Most homeowners today are concerned about the impact their carbon footprint will have on the environment. With global warming a very real danger affecting our world today, it has become more important than ever for families to adopt eco-friendly practices for the health and preservation of our planet. Yet one area that people often fail to consider is the role their pets play in climate change. Dogs and cats also have a carbon footprint, and recent research shows that it is very substantial. Today’s conscientious pet owners want to find ways to display responsible pet ownership through the implementation of green practices to support their dog’s health and wellness as well as a sustainable, healthy living environment. What can thoughtful pet owners do to reduce their dog’s carbon footprint?
What is a Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint simply put is a measurement which represents the amount of greenhouse gases which are accumulated during the activities of daily living. These gases are expressed in tons of carbon dioxide units.
Greenhouse gases have a negative effect on the environment by trapping heat within the earth’s crust. Though some greenhouse gases are naturally occurring, basic processes of living contribute to these powerful emissions thus increasing our carbon footprint.
The largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil fuel burning. Fossil fuels are defined as energy sources which are non-renewable such as gasoline for our cars, home heating systems, and electricity-powered appliances and lights. Since we are heavily reliant upon all of these things to function in modern society, humans are to blame for up to ¾’s of the greenhouse gases which have a deleterious effect on our environment.
However, our dogs don’t drive cars or make any decisions regarding the elements that make up their home including heat or light. Just how do they contribute to a negative carbon footprint?
In their study “Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living,” New Zealand writers Robert and Brenda Vale assert that a large carbon footprint can be attributed to the food we feed our dogs. Since dogs eat food which is rich in protein, it is necessary for large tracts of land to be dedicated to housing the animals which go into the food supply for pets. They equate this to the carbon footprint sustained by the building and running of a mid-range SUV.
Though this study is viewed with some skepticism by scientists dedicated to research surrounding climate change, other scientists concur that our dogs do have a larger carbon footprint than is optimal to promote a healthy planet. It is estimated that up to 64 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions are contributed to the earth as a result of the food we feed our pets including its production and aftermath. A conservative guess places the number of domesticated animals in homes in the United States today at 163 million. With pets consuming up to 19 percent of equivalent calories to their human counterparts, it is not difficult to see the effect this has on our environment given that the vast majority of pet food finds its origins in some source of meat. Meat processing is one of the most dangerous contributors to climate change, incurring a massive carbon footprint all on its own.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences purports that it requires 24 kg of carbon dioxide to make a single kilogram of pork and over 1,000 kg for a similar amount of beef. Since the rearing of animals such as pigs and cattle requires an immense amount of resources such as property, water supply, and energy, it bears a large responsibility for a vast greenhouse gas effect.
A simple mathematical exercise estimates that animals consume approximately 30 percent of the amount of overall protein-based calories as their human counterparts and excrete 30 percent of their total of waste materials as well. This equates to the same amount of greenhouse gases produced by 6 million people. Experts agree that dogs are responsible for an annual amount of 64 million tons of methane and nitrous oxide, two chemicals with an extremely harmful effect on the earth’s ozone layer.
What Can Pet Owners Do to Reduce Their Dog’s Carbon Footprint?
There are many things dog owners can do to help reduce their dog’s carbon footprint. When it comes to green practices, little changes add up to a significant difference.Here is a list of some things each dog owner can do to help move towards a carbon neutral footprint:
- Use crate liners and bedding made from recycled materials
Instead of purchasing mass produced dog beds and blankets, pet owners can help preserve the earth’s environment by purchasing bedding made from recycled materials such as old quilts and other fabrics.
- Purchase green poop bags
Using biodegradable poop bags is another effective way to help reduce a dog’s carbon footprint. Cheap poop bags purchased from the dollar store or other department stores are often made of plastics which leach nutrients from the soil and do not break down over time and wear from the elements. Biodegradable bags are rated and designed specifically to support eco-friendly waste disposal practices.
- Recycle containers
Many pet food and toy products come in containers or packaging that can be properly recycled to help promote a healthy, sustainable environment by reducing waste.
- Feed a high quality diet
While we cannot reduce the amount of food a dog needs or change the requirements to process their diet, feeding a high quality diet ensures the dog needs less of the food to feel satisfied, to maintain a healthy weight, and to function optimally. This in turn reduces the amount of fecal matter the dog produces which also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases they contribute via their waste materials.
- Support food and toy companies who are committed to achieving a neutral carbon footprint
When selecting a diet for a dog, it is a good idea to not only research what goes into the food but also the practices employed to manufacture it. By carefully choosing a company that has publicly expressed a commitment to green food production and the achievement of a neutral carbon footprint, families can feel good about supporting a business with similar goals to their own.
- When shopping for a dog, buy from a local breeder, rescue or shelter.
Where a person purchases their pet from does contribute to their carbon footprint. It is far more eco-friendly to purchase a pet from a local shelter, rescue, or breeder than it is to fly one in from Europe or the opposite end of the country.
- Reduce heat during the day.
Dogs come equipped with insulation via their coats, and thus, do not require the same amount of home heating that we do to remain warm. As a green initiative, slightly lowering the heat during the hours of the day when only the dogs and cats are home is a simple means to save some money and reduce the home’s carbon footprint without impacting the pets’ quality of life in any way.
Looking to lower your dog’s carbon footprint? Try some of our top tips today. Every little bit helps when it comes to ensuring a brighter future for our world.