Plant-based living: why we should all have a go!

Written by: Christina Hawkes, Founder, Greenscents

When we mention ‘plant-based living’ some of us will whoop for joy but sceptics might turn away contending that this is just another craze designed to part more money from our wallets.  But Veganuary – where people try a vegan diet for one month, has been a great success and the speed of uptake has been exhilarating: in 2014, 3,300 people signed up for Veganuary whereas in 2018 168,000 people took up the challenge.

Plant-based living means planning your food and consumables mainly around non-animal sources and there are many reasons why this has become so popular. 

Health

Plant-based diets are very good for our health. Dr Marco Springmann, an Oxford academic says “If the world were to adopt a vegan diet by 2050, the global economy would benefit to the tune of $1.1 trillion savings in healthcare costs.” Research has shown that adopting a predominantly plant-based diet has the biggest impact on health [compared to other diets] for all the chronic diseases.  Many of us will be aware of Ella Woodward who cured her illnesses with a plant-based diet and the ‘Deliciously Ella’ lifestyle which is available to all through her books and products (https://deliciouslyella.com).  There are now many categories of vegan products – clothes and shoes, toiletries, books, bags & supplements.  All Greenscents household & laundry products are vegan too, so if you want to become animal-free in the home this is possible too.

Environment

Other research carried out last year has shown that eating a plant-based diet has more benefits for the environment than changing other activities.  “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK . “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions. The research also showed that there was a great deal of difference in the way meat and dairy was produced.  Choosing local organic meat will reduce the impact on the environment compared to other ways of production.

Animal welfare

The Vegan Society has collated many disturbing statistics about animal welfare related to meat and dairy production.  Again, there is a wide disparity between farms but the average animal welfare of farmed animals in the UK needs to be improved and intensive farming needs to end.  Sadly, welfare for farmed fish appears no better. (https://www.vegansociety.com/news/media/statistics).  Richard Branson is a believer in clean meat.  He says  “In 30 years or so, I believe we will look back and be shocked at what was the accepted way we killed animals en masse for food. I think that in the future clean and plant-based meat will become the norm, and in 30 years it is unlikely animals will need to be killed for food anymore”.

So are there any downsides…..?

Plant-based living can become a lifestyle, a culture and a community but it takes time and organisation to adapt our lifestyles.  There is a huge range of vegan junk food on the market and it is very easy to slip into bad habits.  Animal-free cookies, prepared meals, cakes, sweets and smoothies are all available in profusion which are high in fat and often mass-produced with poor quality ingredients. 

Best approaches

The best plant-based lifestyles are mindful of the source of our food and the nourishment it provides.  This applies to all consumable goods and it is easy to look for the symbols that tell us that the product is certified by the right organisations (The Vegan Society, The Soil Association, Cruelty Free International). Read labels carefully and avoid heavily processed ingredients & palm oil.  The best plant-based diets are based on organic seasonal veg, fruit, seeds, nuts & whole grains with seaweed and other superfoods added.

For those who find the complete conversion to a plant-based lifestyle daunting there are transitional approaches and becoming a flexitarian is a great option.  Learning to create meat-free main meals and integrating these into our diet is a big step forward. Including wild fish and organic meats as a treat is perhaps the best way to become a flexitarian. 

We must also remember that if BREXIT becomes a reality, a plant-based lifestyle becomes more attractive.   There are so many poor husbandry practices outside the EU (for example USA) we may be offered animal products that are harmful and totally unsustainable.

However, we can all enjoy vegan and organic household and laundry products and include these in our plant-based lifestyle!  Make sure to stock up on your Greenscents regularly for your health, the planet and animal welfare.