widely available – but cruelty-free doesn’t necessarily mean vegan. The cruelty-free label means that the beauty products weren’t tested on animals – but it doesn’t mean that they are free from animal-derived products: for example, lanolin, an ingredient used in many moisturisers and lip balms is made from a secretion from sheep’s skin.
Once again, the good news is that there are numerous vegan and cruelty-free make-up brands around these days. For make-up, try Cover FX, Inika and Delilah – and B. by Superdrug is great if you’re looking for more affordable beauty products.
For skincare, Lumene and Skyn Iceland sell wonderfully indulgent moisturisers, face masks and washes, and Floral Street sells vegan and cruelty-free perfumes made from natural ingredients. Just remember to check the label.
3. Watch some eye-opening documentaries
I always thought going vegan would be challenging, but when I made the switch it was easy because I had found my ‘why’. I knew exactly why I was doing it and why it was important.
So one of the most helpful things you can do is educate yourself about issues concerning the environment, health and animals – because the more you know, the more conviction you’ll have, and the easier it will be to move towards a more vegan way of life if that’s what you choose to do.
If you’re passionate about sustainability, the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret on Netflix is worth a watch. Both humorous and compelling, the documentary explores the impact animal agriculture has on the planet.
If you’re more concerned about health, What The Health is a real eye-opener, though the most inspiring Netflix health-focused film is The Game Changers, which follows elite athletes as it explores the rise of plant-based eating within sports. If you’re an animal lover, Netflix is also showing The Animal People, Blackfish and Okja, which will get you thinking.
4. Make some easy (honestly!) food swaps
When I went vegan, one of the biggest shocks was that I didn’t have to stop eating the meals I liked; I just had to swap some ingredients to ‘veganise’ my favourite dishes.
Swapping cow’s milk for plant milk is an easy way to reduce your environmental impact. Almond milk and soya milk are popular, but I think Oatly’s barista edition oat milk is the best. A lot of people find cheese can be hard to give up, but Violife is a good alternative and is sold in most supermarkets. The best vegan cheeses, however, are the artisan nut cheeses; check out La Fauxmagerie and Kinda Co. Their cheeses aren’t cheap, but they’re utterly delicious and will forever change your opinion on vegan cheese!
Veggie mince is another savvy swap, as it means you can make vegan spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, shepherd’s pie, tacos, etc. My favourite is Meat The Alternative beef-style mince. Vivera is sold in most supermarkets, including Waitrose and Partners, and makes tasty mock-meat products like steak, shawarma, burgers and pulled pork.
If you can’t imagine a life without a Sunday morning bacon sarnie, check out THIS ISN’T BACON, which I think is easily the best vegan bacon available right now (their ‘chicken’ nuggets are delicious, too).
5. Get scrolling on social media
Social media is a useful place to educate yourself on vegan and ethical issues. My favourite vegan educator is Earthling Ed – Ed Winters has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, has spoken at a third of UK universities, and has given two TEDx talks. His YouTube channel is also full of informative content.
Food-focused accounts provide inspiration if you’re new to veganism as they show you just how delicious vegan food can be (this was how I realised vegan food isn’t all kale and quinoa!). Some accounts that have vegan recipes and will get your mouth watering are The Little London Vegan, Minimalist Baker, Now You Know It’s Vegan, and Avant Garde Vegan. Or, simply search the #VeganFood hashtag on Instagram to get plenty of ideas.
6. Treat yourself to some seriously delicious vegan desserts
Gü makes indulgent vegan cheesecake desserts, and Freaks of Nature is a new, fully vegan dessert brand that makes gorgeous plant-based treats like chocolate fudge pudding, apple crumble, and chocolate mousse. Most supermarkets now sell their own range of vegan desserts, so keep an eye out when you’re shopping.
Because vegan food doesn’t contain cholesterol, plant-based desserts can be healthier, too.
A lot of dark chocolate is vegan already, and if you prefer milk chocolate, check out Vego, which makes seriously moreish hazelnut chocolate bars and spreads. One new brand I really like is Caroboo; their chocolate bars are dairy- and gluten-free, free from refined sugar, and contain carob, which has big health benefits. Plus, their wrappers are fully compostable – another ethical win!
If you like sweets, Candy Kittens natural jelly sweets come in flavours such as Eton mess, tropical mango and sour watermelon and are dangerously moreish. Be warned!
Read Selene’s 9 answers to the most common vegan questions here.
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