Did you know that pets create approximately 64 million tons of greenhouse gases every year—the same amount as over 13 million cars? While their meat-heavy diets are largely to blame (they make up almost 30% of the U.S.’s environmental impact from meat consumption), our pets influence the environment in many other ways, too. From the costly effects of packaging materials for pet accessories to the 5 million tons of poop they produce each year, our cats’ and dogs’ have a heavy impact on the planet.
Since there’s no way we’re getting rid of pets (they’re family!), we should all look for ways to decrease their environmental footprint. Making a few simple changes to your pet’s lifestyle can make a big difference. Here are some of our favorites.
1. BUY PET FOOD IN BULK
Buying pet food in bulk is an easy way to lower both you and your pet’s environmental footprint. Not only will it lower the amount of packaging materials and waste required by additional purchases, you'll save yourself extra trips to the pet store thereby reducing gas consumption.
2. SPAY OR NEUTER
On the surface, spaying and neutering might seem a little barbaric. However, that could not be further from the truth. These procedures save literally millions of pets from euthanasia each year. Local animal shelters would be considerably less full, much happier places if every pet owner were to spay or neuter their cats and dogs.
3. DITCH CANNED FOOD
More so than dry food, canned pet food is often contaminated with toxins that could harm your pet. A 2017 study by the Ecology Center found the linings in most pet food cans contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and bisphenol A (BPA), hormone-disruptors which are known to cause considerable health problems in both animals and people.
4. BUY ORGANIC, SUSTAINABLE PET FOOD
Another easy—though sometimes costly—way to lower your pet’s environmental footprint is to buy organic, sustainable dog or cat food. Not only is it healthier, it reduces waste associated with industrial meat production. Click here for help on choosing an organic pet food option.
5. REUSE HUMAN FOOD AS PET FOOD WHEN SAFE
Reusing human food as pet food is another option for reducing waste associated with pet food production and transportation. If you have leftovers or other food that’s soon to be trashed, consider using it to supplement your dog or cat’s diet instead of throwing it out. Just make sure it’s pet-friendly food before handing it off to your animal friend. Here’s a list of human foods that should never be fed to your pet.
6. CHOOSE DIY AND RECYCLABLE TOYS AND PET PRODUCTS
Common plastic-based pet toys are not only a strain on the environment, but they’re often laced with chemicals that can make your pet sick. That’s why going DIY (sticks, socks, yarn, etc) and/or recyclable with pet toys is a no-brainer. It saves money, time, lowers your pet’s environmental impact, and allows you to reuse items you might have otherwise thrown out. In general, look for pet products (like beds, scratching posts, clothing, etc) made from natural materials and biodegradable packaging.
7. GO GREEN WITH YOUR LAWN CARE
Replacing chemical-based lawn care products with plant-based alternatives benefits animals, humans and the environment. Another way to make your lawn more pet-friendly is to choose herbs and other plant life that are edible and healthy for your pet. Check out this article for help cultivating a pet-friendly garden.
8. ADOPT DON'T SHOP
The benefits of rescuing a pet over purchasing one are well documented. Doing so saves animal lives, saves money, saves resources, has less adverse environmental effects, and discourages the unethical puppy mill industry.
9. PROTECT WILDLIFE FROM YOUR PETS
Did you know cats kill over 2 billion birds each year? In addition, they kill upwards of 12 billion other small land animals each year, such as snakes, lizards and rodents. That makes house cats one of the largest human-caused threats to wildlife in North America. There are several ways cat owners can help better this problem. Firstly, it’s important to keep cats indoors as much as is reasonably possible. Secondly, removing bird-attracting items from your yard—such as bird feeders, baths and food sources—is essential. The same approaches apply for dog owners, too.
10. GO MINIMAL
From toys, clothing and other accessories, the pet care industry would have you believe there’s innumerable items your pet can’t live without. In reality, apart from the essentials like medical care, food and water, there’s very little they need to live a full and healthy life. In fact, all these additional products only serve to worsen your pet’s impact on the environment. So the next time you’re considering purchasing another toy or cute outfit for your pup or kitty, ask yourself: “Do we really need this item, and is it worth the amount of waste it will create?”
11. AVOID TOXIC FLEA AND TICK CONTROL SOLUTIONS
Toxic, chemical-based pesticides are extremely damaging to the environment and our planet’s delicate ecosystem. Just as with your lawn care, going toxin-free with your pet’s pest control is one of the smartest moves you can make as a responsible pet owner. Doing so will not only lessen you and your family’s exposure to harmful toxins, but it might just save your pet’s life.
12. CHOOSE BIODEGRADABLE POOP BAGS OR OTHER ECO-FRIENDLY DISPOSAL OPTION
Dog feces poses more dangers than most pet owners think. Which is why it’s so important to properly dispose of dog poop. Following these simple guidelines will considerably lessen the negative impacts of your pup’s poo:
- Never throw poop bags in the regular trash
- Never put dog feces in your home’s compost—it’s full of dangerous bacteria
- Consider flushing it (but not in a septic system)
- If you live in a rural area, consider burying it (make sure it’s at least 5 inches underground and far removed from your home and garden).
- When it comes to bags, choose an eco-friendly, biodegradable option. But choose carefully, not all are created equal.
- Similarly, cat owners should consider eco-friendly cat litter alternatives.
13. DONATE PET PRODUCTS YOU NO LONGER USE
Nearly every pet owner has tons of extra, no-longer-used pet items lying around. The next time you do a thorough cleaning of your home, set aside all inessential pet products you find. If they’re in suitable shape, consider donating them to a local animal shelter. If they’re not in good shape, recycle them or try to find a way to reuse or re-purpose them.