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  • Davin Hutchins

Lessons from the Less Meat, More Veg Selfie Challenge



This summer, the Greenpeace's global Less Is More campaign wanted to do something more engaging during World Meat Free Week as it was our third year participating in the anniversary. This campaign was always designed as taking a nuanced approach to make "less meat, more veg" a normal lifestyle choice, as opposed to narrow vegetarian or vegan advocacy. Our rationale is while we of course support these choices, they are not for everybody. While many people forgoing meat and dairy do so for animal welfare reasons, the movement is growing because of concerns of the climate and biodiversity impacts.





Livestock contributes as much to climate change as all cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships on earth – about 14%, according to the FAO. Humans have also deforested the size of two Germanys in the Amazon rainforest since 1970 for cattle grazing and soy feed. To reach critical mass on moving the needle on the impacts of the meat and dairy industry on climate, we needed to show that anybody can be part of the solution.


As co-designer of this public push, our approach was to convince key influencers of all stripes as well as supporters and volunteers to make a personal advocacy video with a pledge to forgo eating meat and dairy for at least one week. As they embark on the journey, we asked them to make a selfie to challenge their followers and friends to do the same. Lifestyle and culture changes are a key component of what contributes to lasting climate mitigation. For example, many people who end up owning an electric vehicle, do so after a test drive behind the wheel of a Tesla, Nissan Leaf, Bolt. The Selfie Challenge was basically inviting people to "test drive" a part-time vegetarian diet.


We reached out to a dozen enthusiastic Greenpeace offices to participate - Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the UK. We approached foodie and pop culture influencers in each of those countries that had a devoted following on Instagram, as our data consistently shows organic Instagram engagement remains high. We selected a mix of people you would expect to advocate for a low-meat diet, eco-conscious gourmet chefs for example, and those who would be considered the last people who'd take the challenge (rappers and bodybuilders). This would reinforce that anyone could do it.


The video above gives a nice cross section of some of the personalities we recruited. Once we shared the climate facts and the impacts of our food system on the planet, many influencers became converted to advocating for change. We modeled this off of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge where we asked people to pledge to forgo meat for one week (or longer) in conjunction with World Meat Free Week and then pass that challenge on to a friend.


We were really encouraged in that more than 12 Greenpeace offices agreed to join this online campaign.

With their participation, we managed to generate 929 posts from 534 contributors worldwide with the #LessMeatMoreVeg hashtag on Instagram. This collection of posts received 356,522 likes and 9,339 comments and reached over 6.6 million people.


The challenge has created a “Halo effect” on the hashtag use. After the launch, the hashtag is used around 20 times per day, while it was used up to 3 times per day before the campaign. An important indicator of campaign’s success and virality is the ability to encourage user-generated content. Influencers and users generated 53% of the posts, Greenpeace offices created the rest.The most active offices were Canada, Brazil, Poland, Germany and GPSEA. 


Brazil really blew this one out. The office created nine posts on Facebook with a reach of 322,014 people and four posts on Instagram with a 155,066 reach. They also produced live video streams on Instagram together with their partners Mercy for Animals and the Brazilian Vegetarian Society. Brazil had 16 influencers participating in the challenge and they posted more than 150 stories on Instagram and their posts had a total of 40,183 likes and 1,505 comments.


 All in all, the #LessMeatMoreVeg Selfie Challenge exceeded our expectations but also taught us a few things about how to plan our next online mindset/consumption campaign.