Average size dogs have the carbon footprint of an all wheel drive SUV driving 12,500 miles a year. (This primarily comes from the large amount of meat they eat). Other pets have a serious impact, too: cats produce a carbon footprint of .15 hectares, which is equivalent to a small Volkswagon driving around for a year. Even two hamsters produce the carbon footprint equivalent to a plasma TV. And even a goldfish has a footprint equivalent to two cell phones.
So, we set out to create a list that would help us decrease our pet’s impact on the environment. We also want to keep our pets healthy and avoid exposing them to environmental toxins. And, luckily, as is often the case, we found that these two things almost always go hand in hand.
Decrease Your Pet’s Carbon Footprint and Impact on the Environment
- When you’re shopping for pet foods and other products, look for items with no packaging (like the “bulk foods” section of the pet store), minimal packaging, or, last, recyclable packaging.
- Shop mindfully. Pet toys don’t undergo rigorous testing, so the cheap squeaky toys overflowing in the dollar bin come with a wealth of unknown risks, such as BPA, lead, arsenic and other potential health hazards. “Green” pet lovers have created a demand for products made from renewable resources, repurposed and recycled products, including everything from recycled plastics to organic cotton to hemp. West Paw Designs rigorously tests their pet products so they don’t contain BPA or other harmful chemicals http://www.westpawdesign.com/.
- As we said, the majority of your pet’s carbon footprint comes from the amount of meat they consume. SO, ask your butcher for fish heads or beef scraps for your dog or cat. And when you cook meat at home, save the scraps for your pet. This is meat that would otherwise go to waste, but it perfectly healthy for your pet, and will help you stretch that pricey bag of dog or cat food a little further.
- Pick up your dog’s poop!! There are many reasons to do this, first and foremost because it’s gross to leave it lying along the trail, but also because it impacts our water quality. Domestic pet waste carries different bacteria than wildlife.
- But because most of us already pick up after Rover, here’s the next step: Instead of using plastic bags (which are petroleum based products and don’t biodegrade) to pick up your dog’s waste, use biodegradable corn-based bags. You can buy these at many different stores as well as countless websites. It’s easy to find them for less than ten cents a piece. You can also use these for emptying cat litter. There are some great options…
a). 100% biodegradable and compostable
b). No polyethylene is used in the production process.
c). Naturally, bags made from corn instead of polyethylene is a major advance in environmental technology.
d). Only GMO free certified corn is used.
e). Soy-based inks and dyes are CEN certified for restricted use of heavy metals.
f). DEBIO certified for use in organic agriculture.
g). Certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute to meet the ASTM D6400 specification. Meets California SB 1749 requirements.
h). Shelf stable, just like paper plates or paper towels. There are no chemical additives to enhance decomposition. The bags biodegrade naturally when expose to the earth’s elements and micro-organisms in the soil. 9). They “breathe”, which allows heat and moisture to escape or evaporate. This feature reduces bacterial build-up of collected waste, thus reducing odor.
i). Will decompose in a controlled composting environment in 10-45 days, leaving no harmful residues behind.
6. Choose an eco-friendly cat litter! Avoid highly perfumed clay-based litter. The clay is often strip mined, which has obvious very serious repercussions for our environment, and in addition, it is not biodegradable. More importantly for your kitty, the same ingredient that causes the litter to clump –sodium bentonite – can be inhaled by your cat in tiny particles, or can be ingested when they clean themselves. For some cats this can wreak havoc on their digestive system. In addition, the fragrance that is added to the clay is made of unnamed chemicals – it’s bad for the environment and bad for your cat. Good alternatives include wheat-based litters, wood-based litters like cedar shavings or pine pellets, or if you want to try being super eco-friendly and do-it-yourself, you can use shredded newspaper.
7. Domestic cats can have a serious impact on small wildlife and birds. For the 7.7 millions cats in England, 188 million wild animals are killed each year. SO, if you have a cat, try to keep it inside. If that’s not an option, try to keep your cats indoors from dusk to dawn when it is most likely to hunt. You can also put a bell on your cats collar. (Although it’s debatable if they really work). This one is especially important if you live near open space.
8. When you walk your dogs in natural areas – when you’re on trails – it is very important to leash your dog. Dogs kill and harass wildlife in every year, most notably mule deer. During peak seasons – like spring – The Utah Division of Wildlife reports responding to about six calls per two weeks regarding wildlife being chased by domestic dogs. They report that often, when they arrive, the deer is injured and has to be killed. Even if these wildlife are not hurt – like moose and elk often aren’t – the chase can use up wildlife’s valuable energy reserves, and cause it to avoid the area where the encounter took place, which can be a valuable feeding, calving, or resting area. Recent studies in Idaho and California are showing that on trails with even a presence of dogs, there is a significantly lower presence of wildlife in the vicinity. So, leash Fido, especially during spring.
9. Non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products are now becoming mainstream. Many of the “big brands” are now making greener versions of their products including laundry detergents and dishwasher detergent, which are readily available at most local grocery stores. The fewer toxins released in to the environment, the healthier your home will be, for you and your pet. Keep in mind that since your pet is closer to the floor (much like small children), they will be more intensely exposed to any products you use there – think about the products you mop with, or polish your floor with.
10. Avoid plastic bowls for your pet’s food and water dishes. Use ceramic or stainless steel bowls to avoid exposing your pet to BPA or other chemicals.
11. Keep it simple. Try to use high quality pet food with a protein first, and an ingredient list that you can understand. Avoid heavily packaged and processed treats designed to resemble human junk food. (Does your cat really need corn-based bright red and orange miniature fishies?) This will help you and your pet avoid unhealthy preservatives and dyes.