With the daunting threat of climate change, many of us are trying to make an effort to be more environmentally conscious in our daily lives. There are many ways we can try to promote a sustainable lifestyle. For example, we can take public transit to work, recycle our trash, or make more sustainable food choices. It all begins with considering our carbon footprint, the impact that each of us has on the planet through the resources we consume.
If you are a pet owner, have you considered the possible impacts your furry companion may have on the environment? What about the ways in which you could reduce these harmful effects? In the United States alone, there are over 179 million pets. These pets are invaluable for the companionship they provide. Yet, just like people, they need an enormous amount of resources including food, shelter, medicine, and other items. Pets in turn also produce millions of tons in waste each year. With so many pets, the environmental impact really adds up!
There are many reasons for this. Both cats and dogs normally eat a meat-based diet. Diets that include animal products are extremely energy-intensive. To make food for omnivores (or carnivores), livestock need food and water resources as well. A 50-lb dog requires roughly 500 lbs of food a year, and most of that will likely be meat. Dogs normally need more resources than cats, but our feline friends don’t get a pass. Outdoor cats have had a devastating impact on ecosystems throughout the world. These wayward house pets have threatened many bird species to the point of extinction.
Armed with this in mind, you may be thinking that there’s no way that having a pet could be a part of a sustainable lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be the case. Here are 10 suggestions that help make pet ownership more environmentally-friendly:
1. Adopt, Don’t Shop
Part of the reason why pets have such a huge impact on the environment is that there are simply too many of them. Pet overpopulation is a major problem in many places, and all those extra pets need a lot more resources! You can help out by adopting a homeless pet from a shelter, rather than supporting a breeder. There are many who would be grateful for you to take them home!
2. Spay/Neuter Your Pet
This goes along with point #1. You can further help curtail the pet overpopulation problem by making sure that your pets are spayed or neutered. Litters of kittens and puppies are cute, but when there are already far more of them than potential homes, it’s easy to see where the problem lies.
3. Keep Fluffy Indoors, & Fido on Leash
Cats are one of the worst culprits when it comes to threatened bird populations. Their natural instinct is to hunt, so protect native wildlife by keeping your kitty indoors! Dogs should be kept on a leash when outdoors to protect wildlife as well.
4. Think About What You Put In the Bowl
Consider environmentally-friendly options for feeding your pet such as green pet food. Most commercial pet foods are made from animal byproducts sourced from factory farms. This meat often comes from dead or diseased animals deemed unfit for human consumption. What’s worse is that when you buy these products, you’re supporting one of the least-green industries around. Consider organic alternatives which tend to be more sustainable. Also try switching out beef for chicken, as poultry requires far fewer resources to raise. You could even switch to a vegan diet for dogs to maximize your impact. Cats, however, must be fed a meat-based diet to remain healthy. Once those food bags are empty, be sure you’re recycling them if possible!
5. Pick Up After Your Pet
No one likes to deal with your dog’s mess, and waste left outside can enter watersheds or the ocean as part of runoff. Do the responsible thing and pick it up! Eco-friendly poop bags for dogs such as Wag Bags Doggie Clean-up Bags are the best option since regular plastic bags will remain in your local landfill for centuries to come. Use biodegradable bags when dealing with your cat’s litter as well, and stay away from clay! The clay in cat litter is normally strip-mined, which is devastating for the environment. Litter made from pine shavings tend to be a better option and have the added bonus of masking pet odors without artificial fragrances! It is possible to compost pet waste, but not recommended. Due to the high levels of bacteria found in dog and cat waste, it is unsafe to use in your vegetable garden.
6. Shop Sustainably
Pet stores are cram-packed with a dazzling variety of toys, clothes, and various goodies of all shapes and sizes. Yet a lot of these things are made from plastics and other unsustainable materials that are mass-produced and shipped over vast distances. Look for minimally-packaged toys and other goods. Keep an eye out for those made from recycled materials or from organic fibers. Better yet, consider making your own from reused materials you have at home! Your cat or dog won’t care if they have the flashiest thing from the store and will appreciate your homemade toys just as much.
7. Go Local
If possible, try to limit the fossil fuel consumption associated with your pet. See if you can take your pet to a vet or groomer in your neighborhood, rather than driving out of town. Take a longer walk to get to the dog park, and your pooch will enjoy the extra exercise as well!
8. Think Small
Owning a Great Dane is quite a bit more resource-intensive than having a small cat or a chihuahua. When looking for a four-legged companion, consider the fact that great things often come in small packages! Your smaller pet will not only be cheaper to own long-run but will need far less food and produce less waste. Regardless of the size of your pet, be sure not to overfeed them. Pet obesity is a major health issue, and all those extra calories end up as wasted resources.
9. Family, Not Fads
Owning a pet is a major commitment not to be taken lightly! Too many pets are bought and then abandoned when the novelty of their ownership wears out. Worse, some animals are simply released into the wild! In some cases, the pets survive and wreak havoc on native ecosystems as an invasive species. Do the right thing and honor the commitment you have with your pet. If you do end up having to re-home your companion, look to your local vet to find rescues who may be able to help. Also, be sure to tag your pet just in case they do manage to break free!
10. Offset Your Pet’s Waste
If all the above seem a bit daunting, you could consider purchasing green tags. These serve as energy credits, which you could buy to help offset the carbon emissions that your pet produces.
About the Author:
Mike is a happy pet owner. Despite all the potential negative impacts our pets can have on the environment, we must remember that it is not their fault. The problem is ours to solve. Pets help connect us to nature and foster our compassion for all living creatures. They give us so much and ask only for our care. This is why Mike owns dogfood.guide. Keeping our animals healthy and safe with the right food goes a long way.