The carbon footprint left behind by our beloved household pets is unfortunately in many cases a large one. From basic care, such as food, water, and shelter to the added extras, like toys, treats, and bedding, required by household pet owners-the environmental resources used and the long term impact of even a 4 pound Chihuahua or a small cat can quickly become significant. For most true pet lovers, the thought of giving up the family pet to become more eco-friendly is out of the question. So, what can you do as a responsible, environmentally conscious pet owner to reduce your furry friend’s carbon footprint?
Adopt your pet from a shelter.
How is this eco friendly? While it does not reduce your personal pet’s personal carbon footprint, it helps reduce the overall pet population as your new family friend was not bred by a breeder for profit-and most shelters spay and neuter pets before adopting them out.
Really discuss medical treatment with your veterinarian.
Does your cat’s lifestyle truly require that he receive every marketed vaccine-or can a few be declined while still protecting him from disease and illness? Are there natural treatments available for a given illness or disorder? Take the time to really understand the pros, cons and alternatives available to your pet’s health.
Make your own pet food-or buy from a local source.
The pet food business is a big one with quite an environmental impact. Making pet food at home does require some research to ensure that your dog or cat receives all of the vitamins, nutrients and proper nutrition-but, it can be done. If you opt to use a specialty pet food shop or local pet bakery that also offers a pet food service, make sure that their ingredients are locally produced. Not only does avoiding commercial pet food reduce your pet’s carbon footprint, your pet will benefit from a more natural diet.
Buy pet products locally.
Dogs and cats are carnivores and it is not likely that you are raising meat for your pet’s dinner in your suburban backyard-but, check with nearby local growers and producers or markets participating in “buy local” initiatives. Consider buying locally for other pet products as well. Check for crafters and pet product producers in your area known to use local ingredients in their products. You’ll reduce environmental impact and support your local economy at the same time.
Practice proper waste disposal.
Unfortunately, the biological composition of dog and cat waste is not very environmentally friendly by nature. Using biodegradable waste bags and eco friendly kitty litter help reduce your pet’s carbon footprint. There are a growing number of pet waste removal systems available-but, some are not approved in all areas, so it is important to be sure that you are complying with local environmental efforts.
Be kind to the local ecosystem.
Understand your pet’s impact on the local environment. Is your outdoor cat killing off the wildlife for sport in a five block radius? Ensuring that your pet’s waste is disposed of properly and not left to contaminate local water resources is only part of your role in reducing your pet’s carbon footprint and protecting your local resources.
Re-think the necessities.
It’s easy to spoil your little furry baby-and commercial businesses make it even easier. Does your dog need a filled toy box of chew toys or six leashes in a variety of colors? Take a step back and minimize the gear to the true necessities. Less stuff, local stuff, healthier stuff yields less environmental impact of pet ownership.
Use and reuse.
Rather than buying new pet toys, clothes or gear, try recycling and reusing items already on hand instead. Look at thrifty, do it yourself, or green themed websites for ideas on turning common household items into pet supplies.
Try green grooming.
If you have leafed through a pet supply catalog and were overwhelmed by the perfumes, shampoos, flea treatments, nail polishes, and more designed just to beautify your beloved pooch or feline, then you know that pet grooming is big business as well. Turn to homemade alternatives or environmentally friendly products. Cutting out some of the chemical laden grooming supplies helps reduce your pet’s carbon footprint and may yield a healthier best friend too.
Recycle that annoying pet fur collecting on the couch.
Recycle the cat’s used fur? There are artisans ready to accept your pet’s shed coat and spin it into yarn suitable for use in creating handbags, hats, and more. Some pet owners add their pet’s fur to compost bins as well.
Sources: Personal experience & education in environmental science