Sustainable Pet Care

Green Tips | February 16, 2018

The title of Robert and Brenda Hale’s 2009 book, Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, is just one example of strong reactions to the carbon foot-paw of domestic cats and dogs. Particular areas of concern are water quality, carbon usage, disease, and wildlife. There are an estimated 500-987 million dogs and up to 752 million cats in domestication. That’s one domesticated cat or dog per 5-8 people. These animals are here to stay—after all, we’ve been domesticating cats and dogs for 10,000 and 15,000 years respectively—and so is their environmental carbon paw-print. We know that opening up the rabbit hole that is the environmental impact of pets can really be a hair-raising proposition, so we have compiled a list of seven tips to help you become an eco-friendly pet owner and pet-care consumer, minus the stress of reading through the research… so you don’t have to eat your dog.  

  1. Know the statistics about dog and cat environmental footprints. In 2017, Professor Gregory Okin performed such a study. He found that dog and cats’ diets are significant enough to affect national food consumption stats in the US. The 161 million dogs and cats in the United States eat 25% of the animal waste produced in the nation, and consume 19% of all calories. If these cats represented a country, they would be the fifth – ranked meat consumers in the world behind geographical behemoths Russia, Brazil, USA, China. These pets produce 5.1 million tons of excrement per year, as much as 90 million Americans. For each human being, pets produce 55% as much feces. And that’s before mentioning that, according to The Guardian, 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight. Simply put, cats and dogs are prime contributors in our C02 emissions.

  2. Wash your cat and dog using simple, home-made solutions, using products you already have. Use the “fantastic four” home ingredients, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, and water, to wash your pet and clean up any messes. Baking soda is especially useful for cleaning odors—and giving your water-averse feline a dry bath—and the vinegar and lemon juice make a killer combination for cleaning accidents as well. You can also make your own shampoo in a myriad of different ways.

  3. Surround your pet with animal-friendly cleaning appliances and toys. Dogs age 7 times as fast as children. So health benefits and diseases get compressed in an accordion-like fashion, too. Chemically treated lawns, aerosol and fragrance-based cleansers, carpet cleaners, and fire retardants from upholstery can contribute to cancer rates in dogs and hyperthyroidism in cats.  But, fear not, for there is now an increasing amount of alternative toys on the market! Hemp animal toys and collars; bamboo bowls and heating / cooling mats (bamboo is a sustainable material) are environmentally friendly sourced products your animal can use to play, and not harm your pet in the process. You can also upcycle old items like suitcases to make beds and playpens for your animals.  

  4. Dispose of your pet’s feces in an environmentally sustainable way. Clay litter, which composes 95% of the cat litter on the market, comes from strip mines. That’s neither environmentally biodegradable, nor does it promote fair working practices. 74 million dogs in the US produce about 3/4 pounds of waste per day. Dog waste accounts for 30% of waterway pollutants, according to Sierra Club. Make your own cat litter by adding sandy clay soil to a box of baking soda. Biodegradable cat litters and dog poop bags can help you mitigate your pet’s environmental footprint, saving you from contributing to the millions of pounds of cat litter material that ends up in landfills each year, and the contamination of water and the spread of disease from left-out dog poop.

  5. Adopt a pet! There are 6-8 millions in animal shelters per year, with 4-million euthanized annually. According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million companion animals enter the US each year. 1.5 million are euthanized—a declining number—and 3.2 million are adopted each year. The other 2.8 million remain in-limbo.

  6. Seek out alternative pets! Birds, hamsters, reptiles, and horses use fewer resources and provide similar benefits such as friendship, verbal interaction, companionship, promoting self-care, and increased empathy. Chicks—not roosters—are super environmentally and non-invasive, friendly pets. They can turn kitchen food scraps into fertilizer, and eggs. What pet can beat that?!

  7. Consider a reduced-meat or vegan diet for your dog. The Livestock use takes up energy, land, water, other electric resources: One kilogram of chicken (2.2 pounds) produces 3.7 pounds of C02 per pound of meat; pork produces 23 pounds of C02 per pound of meat; and beef produces up to 1,000 pounds of C02 per pound of meat. This type of diet can reduce your dog’s carbon paw-print, but this approach won’t work for your carnivorous cat.

You have plenty of choices and opportunities to reduce your pet’s carbon footprint. The good news is that the market is beginning to adjust for pets’ natural carbon footprint. The above tips should give you plenty of food for thought on getting started, with the end result being, “No, you don’t have to eat your dog or cat.”

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