Whether you walk on two feet or four paws, everyone makes a mark on the planet. And although they’re animals, our pets are part of the human world — and with it, a consumer culture that inundates us with products for our loved ones. So for responsible pet owners who adore dogs as man’s best friend and cats as roommates who sometimes want to be left alone, it simply means reconsidering how they care for their fur babies. Read on for impactful steps you can take to reduce your carbon pawprint as a pet parent.
Adopt from a shelter
Because what better way to embark on eco-friendly pet parenthood than by adopting a sweet soul who needs love and care and will forever appreciate you making them a member of the family? Millions of shelter pets need homes — and face euthanasia if they can’t find one. By adopting from a shelter, imagine how many resources — food, toys, medical care, paid staff — are freed up to help another animal in need. Shelter pets are also just cool — often coming out of their shelter shells to reveal the sweetest and most loyal personalities.
Practice responsible waste management
It’s not just polite to pick up after your pet — the fact is, their waste can prove harmful to the environment if not properly managed. Rain, for example, will sweep it into local waterways, where it can contaminate human drinking sources. If you haven’t already, switch from plastic bags to green ones. While a compostable or biodegradable bag is best, even a paper one will do. When buying a green bag, look for ones made from renewable and plant-based materials. (But avoid those scented with synthetic fragrances, since they probably contain toxins.) If you can, the best way to dispose of pet waste is to compost it — don’t use it to fertilize edible plant gardens — or flush it down the toilet.
Green up your pet’s health
With so many pups and cats adopted during the pandemic, the pet care market is booming. And there are so many options now available to pet parents. You can do your part by purchasing products that promote environmental sustainability. For example, you can use grooming and food products that are sustainably sourced or packaged with recycled or recyclable materials.
Often, what’s good for the environment is also good for your pet’s health. You may have heard that common lawn pesticides can kill your canine, but what about the ones in your pup’s flea collar? Conventional flea poisons include pesticides that accidentally sicken and kill thousands of dogs each year. In most of these products, organophosphates are the main problem. But do you have to use hazardous chemicals to kill fleas and ticks? Several non-toxic alternatives, like soapy water and electric flea traps, can do the job in a greener way. As always when it comes to your pet’s health, first consult your veterinarian.
Limit energy consumption and plastic waste
Your pet’s carbon pawprint is a real thing — whether it’s the energy you use grooming them or washing their bedding. So, do what you can, even if it’s as simple as switching to energy-efficient bulbs. (Because nobody wants to leave their pet home alone in the dark.) And just as people rely too much on plastic — for containers, utensils, straws, to name a few items — so can their pets. So, let them dine and drink from stainless steel or ceramic bowls.
Support sustainable businesses
Just as you should when you’re shopping for yourself, seek out local businesses that have a track record of engaging in sustainable practices. By buying local, you’re not only contributing to the economy, but you are reducing your own carbon emissions — the less distance a product has to travel, the less fuel is consumed to transport it.
Be intentional about food
Consider purchasing food that is responsibly sourced with sustainable ingredients. You’ll be supporting a healthier pet and planet! Pets are fed as much as 20% more than is necessary, according to the latest research. Too much food means unnecessary food waste. It doesn’t do your pet’s health any favors, either. And it’s a myth that domesticated canines are good at regulating their food intake. Most dogs will dine whenever food is available, so you need to monitor their eating habits.
DIY dog treats
Save money, avoid wasteful packaging, and keep pets from consuming questionable ingredients by making their snacks. Research easy, animal-friendly biscuit recipes, or feed them pet-safe people foods. As always, moderation is key, and check with your vet before feeding your pet anything new.
Choose eco-friendly toys
Our pets spend hours a day playing and chewing. So, make your pet’s play planet-friendly. Consider what “junk” of yours might be your furry friend’s new favorite toy — whether it’s a knotted T-shirt or old ball. (Just make sure it’s safe.) You can even try to make your own. Why are many dog toys bright red when canines can’t see that color? Because the toys aren’t marketed to dogs — they are marketed to their owners. But dogs don’t share our sensibilities. They don’t care about fashion, and they don’t discriminate between new, brand-name toys and ones upcycled from ordinary stuff lying around your house. Here are some starter ideas for upcycling your pet’s next accessory:
Rope toy: Tie an old T-shirt into knots.
Chew toy: Stick a plastic bottle in a sock.
Puppy sweater: Use old kid’s clothes from the attic.
Remember that our pets don’t care about how fancy things are, they simply love being your fur baby. So, think twice about how you may be increasing your carbon pawprint. Swapping a bright-colored toy for an old T-shirt will keep your pet happy — while also helping the Earth stay green.