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There is no doubt that pets give us unmatched companionship, but owning one can take its toll on the environment. In a book written by two New Zealand scientists, they suggest that owning a dog is equivalent to the carbon footprint of owning an SUV. We have some top tips for easing the impact while still keeping your furry, feathered, or even scaled best friends around.
Get your pet from a shelter or rescue
Finding a pet in need of a good home from your local shelter is more sustainable option than buying one from a pet store or breeder. In some cases the animal raised to be sold in stores may have traveled far, many coming from global sources and even horrifying puppy mills. The US Center for Disease Control has noted that imported pets raise issues of transporting illnesses, and that they are not closely regulated. There is of course also an increased environmental footprint to transport pets from far locations. By adopting a pet, you are not only saving the life of your rescue, but you are helping to stop the proliferation of pets bred under downright cruel conditions. PetFinder can help you locate pets at shelters in your area.
Spay or neuter your pet
There is an overabundance of pets without homes to love them. According to the ASPCA, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized each year because rescues cannot support the number of incoming pets without homes. To curb the population of unplanned births, and to keep the population down, it is best to spay or neuter. There are many organizations that offer low cost or even free procedures, so check in your area for your options.
Don’t overfeed your pet
Just like human food production, pet food production comes with a hefty carbon footprint. This is especially true for cats and dogs, who are carnivores and benefit from high protein diets. By feeding your pet more than they need, it increases the footprint and also puts them at risk. Overweight pets are more likely to be unhealthy, potentially requiring even more resources for your pet. Another tip is that if you feed your pet high quality food, without grains and other fillers, they won’t produce as much waste when it comes out the other end, which is even better for the environment.
Compost the waste
You could use compostable doggie bags to pick up poo, but if you want to do even more good for the environment, try adding the waste into a compost pile. Not only does composting remove pet waste from the environment where it can pollute groundwater and streams, but it can also can enrich soil. However, it is important to use good composting practices.
Buy from companies with sustainable practices
Look for companies that support environmental initiatives when you purchase products for your pet. Zukes, a maker of natural pet treats, incentives employees that bike or walk to work. Planet Dog offers pet products made from recycled materials, and also gives back through their foundation. West Paw offers pet products crafted from eco textiles, treats for pets made from organic ingredients, and uses sustainable manufacturing practices in their production. Your local pet shop should be to provide you with information on other companies with sustainable practices.