Grassroots ‘Veg Action’ group champions power of eating more veg, more often
A volunteer-run sustainability group in the Macedon Ranges is inspiring residents and eateries to try plant-based for the planet.
With global crises unfolding, including an ongoing pandemic and recent record-breaking floods in Australia, it’s easy to feel powerless about the state of our planet. One of the best ways to build resilience and hope is to join up with like-minded people to make a difference.
A grassroots sustainability group in central Victoria is doing just that.
Local action, global impact
The Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group is a volunteer-run association with 13 action groups, all tackling different aspects of environmental protection. One of these is Veg Action which focuses on encouraging residents to “eat more veg, more often”.
Changing the way we eat is the most effective action an individual can take to reduce their environmental footprint – which makes sense when we consider that around 40 percent of the Earth’s habitable land is currently used to raise and feed farmed animals. Fortunately, this also presents a solution that’s good for us and animals too: embracing a more plant-based diet.
Veg Action is dedicated to helping people make this sustainable, nutritious – and delicious – shift through a range of projects. These include online resources such as their Facebook group that helps people transition to eat less (or no) animal products, and their website that connects residents with to local fruit and veg growers in the Macedon Ranges. In-person events such as potluck lunches and vegan-cheese-and-wine nights invite community members to discover the joy of plant-based options, and annual vegan recipe competitions encourage creativity in the kitchen.
Introducing the Edgy Veg Awards
Veg Action’s latest venture is their newly-launched Edgy Veg Awards. A first-of-its-kind in Australia, this initiative incentivises cafes to create new, or feature their existing, plant-based dishes for a chance to win prize money.
The competition is open throughout the month of April, and Veg Action hope to see a greater uptake of people trying vegan fare who might usually default to meat dishes.
Volunteer Claire Rowland is project managing the awards and has been overwhelmed by the response, both from enthusiastic eateries embracing the chance to expand their vegan menu offerings, and local residents and visitors delighted to see this shift.
“So many people have come up to me full of excitement about the Edgy Veg Awards saying that finally there are more plant-based options in the Macedon Ranges,” she says. “It warms my heart – that’s what it’s all about really, creating change, bringing joy and health to people, and at the same time reducing harm to animals and the environment.”
As a nation that loves to eat out (and order in), ensuring the availability of great vegan options in food service outlets such as restaurants, cafes and other catering settings is a vital part of the equation.
Group member Lucy Campbell says, “Veg Action is all about supporting and enabling our community to make positive dietary changes, and removing barriers. People are already highly motivated to embrace plant-based eating, so ensuring there are easy and enticing dishes available when eating out or ordering in is a key way to help them put their diet-change goals into action.”
Diet change not climate change
According to a major 2019 report, 42 percent of Aussies are eating less or no meat, with environmental concerns a common motivator. This is part of a major trend towards conscious consumer choices that are kind to the planet and animals.
And, while system-level change is essential, the good news is that people power matters. Just last month, a major new campaign launched in the UK off the back of scientific findings that citizens in wealthy countries “have primary influence over 25-27% of the emissions savings needed by 2030.” Of six actions they are calling on us all to try – starting now – switching to a plant-based diet has the most significant impact.
In it together
Australian research published last year found that concern about climate change is prevalent throughout our population, with over 80 percent of us considering it a personal problem. The same researchers have also found that taking positive climate action is one of the most common – and most effective – antidotes to eco-anxiety, with environmental volunteering offering an opportunity to create change, connect with like-minded people, and strengthen our resilience.
Lucy Campbell from Veg Action can attest to this. “Everyone works to their strengths and interests and together we have created a great program of activities and events to move forward the sustainable food agenda,” she says. At the same time, volunteering with the Veg Action group offers sustaining personal connections. “We have a fabulous committee at Veg Action that have been working together for so long now we have all become firm friends.”
Lead image: Yuri A on Shutterstock