Pets bring a lot of positive benefits into our lives. Studies show that they help keep us happy, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and they can help us stay fit. However, pets can have a surprisingly negative impact on the earth.
The impact a person or thing has on the earth is called a carbon footprint - the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, thing, etc.
In the case of pets, this includes the carbon emitted by the creation of the products they use, the transportation of those products from where they are made to your home, the resources needed to grow the meat and vegetables their food is made of, and their waste. When this impact is made by a pet, it’s commonly called a “carbon pawprint."
A 2009 study by New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington concluded that pet dogs have carbon pawprints double that of a typical SUV. Cats are better than dogs but they still leave a carbon pawprint equal to that of driving a compact car for a solid year.
According to the American Pet Products Association, It's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States alone. Together, they have a significant impact on our environment.
So what can you do to lessen the impact of your pet on the earth? You’ve probably heard all of the standard things you can do to help your pet go green like picking up your dog’s poop, using natural, biodegradable cat litters, and using environmentally-friendly cleaners.
Here are 5 simple, unique things you might not have heard of though:
1. Buy a digital ID tag for your pet – Instead of throwing out your pet’s tag and getting a new one every time you move or get a new phone number, get one that you can use over and over again. A digital ID tag, like one from PetHub.com, links to an online profile you can update every time your contact information changes.
2. Don’t overfeed your pet – The production of meat, and beef in particular, takes a large toll on the environment because of the resources it takes to produce that meat. In addition to potentially making your pet fat and hurting their health, feeding your pet more than they need (check the package for feeding recommendations) uses more “protein-producing resources” than are needed. As a bonus, feeding your pet less means they will produce less waste so you’ll be picking up the back yard or scooping the litter box less.
3. Consume fewer things – Don’t buy your pet things they don’t need and choose products with less packaging. Ask yourself if they really need that extra collar or that fifth costume. Choose to order online from companies that use less shipping materials or use recycled packing materials.
4. Recycle – Donate gently used pet supplies like toys, bowls, blankets, coats, etc. to a shelter or rescue to reduce the need for new materials and help keep stuff out of landfills. Also, be sure to recycle the packaging of what you do buy and choose products that are made with recycled materials when you can.
5. Shop locally made – Buying what your pet needs from a local pet store reduces shipping and transportation over ordering stuff to be delivered directly to your door. However, a lot of products on store shelves still may have had a long journey to get there. You can further reduce the need for transporting these items by buying dog food, treats, toys, beds, etc. at local farmers markets or from a local company.
There are a lot of ways to help your pets have less of an impact on the environment. The choices can be overwhelming and not every option is practical for your lifestyle though. Remember, it’s not about doing everything right, it’s about doing one or two simple things right. If everyone made even one small change, together it could have a big impact.