Is veganuary really the most sustainable option in the long run?

Is veganuary really the most sustainable option in the long run?



Is veganuary really the most sustainable option in the long run?  

vegan burger
ellen mcveigh

Eimear O’Dwyer

3rd February 2021


Veganuary has become a very popular trend both in Ireland and across the world in recent times. Since the pandemic began, it seems the push to go plant-based has become even more prevalent with more people experimenting with vegan recipes and taking the pledge to be more environmentally conscious. A vegan diet could lead not only to a more sustainable, diversified planet but could also allow for 4 billion more people to be fed each year, virtually eradicating poverty. But is making veganuary a trend the most sustainable option in the long run?


The UN has advised that a diet free of meat and dairy is the most impactful way to decrease pollution and live more sustainably. Naturerising, who provide vegan advice and information, has published some startling statistics about the environmental consequences of meat and dairy consumption. 30% of private Irish wells are contaminated with E-coli, mainly by slurry. This is the highest rate of groundwater pollution in Europe. Ireland’s farm animals also produce fifty times more waste than the population of people in Ireland, which in turn contaminates streams, rivers and lakes. With over 80% of Nitrogen emissions to water being linked to animal agriculture. Awareness of the perilous impact animal agriculture is having on the planet has led to a move towards more sustainable plant-based options. The scientific evidence suggests that plant-based foods in Ireland produce ten to twenty times more protein per hectare than beef production and need significantly less water than the 15,000 litres required to produce just one kilogram of beef.


It cannot be denied that gentrification is seeping into the urban areas of the larger counties in Ireland and across the world. One could argue that veganism could be a signpost of this change. The introduction of expensive vegan shops, restaurants and cafes could potentially make areas more attractive to people of a higher social class. Studies conducted in LA have found striking evidence supporting this. Undoubtedly, there are some benefits for the locals, with new employment opportunities, new amenities and more options available nearby. However wealthier individuals tend to move to these areas as they become more desirable, which can lead to a rise in property prices, driving the locals out if they cannot pay these extortionate rates.


TD Mick McCarthy highlighted this issue last year focusing on Cork City. He suggested that working people are being forced out of the city centre and having to commute to work as a result. There is less social housing being constructed than the number of rooms in one of the many new hotels being built in Cork City currently. As well as extortionate student accommodation rates, there is definitely a rise in the prominence of primarily vegan restaurants in the area, including loving salads, Umi Falafel, 143V, Rocketman and the Quay Co-op. The same can be seen in an even more prominent way in Dublin city, the astounding rise in property prices has led to mass emigration from the city to commuter towns. Those who manage to remain have to face noise pollution from construction and a loss of their sense of community. Interestingly, vegan restaurants have become a massive trend in Dublin also, such as Cornucopia, Vegintiy and Govindas. These restaurants tend to have prices that exceed the working-class budget, serving the needs of a higher social class.


“One could question the longevity and health impacts of going completely cold turkey and giving up all meat and dairy products in such a challenging month.”

Large multi-nationals need to consider their corporate social responsibility. There are vegan companies such as Allplants that have been certified as B-corporations for their remarkable efforts in eradicating waste and contributing to a more environmentally conscious planet. On the other hand, some large retail outlets, MNCs and fast-food chains could be seen to be using the inclusion of vegan alternatives as a form of greenwashing. We must remember that having vegan options does not make a company sustainable if they still engage in unethical practices which are harmful to the environment. Nestle, for instance, have been found, by the ‘Break-free from plastic initiative’ to have been in the top three companies to have created the most plastic pollution for the third consecutive year. As well as this, the MNC has been tied up in many unjust controversies including false advertising of their powdered milk formula for babies in developing countries, miss-informing mothers to their detriment as many did not have the knowledge or amenities to provide sanitised bottles to their babies. Along with this manipulative misuse of power, the company has also been accused of engaging in child labour, price-fixing, mislabelling products and deforestation.


Nestle’s vegan ranges have expanded by 40% in recent times, leading to the company introducing vegan cereals, vegan meat brands, coffee alternatives and so on. While these companies like Nestle, Tesco, Marks and Spencer’s and many more are making vegan options accessible and affordable, it is important to be mindful of where our vegan options are being purchased, whether the produce has been imported and what packaging is used. We are left to wonder whether veganuary is really having a positive impact if most of the products are being purchased from large MNCs.


Veganuary could be seen as another New Year’s fad in some cases. One could question the longevity and health impacts of going completely cold turkey and giving up all meat and dairy products in such a challenging month. Diet culture aims to push a particular way of eating on society, engaging in body shaming, the promotion of unhealthy, unsustainable weight loss and providing a lot of unsolicited advice. There are countless examples of new diets being branded and used as a marketing tool to increase sales without much prior research. We see the owners of large companies going plant-based for January and encouraging customers to do the same. We see social media influencers and content creators on Instagram and Tiktok promoting veganuary and uploading ‘What I eat in a day’ videos and sometimes untrue, unproven facts about particular eating patterns.


Eating disorders are increasing at an alarming rate with hospital admissions in Ireland increasing by 66% last year alone. We need to question whether defining a certain diet morally as good or bad is really a healthy solution. People who have intolerances to certain foods, are pregnant or are recovering from eating disorders may be advised by medical professionals to follow a diet which includes meat or dairy. We need to be mindful of the heightened use of ‘veganuary’ in marketing campaigns and on social media and really question whether branding veganism as a trend alongside all of the other new year’s fads is a sustainable, ethical response to the global environmental crisis we are facing in the long run.


As Dr Joe O Brien discusses on Dr Hazel Wallace’s podcast ‘The Food Medic’, making new habits is harder than we think, involving small changes over a long period of time rather than deciding we are going to do something drastic and expecting to maintain this new behaviour with willpower alone. Veganuary, in my view, is not as impactful in the long-run as making small, healthy changes towards a more plant-based diet over a prolonged period of time, giving our minds and bodies a chance to adapt to this new way of life.




Featured Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash



Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?


Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

cycling in Dublin city
Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn

4th November 2020

Covid-19 has prompted us to re-think our systems of travel. In particular, it has encouraged many people to lose a few extra wheels and take to a saddle, handlebars and peddles instead. Many cities around the world have put in place temporary and permanent measures to encourage people to cycle during this time. The question remains – will these measures be enough to lead to a future where people see cycling as a viable and efficient way to travel?


I moved to Sweden in September 2019 to begin my master’s studies. In all of my introduction meetings and meetings with other students, I was given one piece of consistent advice – get a bike. Biking is a way of life here and one I have adapted. My friend and I, who also moved to the Netherlands recently, had a conversation about how we loved the freedom we had with our bikes. We can safely cycle anywhere we want because of the infrastructure for biking which exists where we live. I cycled in 2015 in Dublin and cannot say that I felt the same. Lacking infrastructure, Dublin created a sense of insecurity in me.


With Covid-19, the thought of a lot of people in confined spaces on public transport is not ideal. Social distancing on public transport is next to impossible, especially in highly populated cities. Countries worldwide have had to re-think how to promote travel and keep everyone safe. 37 out of 94 biggest EU cities announced cycling measures in response to Covid-19, providing a chance to redesign our cities for the future.


Milan is one of Europe’s most populated cities and has been hit hard by Covid-19. The city has begun schemes to reallocate street space for cyclists and pedestrians. There are 35km of new cycle paths and cyclist numbers on Milan’s main shopping street have risen from 1,000 cyclist pre-Covid-19 to 7,000 now. Generally, 55% of people who live in Milan use public transport to get to work, but the average commute is less than 4km which makes the switch from public transport to cycling a realistic potential for many. The government is also supporting those who wish to cycle and have pledged up to €500 to citizens who want to buy a new bike.


“37 out of 94 biggest EU cities announced cycling measures in response to Covid-19, providing a chance to redesign our cities for the future.”

Paris has also been leading the way in investing in cycling. €20 million euro has been ring-fenced for cycling since the start of the pandemic and uptake has increased. The French government is giving people €50 subsidies towards bike repairs and offering free cycling lessons for the general public. The number of people learning to cycle with these courses has increased from 150 people to over 300 people during the pandemic.


The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network which was set up with the goal of cycling becoming a normal part of everyday life in Ireland has been a force for change. They believe that Covid-19 is prompting us to reimagine our lives and our systems and rethink the way in which we commute. There have been record sales of bikes reported. The Irish government has responded in some ways to this uptake in cycling but more needs to be done for it to remain a sustainable alternative to public transport.


Some suggestions of what the Irish government should do are included in the Irish Cycling Advocacy networks pre-budget submission. Recommendations include allocating 10% of the transport capital expenditure (€360 million) annual budget on cycling projects, increasing subsidies for e-bikes and expansion of the bike to work scheme to be more inclusive to focus on low earners, students and unwaged. Institutional changes are also highlighted as needed in order to create a system which respects and encourages cycling. Legislative changes are also needed such as 30km/ph becoming the default speed limit in built-up areas and cycling promotion, especially among marginalised groups. Focusing not only on measures which should be taken but also institutional and legislative change which will provide the best long-term results for cycling encouragement.


The government have allocated the suggested amount of 360 million on walking and cycling projects in the Budget 2021. The government will support cycling projects in main cities, increased funding in greenways and the roll-out of the safe routes to school programmes. Greenways are traffic-free paths which are predominantly in rural areas. The Minister for Transport stated that a greenway must also link to urban areas efficiently in order for them to be used not only by tourists but also by the local population. This makes sense in order to have the best long-term results. The budget seems to take the suggestions of the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network seriously.


The change to cycling that COVID-19 has prompted has been long fought for. Cycling is having a moment. In order for this moment to be a lasting one political leadership is needed. Many schemes set up have been temporary. We must actively engage with politicians to keep the political will alive to invest in cycling not only now but also in the future.


Featured photo by



Climate Migration: Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown Measures

Climate Migration: Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown Measures


Climate Migration: Effects of COVID-19 lockdown measures

climate migration and covid-19
lydia howard Chevalier

Lydia Howard Chevalier

6th October 2020

Unfortunate, though it may be, the initially positive reactions of eco-activists after the introduction of strict lockdown measures may have been premature. Online reports of crystal-clear water running through the canals of Venice and visible starry skies in China proved to be the glimmer of hope we were all desperately searching for in the midst of these unprecedented times. That sense of hope was short-lived, however, and data soon emerged showing that although levels of carbon emissions declined somewhat thanks to lockdown measures, this was merely a temporary slowdown – and environmental damage from the burning of fossil fuels is continuing, unabated. Indeed, pandemic safety measures, such as the wearing of PPE, is contributing even further waste – non-recyclable face masks and gloves can be found discarded carelessly on our streets and in our landfills. Whilst our attention has been almost exclusively focused on COVID-19 during these past few months, we must not forget that nothing on our planet exists in a vacuum – climate change is inextricably linked with public health as well as with migration.


In 2019 alone, extreme weather events displaced 24 million people within their own countries – an alarmingly high number, serving as a stark reminder that we must not ignore the seriousness of the issue. Climate change is likely to result in even more frequent and intense weather events in the future, which will inevitably lead to a dramatic shift in the demographics of our planet. The displacement of large numbers of people is a high-risk scenario, particularly during a global pandemic – how can migrants obey stay-at-home orders when their homes have been destroyed by hurricanes, bush fires and major floods? Can we reasonably expect social distancing in cramped refugee camps or frequent handwashing in places where soapy water is often unavailable due to damage to infrastructure? Consider the example of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti; survivors in crowded camps were often forced to drink water that had been contaminated by flooded rivers and latrines, resulting in a serious cholera outbreak, killing many of those who already displaced. If we wish to suppress the spread of COVID-19, we must also simultaneously address climate change.


Hurricane Matthew: Haiti storm
Hurricane Matthew: Haiti storm

Hurricane Matthew: the impact on housing in Corail and Jeremie, Haiti (BBC, 2016)

Migration due to environmental change is not a new concept; however, the levels of climate migration have increased dramatically in recent years. According to the Migration Data Portal, in 2019 alone, nearly 2,000 disasters triggered 24.9 million new internal displacements, the highest number since 2012. These were mostly the result of tropical storms and monsoon rains in South Asia and East Asia and Pacific. While it is difficult to measure exactly how many have fled their homes as a direct result of climate change, it is categorised as a “threat amplifier”: something which exacerbates an existing situation, such as conflict or competition over scarce resources. Those who are forced to flee their homes as a direct result of sudden-onset weather changes face a complex legal situation when attempting to access assistance or seek asylum; the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) currently refuses these migrants refugee status, designating them merely as “environmental migrants” and leaving them out in the cold without legal protection.


Unlike the measures introduced to tackle the pandemic, there is no organised effort to monitor the migrant population, and the UN lacks the resources to address their needs. The Sustainable Development Goals mention climate action and the urgent need to address it; however, the refusal of the US to adopt the Global Compact and its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement are not very encouraging signs of a commitment to future action. The Global Compact on Migration represents a unique opportunity for the international community to understand the climatic drivers of migration as well as the impact of migration on the environment, while the Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to climate change by setting out goals involving carbon-emission mitigation, new technologies and the reinforcing of countries’ adaptive abilities in the face of severe weather events.


How a situation is perceived is critical when planning an effective response. Too much doom-and-gloom on the news can lead to “crisis fatigue” – a phenomenon many are already familiar with, watching the ever-rising death toll on television every night. This can lead to a sense of hopelessness, which is only amplified when the population also views extreme weather events as “acts of God” over which they feel no sense of control. Utilising a crisis-narrative inhibits effective action, as crises are typically short-term, unexpected events of which we could have had no prior knowledge or indeed, any level of preparedness. This can be applied to both COVID-19, which proved to be the “Disease X” public health experts have warned us about for many years, as well as climate change, the effects of which we have long been aware of. We cannot keep burying our heads in the sand when faced with mounting evidence of the effects of both of these threats.


COVID-19 and climate change pose immediate and long-term challenges to our well-being and everyday survival; the New York Times estimates that in South Asia alone, the living conditions of 800 million people could dramatically diminish due to climate change. Therefore, both must be addressed with an equal amount of urgency, long-term planning and multilateral cooperation. One significant difference must be acknowledged, however: flattening the curve of climate change will take many years, as opposed to mere weeks, and will require effective, pre-emptive intervention. International organisations such as the UN should specifically target the most vulnerable populations when planning to provide assistance and support, as it is often the countries with the lowest adaptive capacities who suffer disproportionately from the effects of flooding, droughts and desertification.


“The lockdown measures we have all recently been subjected to has offered us a brief insight into the impact on human wellbeing of restrictions on mobility.”

The idea that closed borders represents safety while open borders bring chaos and danger is a flawed and dangerous one that right-wing populists across the developed world have capitalised on throughout both the 2015 refugee crisis and the current pandemic. The lockdown measures we have all recently been subjected to has offered us a brief insight into the impact on human wellbeing of restrictions on mobility – a mere snapshot of what it is like for those fleeing parts of the world rendered uninhabitable by the devastating effects of climate change. Whilst all public health experts recommend travel and border restrictions as a necessary part of the pandemic response, they emphasise that this must be done on a test-and-trace basis, instead of an all-encompassing blanket ban. Such measures could lead people to fear “outsiders” or “foreigners” as potential sources of infection, a fear which could translate into a long-term policy if we are not careful. We need to remember the opportunities and benefits of welcoming migrants into our communities: many societies are experiencing a demographic decline and ageing populations – a fresh injection of migrant workers can provide a significant boost to local economies, a much-needed necessity in many post-COVID nations. The irony seemed lost on U.K. politicians recently when many applauded and expressed gratitude to the NHS for saving lives throughout the pandemic, despite the fact that many of its healthcare workers are migrants living in a nation whose Home Office is fighting to maintain policies that promote a “hostile environment” for such workers in order to deter any future influx.


And so, we have arrived at our current situation, through a combination of denial, ignorance (politically motivated or otherwise) and a preference for short-term gain, all whilst ignoring the true long-term pain. This myopic attitude must change if we are to ensure the survival and quality of life of the inhabitants of this Earth. We cannot simply relocate the problem, irresponsibly dispose of our waste in developing nations, and perpetuate an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. The evidence is clear: the developed world may be more capable (but perhaps not always willing) to prepare for and manage the effects of extreme weather events, while many in underdeveloped nations lack this capacity. Yet as true as it is that we will all suffer through our own inaction, this conversely means that we will surely all benefit through positive, coordinated action.


To learn more about ‘Climate Migration’ check out STAND’s online student festival taking place between the 12th – 24th of October 2020. To register for online workshops, creative events and panel discussions, click here!




Featured photo by Wallpaper Flare



#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind


#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

sustainable fashion brands second-hand september
anastasiya stand news

Anastasiya Sytnyk

16th September 2020


Consumers are slowly beginning to change their clothing from fast fashion items to ones from sustainable brands. Instead of buying cheap clothing at the cost of someone else’s unfair treatment and pay, we’re becoming more and more likely to pay a little extra for our clothing to ensure it had been produced ethically and with as little environmental impact as possible. Many sustainable fashion labels are devoted to noble causes and also donate a lot of their income to charities and organisations that actually fight for change and equality. Here are 10 sustainable labels that you should get behind and why! 


1. Able 

Able are determined in their ethics which provide clothing Artisian-made in Peru and fight for fair labour practices, B corp. They believe that in order to end poverty you must create economic opportunities so that people, specifically women, can provide for themselves. This brand sells lovely items like denim, shoes, bags and jewellery. Their items are made by women from all over the world who are paid fairly and come from all walks of life. 

 Some of my favourites:


2. Tentree 

Tentree is another great sustainable brand whose ethics are that their products are ethically made and organic, B corp and Eco-friendly which gives back to the environment. The people behind Tentree feel a strong sense of responsibility to preserve and protect the world we live in. Each time an item is purchased a tree is planted. The motto of the company is “buy one, plant ten”, they believe you don’t have to be a hardcore environmentalist to make a difference. The brand has planted over 42 million trees around the world! 

Some of my favourites:


3. Boden

Boden, another great label who are passionate about ethical trading, fair wages, giving back and recyclable packaging (which is very important in a time where brands overpackage their stuff). Boden is a British brand which was founded more than 25 years ago and is renowned for being both ethical and expansive.

Some of my favourites:


4. Kotn 

Kotn is one of my personal favourites because of their soft and breathable Egyptian cotton. The bran works directly with farmers by paying fair prices for cotton and assisting supplies in making the switch to organic. Their ethics are simply, B corp, safe and fair labour standards for all. 

Some of my favourites:


5. Thought Clothing 

Thought Clothing create eco-friendly clothing from organic ingredients which include cotton, bamboo and hemp. This is another UK brand which ships worldwide and is dedicated to being sustainable. 

Some of my favourites:


6. Ref Jeans 

Ref jeans is an amazing eco-friendly Tencel, practices, organic cotton brand which launched in 2017 making affordable denim available to all. The thing about Ref Jeans is that they use only a third of the water used by other denim companies! 

Some of my favourites:


7. Girlfriend Collective 

This site is brilliant for real and honest photoshoot images advertising their recycled materials in all sizes. No photoshop or retouching their models which makes them very much fashion-forward and inclusive with sizes that come from XXS to 6XL. Their ethics are simple, inclusive sizing, ethical working conditions and fair wages to all. Unlike other brands that manufacture in Vietnam, the workers at these factories are provided with safe working conditions and fair wages as well as standard working hours.  

Some of my favourites:


8. Cuyana  

This label follows the motto “fewer, better things”. They believe you don’t need to buy a lot of things that don’t last and better to buy one or two things that are good quality. The brand chooses manufacturers that are close to raw materials so there is less travelling and sourcing items.  

Some of my favourites:


9. Amour Vert 

This brand is very much about minimising their waste by making small quantities of clothing in the US with a focus on sustainable options for materials, like organic cotton. The company plants trees every time a t-shirt is purchased with over 220,000 trees planted for far. There is an option to donate 1 dollar extra on top of your order to plant a tree. 

Some of my favourites:


10. Everlane  

Everlane is one of the brands that have nothing to hide. They show its markup proves as well as how each garment is created showing the factories and the conditions it is in. Although they may not be super environmentally focused it is still important that they are completely transparent with their customers, unlike certain fast fashion brands. 

Some of my favourites:



Featured photo by @charlotablunarova



Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

An Interview with Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO

‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Young Greens outside the Dáil

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO talked to us ahead of this year’s STAND Student Festival about climate migration and Friendship’s work in empowering at-risk communities who face environmental and human rights issues.

She emphasised the impact that climate change is having on the people of Bangladesh, and the importance of bringing the voices of these climate-affected communities to the fore so that everyone might be inspired to take climate action.

To learn more about the amazing work that Friendship SPO carries out in Bangladesh, follow the links below.

To learn more about the STAND Student Festival, click here.


Help make a difference.

Donate now


Friendship Newsletter 

Code of Ethics Newsletter