Our pets are part of the climate problem. These tips can help you reduce their carbon footprint


Our four-legged friends don’t drive fuel-intensive SUVs or use energy absorbers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the climate. In fact, researchers have shown that pets play an important role in the climate crisis.

But what does the Barkley Whiskers have to do with our warm planet? It’s the products we buy for them that need a closer look.

Their meat-rich diet is the biggest contributor to their carbon footprint, which requires an abundance of energy, land, and water to produce. The production of pet food produces huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

According to a 2017 study, feeding dogs and cats the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide in the United States each year. This is the same as the impact of 13.6 million cars on the road. And if our furry friends constituted a separate country, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption after China, the United States, Brazil and Russia, according to UCLA professor and study author Gregory O’Kane.

But don’t panic. Saying goodbye to your best friends is not the answer.

In addition to all the happiness they bring, pets have a tangible positive impact on our physical and mental health. Having a family pet is associated with lower stress, lower heart attacks, lower rates of depression, and higher self-esteem.

“Our work does not mean that we are ‘against’ pet breeding,” said Pim Martins, a professor of sustainable development at Maastricht University and someone who has researched the impact of pets on the planet. “There are a lot of benefits too. Just be aware of the ‘side effects’.”

So, what should an anxious pet parent do? Here are some ways to reduce the environmental impact of your pets while still caring for your furry fleet.

First, and most importantly – responsible owners who are considering making major changes to their pet’s diet should discuss it with their vet to ensure it is appropriate for their animal’s needs.

In fact, if you’re a proud cat owner, you shouldn’t even think about changing their diet. Cats are omnivores — they should eat meat, according to Angela Frimberger, a veterinarian with Vets for Climate Action.

On the other hand, dogs are omnivores and don’t necessarily need to eat meat at every meal — let alone sirloin.

“I sincerely want my pets to be fed a good quality, nutritionally appropriate diet for them,” Frimberger said. “But for most healthy pets, the tendency to feed higher quality ingredients is down to our habit of seeing our pets needs in terms of what we like, rather than what they actually need or like. We must remind ourselves that what attracts us does not necessarily mean nutritional quality. Actual pets.

Frimberger notes that there are some new nutritional developments on the market that are worth researching, especially for dogs, including lab-grown meat. A 2014 study found insects to be a good, nutritious source of protein for pets — and they’re not likely to kill your mate (unlike humans, who may find eating such creatures revolting).

“Insect-based pet foods can be nutritionally complete and are beginning to appear in markets all over the world,” Frimberger said. “It could also be a solution for some pets with food allergies to traditional protein sources.”

And of course, only feed your pet the amount of food they need – they will be healthier and feel better too if they are not overweight.

While items like toys, bowls, litter, litter bags, and leashes are often essentials for your pet, looking at their durability, supply chains, and whether they can be recycled is just as important as the product itself.

For cats, find a better eco-friendly option that cats will accept, such as those made from organic materials, rather than clay. Although clays are minerals found naturally in soil, they must be mined, which contributes to soil erosion, habitat destruction, and groundwater pollution.

For dogs, choose biodegradable stool bags and always pick them up, no matter where you are. Research shows that not getting rid of puppy poop can cause harmful microorganisms like roundworm, Escherichia coli and Giardia to survive in your yard for up to four years, which is a risk to human health.

Okin recommends flushing pet feces directly into the toilet.

“Our water system is designed to handle toxic waste and keep those pollutants out of the environment,” Oken said. Just make sure you don’t wash other things in there too – like non-washable pet litter bags or cat litter. Stool only.

And while it may be tempting to dress up your little ones for various walks and holidays, it is important to purchase items with the true welfare of the pet in mind. In other words, ask yourself: What does your pet really need, and what would you buy just to satisfy the urge to shop?

“We need to think about the real needs of pets rather than our motivation to consume,” Frimberger said.

Small pets — including things like mice, birds, and turtles — have less climate impact.

The general rule is that larger pets will have a greater climate impact than smaller animals, mainly because they need more food. So you might consider smaller strains or species if you’re aiming to reduce your impact on the planet. Chihuahua’s carbon footprint will be much smaller than, say, a Saint Bernard.

You can also think about how some animal breeds tend to have more health issues.

“Avoiding animals with known health problems will reduce the need for veterinary intervention, which has a carbon footprint and, most importantly, will reduce unnecessary suffering in terms of poor health and well-being,” said Gudrun Ravits of Vet Steen.

And for those who are not at all fuzz, hugs and saliva – you are in luck.

“Rodents and small birds are great options,” Oken said. “Snakes, turtles, and reptiles can have really little effect, too, for those inside of them.”

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