It’s only a month. A mere 31 days without huevos rancheros or a scoop (OK, pint) of Cherry Garcia. But joining the international happening called Veganuary may change your life. It might even change the world. Find out what Veganuary is and how to set yourself up for a successful month eating a vegan diet and using only vegan beauty products.

What Is Veganuary?

The original 31-day vegan challenge called Veganuary began in the U.K. as a nonprofit organization that promotes and educates about the benefits of veganism by encouraging people to give up all animal-based foods (there are many more than you think) for the month of January and eat vegan food instead. Since the crowd-sourced event began in 2014, participation has more than doubled each year.

More than 400,000 people from 193 countries signed up for the 2020 campaign, according to founders Jane Land and Matthew Glover. The campaign estimated this represented the carbon dioxide equivalent of 450,000 flights and the lives of more than a million animals.

Of course, you don’t need to join an organization to challenge yourself to a month of vegan eating and living. Maybe take the challenge with your bestie or a competitive sibling if you really want to go chard— oops, hard — on this challenge as a way to usher in the new year!

Unlike other month-long initiatives that benefit a charity, this initiative benefits you. And, oh, yeah, the entire planet. And if you missed the January 1 start date, that's OK too. Any 30 days will do.

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Why Go Vegan Even for a Month?

Going vegan, even for one month, reduces your carbon footprint. How? Raising animals for commercial slaughter, especially beef, requires tremendous amounts of land, feed, water and energy. Raising commercial meat pours millions of gallons of animal waste into our planet’s waterways. The benefits of not eating meat go far beyond saving the animal itself.

But what if you only eat fish? Overfishing has reduced many fish populations dramatically so abstaining from seafood also has its benefits.

These are just a few examples of how eating animals contributes to the climate crisis we all face. Cutting out animal products may literally lighten your footprint in other ways, too. Moving your menu to a plant-based diet is often a helpful step toward healthy weight loss. And removing or even reducing animal products and their fats from your plate often is helpful in preventing heart disease.

Going vegan can also save you a nice chunk of change since seafood and red meat can be pricey, and you'll naturally be limited in the restaurants you can visit. Going vegan has so many benefits even if it's just for one month. But who knows? That month could change your perspective and lifestyle forever.

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How “Vegan” Is Vegan?

As with all things, there are degrees of righteousness. First, vegans reject animal products. Yes, like a lamb chop — or your new AOC-worthy red lipstick. Yup, that killer red probably is pigmented by the tiny, dried bodies of an insect called cochineal, often disguised on the label as “Carmine.” Thankfully, there are vegan lipsticks, but none can quite muster the electric scarlet hue of dead bugs so you may have to give it up.

Vegan Beauty and Hair Products

Second, vegans reject products that are tested on animals. So you'll want to make sure your beauty and hair products are vegan for Veganuary, too. All of VEGAMOUR's hair wellness products are 100% vegan, meaning our products are strictly cruelty-free in every sense. There are no animal ingredients present and our products are never tested on animals. (If you choose to use our plant-based shampoo on your dog, however, that doesn't quite count.)

One ingredient you may see on VEGAMOUR labels is “Wasp Spider Polypeptide-1 Oligopeptide-178” silk. Not to worry, this ingredient is in fact a synthetic, cruelty-free chemical copy of the silk web created by the remarkable spider, Argiope bruennichi. The synthetic silk, like the original material created by the eight-legged inspiration, is literally stronger than steel. In our hair products, the b-silk™ protein as we call it sheathes every strand in a resilient, protective jacket that creates strength and resiliency.

Also: Is the Vegan Diet Also Gluten-Free?

Ease Into Veganism

But just for the record, eschewing all products that are tested on animals would eliminate every modern medicine on earth, including the COVID-19 vaccine. It's OK if you're not 100% vegan in the instance that you prioritize other forms of health.

If this is your first foray into the vegan experience, we suggest that you start simply. By simply, we mean eliminating the obvious: meat of any kind, including fish and shellfish, dairy products and eggs.

Deviled egg advocates may counter with the argument that dairy foods and eggs don’t require killing the source animal. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasoning what is and isn’t vegan.It’s true that cows give their milk without giving their lives, and chickens lay their eggs because they just have to. A century or more ago, when Maw and Paw were down on the farm, milk and eggs were fairly cruelty-free Modern factory farming has changed all that, and the conditions in which cows and chickens now produce these products is a persuasive case for going vegan— ask Joaquin Phoenix, just one of many massive celeb vegans.

Veganuary may also help you pay attention to labels and ingredients. That doesn't mean you need to throw out non-vegan products you already have since that itself is an unsustainable practice. By being more conscious about future purchases, you'll be well on your way to having an impact on your carbon footprint.

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Foods to Cut From Your Diet for Veganuary

If you want to kick it up a notch, start reading those labels. Many foods that you think of as vegan probably aren’t. Here’s just a starter-list of non-vegan foods to cut from your diet:

1. Honey

Unless your honey is gathered by a winsome bee-keeper with a picturesque apiary, captive-bred bees are killed in the process of making the sweet stuff. You do have alternative vegan food options, however, such as agave nectar, maple syrup and brown rice syrup.

2. Breakfast Cereal

Many are fortified with lanolin, a sheep product. If you’ve ever marveled at how rain beads up on a thick lambswool sweater, lanolin is the answer. It’s basically sheep-grease, and it does contain vitamin D3. You don't have to give up cereal altogether. Love Grown and Kashi are good alternatives to other brands.

3. Foods With Red Dye

You already know about the lipstick. Cochineal is also labeled “E120” or “red 4” on things like red candy. You still have options — PeTA-approved vegan candy like YumEarth Fruit Snacks, Airheads and Red Vines are all OK. And look for products that use the natural color from beets and strawberries.

4. Gummy Worms and Bears

Gummies of all kinds are usually made with gelatin which is made by boiling bones, cartilage, skin and other body parts of slaughtered animals. The same goes for for marshmallows, chewing gum and, of course, Jell-O. Alternatives for non-vegan gummy products include Surf Sweets Annie’s Organic Homegrown Fruit Snacks, Squish Candies — these use plant thickeners, like pectin from apples and agar-agar, a seaweed. Dandies are an alternative for marshmallows. And for gum, you can choose Juicy Fruit or Eclipse, both vegan.

You'll also want to read the ingredients in your gummy vitamins to ensure they don't have gelatin and find a vegan gummy vitamin instead. Try GRO Biotin Gummies for Hair, which are thickened with tapioca syrup instead of gelatin.

5. Chips

Many chips contain cheese-products especially flavors like sour cream & onion, nacho cheese and anything else cheesy. Plain corn tortilla chips are usually vegan.

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6. Soy Cheese

Soy cheese often contains casein, a milk protein — the same goes for non-dairy creamers. Vegan alternatives for cheese include Follow Your Heart, Field Roast Chao. For creamers, opt for alternatives like Silk, Ripple Foods and Califia Farms.

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7. Fruit Juices

Tropicana Heart Healthy Orange Juice was found to contain fish oil and gelatin as added sources of omega-3. Minute Maid juices are fortified with D3 from sheep’s lanolin. To ensure your juice is truly vegan, buy some raw fruit and make your own.

8. Shiny Fruit

You know, the kind that look so glossy at Whole Foods? The fruit is shiny because it’s waxed, often with beeswax, making even this seemingly vegan food not vegan.

The list of non-vegan foods hiding in plain sight goes on. It can be overwhelming, especially if you're just starting out or are only committing to a month of veganism. It's OK to start small.

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Eight Tips for a Successful Veganuary

For a successful month of vegan eating, a little planning will go a long way. There are some lifestyle tweaks you should make and some you can let slide. Use these tips to set yourself up for a successful vegan start to the new year:

1. Give Your Pets a Pass

Dogs, cats, lizards and all of the other critters we love are typically omnivores, if not carnivores and very rarely vegans. Don’t try to change your pet’s diet in January — you can consider easing into that later with the advice of your veterinarian.

2. Identify Your Favorite Foods

Make a list of all your favorite foods you are giving up and then seek out vegan alternatives. Food manufacturers know what people crave, and they continue to amaze with vegan interpretations of meaty favorites. Case in point: the “Impossible” burger which is free of meat though it looks just as tasty. Craving froyo? Whip up some cashew banana “faux-gurt” to satisfy your hunger for missing dairy.

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3. Do Some Homework

The internet is full of vegan recipes, so explore. And do some reading, too. We love Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina’s Becoming Vegan, and Ginny Messina and Jack Norris’ Vegan For Life for inspiration.

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4. Apply Your Existing Culinary Smarts

You already have a few favorite dishes, right? Study the ingredients and start swapping: cashew cheese for Parmesan, black beans in the place of ground beef — the list goes on.

5. Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone

No civilization in history has produced and eaten meat the way we consume it in the United States. So look to the sophisticated cookery of India and Ethiopia, for instance, where exquisite vegetarian and vegan dishes are the norm.

6. Spice it Up

When you eliminate animal-based foods, you will be dealing with proteins that are bland by nature, starting with tofu and tempeh. The magic there is that these easy-going proteins are a fantastic canvas for herbs and spices.

7. Bond With Fellow Vegans

With such an extreme diet change, it does make sense to reach out and find community. A few clicks will lead you to an array of people who don’t eat meat, don’t wear fur, don’t wear leather or eat only raw foods. Trade ideas, get advice and just talk to people going through the same lifestyle change as you for motivation.

8. About Leather

Leather is expensive and if you already have a collection, it may be hard to part with — that's understandable. You can take it slowly.

As for buying new leather-like products, there are great alternatives like PVC and other cruelty-free leather substitutes. Going vegan doesn’t mean shapeless smocks, Crocs, and Birkenstocks — you can still find sexy, shiny clothes without harming animals.

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9. Audit Your Hair and Beauty Products

Yes, even your hair and beauty products might not be vegan. If you plant to give this your all, you should avoid any beauty products that contain animal products, such as keratin hair treatments. Instead, look for alternatives with vegan keratin like GRO Revitalizing Shampoo and Conditioner, which are fortified with Karmatin™, a microencapsulated vegan b-silk™ protein.

It might seem small, but switching to vegan shampoo and conditioner is an important part of becoming vegan — even for a month.

VEGAMOUR GRO Revitalizing Shampoo and Conditioner with Vegan Keratin

Enjoy the Ride

Our final piece of advice is, shamelessly pamper yourself while exploring the meatless universe. Many people steer clear of even the thought of going vegan, because it can be a restrictive way to live.

But you can find pleasure in your limitations: an organic bamboo pillowcase to keep hair smooth, a ripe blood orange in midwinter or a daily scalp massage in the shower. Whatever your vice, find something that's vegan but also enjoyable. It'll keep you on the path towards a more sustainable lifestyle for January and beyond.

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Photo credit: Ella Olsson/Pexels

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