This may be a little-known fact about me. I have a degree in wildlife and environmental management. Environmental issues, and living an environmentally sustainable (as much as possible) lifestyle, are other things, besides my animals, that I have a strong passion for. Unfortunately, sometimes keeping pets and doing everything I can to reduce my personal impact on the environment are two things that clash. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help reduce your dog’s carbon paw print!
In their book, Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to gustainable living, authors Robert and Brenda Vale suggest that owning a dog is worse for the environment than driving an SUV! The authors suggested that owning a medium-sized dog has about twice the environmental impact as driving an SUV 10,000 miles. The authors chalk it up to the fact that dogs are large carnivores, and it takes a lot of land to sustain the animals that eventually provide food for Fido.
There are opponents to the book who point out reasons why pets may not actually be as bad for the environment as the Vale’s suggest. However, even if our pets are not as bad as driving an SUV, it’s probably safe to assume that they do have some negative impacts on the environment. Luckily for pet lovers, there are some steps we can take to help reduce our pets’ carbon paw prints!
Pet food is, most often, cited as being a big reason why owning a pet is not environmentally friendly. Food ingredients, both plant and animal, must be grown before it can be made into Fido’s food, and that takes land. Then you have all the manufacturing, packing, and shipping that it takes to turn those ingredients into pet food, and get that pet food to your pet’s bowl.
To overcome some of these issues, as well as to improve the health of their pets, some owners take their pet’s diet into their own hands. Feeding your dog a homemade diet takes more work than opening a bag of kibble. Owners interested in homemade diets should always make sure to do plenty of research first! But homemade diets, especially if you’re using locally sourced ingredients, can be more environmentally friendly, as well as healthier for your pets!
Don’t worry, there are options for owners who don’t want to deal with making homemade pet food. Why not start by making healthier homemade pet treats? Try to choose high quality pet foods, and avoid overly processed, unhealthy foods and treats. Your pet and the environment will be better off without them! If possible, select locally sourced foods or treats, or look for environmentally friendlier food brands. Some pet food packaging can be recycled, and try to use reusable stainless steel or ceramic food dishes rather than plastic (which usually needs to be replaced more often). You can read our post about the best material to use for pet bowls here!
Yup, I’m taking about pet waste. It may be the worst part of owning pets, but please remember to clean up after them! Pet waste negatively impacts the local environment if not picked up. It can make for some awfully upset neighbors as well! If you have to use bags, consider using biodegradable bags to clean up after your dog. If possible, cat owners should consider switching to paper or wood based cat litters. They are more environmentally friendly than your typical clay based litters.
Did you know that it’s actually possible to compost pet waste? Read more about it here!
Simple, cheap products such as baking soda and vinegar can be used to replace expensive, less environmentally friendly cleaning products. Vinegar works great for cleaning up after pet accidents, cleaning the insides of cages, and cleaning litter boxes. It’s nontoxic and much cheaper than alternative cleaning products.
These days, finding eco-friendly pet products is easy! A quick Google search turns up countless results for environmentally friendly dog products – everything from dog toys, beds, and leashes to dog clothes, and grooming products. An added benefit of environmentally friendly products is that they are not only healthier for the environment, but for your pet as well! If you can’t find or afford eco-friendly pet products, consider getting creative and making some of your own! Most pets aren’t picky, and would enjoy a homemade toy just as much as something store bought. An old sock can be just as much fun as a new toy, and a re-purposed blanket can be just as comfortable to a sleepy pet as an expensive new pet bed.
This one is hard, I know! When I got my first dog, Kitsune, I admit I went a bit crazy spoiling him. I spent a lot of money buying him all the ‘coolest’ dog toys. Now, 14 years later, I have more dog toys than I know what to do with! I spend a lot less on dog supplies these days. The key, for me, has been a combination of learning how to spot higher quality products, and using what we have. When one of my dog’s favorite toy breaks, I fix it, if I can, rather than replacing it. Or I encourage them to pick a new favorite out of our toy bin.
Buying higher quality items often times costs more at the time, but less in the long run because I try to select dog products that will last longer. I have a few harnesses and leashes, for example, that I have had for almost as long as I’ve had my two dogs. Replacing products less often means that fewer supplies are ending up a landfill. Believe me, my senior dog Kit doesn’t care at all that the leash I use to walk him is almost as old as he is. All he cares about is that he’s getting a walk!
If your dog outgrows supplies, toys, etc., consider passing them on to other pet owners rather than throwing them away. My local shelter is always happy to accept gently used dog items. I’ve even had a bit of luck selling dog supplies my dogs and I don’t use anymore.
Being more environmentally friendly has the added benefit of, more often than not, also being healthier for us and our pets! Remember that there is no reason to approach being environmentally friendly with an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Every little bit helps!
Comment below! Is there anything special you do to help reduce your pet’s carbon paw print?
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