Reflections on the Leiden University Green Office Vegan Challenge – What is veganism?

Last October the Leiden University Green Office took part in the Vegan Challenge: a challenge to eat only plant-based food for a month. This month we will reflect on the vegan challenge with some information and fun facts about veganism and the experiences of the vegan challenge participants and more experienced vegans. This blog will take you through the basics of veganism and will discuss the effects it has on the environment, as well as some useful tips if you are considering to become (partly) vegan yourself!

Tell me more about veganism…

Firstly, what exactly is veganism? Veganism is “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”[1] This basically means that a vegan has a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey – as well as products like leather and any products that are tested on animals. This blog will only focus on the diet part of veganism, as this is also what the vegan challenge comes down to.

There are several positive effects often mentioned relating to a vegan diet. Besides preventing animal cruelty and suggested health effects, switching to a vegan diet has a big positive impact on the environment. And this is why.

Since the world population is going to increase from 7 to 10 billion people by 2050, the biggest challenge we are facing now is how we are going to feed all these people. Next to population increase, wealth is increasing and more people are demanding a rich Western diet relying heavily on meat and dairy products. By 2050 we need even more mass food production to feed all these mouths, but the Earth still has a limited area available for food production  (note: the quality and quantity of available agricultural land is declining as well because of desertification, deforestation and other ecological issues caused by global climate change).

Diets consisting of a huge amount of meat and animal products are a waste of these scarce resources: animals consume a lot more protein, water and calories than they produce. So, instead of livestock, many more plants could be grown on the same amount of land.


Therefore a varied vegan diet requires only a third of the land needed for a meat-based Western diet. In addition: 3.5 billion people could eat of the food currently fed to livestock. Quite shocking, isn’t it?

There are so many more positive effects veganism has on the environment, but another fact is that a vegan diet can be hard to adopt; especially for students living with roommates, regularly sharing meals and eating out. To help you out, Leiden University Green Office has looked up some tips for those of you who would like to try a vegan diet!

  1. Feeling hungry is not done

Do not forget that a vegan meal is bigger than a meat and dairy-based meal. Compensate for these ingredients with plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts and grains such as pasta, rice, couscous and quinoa. Oh, some peanut butter can quiet you down as well…

A tasty vegan-proof bowl

  1. Prepare yourself

Prepare yourself when you want to start eating vegan: nothing is as awful as feeling hungry during a busy day at uni. Read about the nutrients you need and inspire yourself with tasty recipes on the internet. You will find loads of new ingredients for your vegan meals!

  1. Be positive and stay positive

Start your vegan challenge positively and see it as something positive you are going to try. Do not get caught up in your own rules or let people around you get you down by mentioning all the things you are not allowed to eat. Focus on learning to love to cook, try new cuisines and explore what works best for you.

Have you participated in the vegan challenge? Or, are you going to try to eat more plant-based foods? Let us know your experiences!


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