Should schools be participating in Veganuary to promote Ecological practices? By Xenia Ramirez-Espain, North London Collegiate School

In light of the current climate crisis and the recent COP-26 summit in Glasgow last year, many people are looking for ways to negate their carbon footprints. One option which has been mentioned at a school in north London is perhaps introducing mandatory Veganism or vegetarianism throughout January to encourage students to lead lives that are far less harmful to the planet, whose days seem to be increasingly numbered if nothing is done to offset the effect of human behaviour. 

Veganuary, not unlike dry January, is an annual challenge that takes advantage of people’s new year spirit and news year’s resolution mindsets by challenging them to adopt a vegan diet through the month of January. It is run by a non-profit organisation, and the challenge consists of not eating any food that consists of animal products, including dairies such as milk or cheese, from the first of January until the 31st.  


One of the main arguments for implementing Veganuary in schools is that it has been proven that the benefits of Veganism for the environment are extensive. As such, adopting Veganism in all schools in the United Kingdom, even for a short period of time, would make us leaps and bounds closer to a carbon-neutral society. However, the actual carbon negation would be minimal when considering its effects on a school-by-school basis. So, in that case, the emphasis lies in encouraging students to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle in the future. Suppose students are taught that it is possible to eat healthily and satisfyingly whilst vegan. In that case, indeed, they are more likely to adopt the lifestyle as they couldn’t possibly have any objections on a moral or practical basis. 


However, it must be noted that schools do not have the best track record when it comes to supplying nutritious and tasty meals; one remembers the Chartwell’s food parcel scandal, and as such, may just as easily discourage schoolchildren from ever attempting to go vegan and would thus have the opposite effect intended. One could even go as far as saying that if the effort is not made to ensure the food is appealing to children, many students who rely upon school meals as their primary source of nutrition could be irrevocably harmed by this change. 


At a senior school in Edgeware, whilst attempting Veganuary and meatless Mondays were considered, the school ultimately decided against doing so. When questioned on why this was, a teacher commented that they believe in students “taking responsibility” for their diets and ecological impact. Instead, it was decided that the school would attempt to provide a wide range of appealing vegetarian or vegan dishes and would remove beef and lamb, two very harmful (on the environment) meats, to encourage students to choose to switch themselves. He commented that this approach felt far less ‘tokenistic” and more “personal.” 


This is just one approach to introducing children to conscious decision making when it comes to the environment. Whilst some may disagree with the approach, this school is asking the right questions, particularly as we all learn to live with the consequences of climate change.




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