April 22nd (2013) is Earth Day! While communities around the world celebrate with events such as planting trees, cleaning shores, and holding seminars about climate change, here on Paw Print Pet Blog we are (of course) concerned about pets!
Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living, a book by Robert and Brenda Vale, caused quite a stir among eco-conscious pet owners when it suggested that owning a dog is worse for the environment than driving a SUV. The authors suggested that owning a medium sized dog has about twice the environmental impact as driving a SUV 10,000 miles. The authors chalk it up to the fact that dogs are large carnivores, and it takes a lot of land to sustain the meat animals that eventually provide food for Fido.
There are opponents to the book who point out reasons why pets may not actually be as bad for the environment as the Vale's suggest. However, even if our pets are not as bad as driving an SUV, it's probably safe to assume that they do have some negative impacts on the environment. Luckily for pet lovers, there are some steps we can take to help reduce our pets' carbon paw prints!
Environmentally friendly feeding: Pet food is, most often, cited as being a big reason why owning a pet is not environmentally friendly. Food ingredients, both plant and animal, must be grown before it can be made into Fido food, and that takes land. Then you have all the manufacturing, packing, and shipping that it takes to turn those ingredients into pet food, and get that pet food to your pet's bowl.
To overcome these issues, as well as to improve the health of their pets, some owners take their pet's diet into their own hands by feeding homemade diets. It takes more work than opening a bag of kibble, and owners interested in homemade diets should always make sure to do plenty of research first! But homemade diets can be more environmentally friendly, as well as healthier for your pets!
Don't worry, there are options for owners who don't want to deal with making homemade pet food. Why not start by making healthier homemade pet treats? Try to choose high quality pet foods, and avoid overly processed, unhealthy foods and treats - your pet and the environment will be better off without them! If possible, select locally sourced foods or treats, or look for environmentally friendlier food brands. Some pet food packaging can be recycled, and try to use reusable stainless steel or ceramic food dishes rather than plastic (which usually needs to be replaced more often).
The 'other end' of feeding: Yup, I'm taking about pet waste. It may be the worst part of owning pets, but please remember to clean up after them! Pet waste negatively impacts the local environment if not picked up. It can make for some awfully upset neighbors as well! Consider using biodegradable bags to clean up after your dog. If possible, cat owners should consider switching to paper or wood based cat litters. They are more environmentally friendly than your typical clay based litters.
Clean green: Simple, cheap products such as baking soda and vinegar can be used to replace expensive, less environmentally friendly cleaning products. Vinegar works great for cleaning up after pet accidents, cleaning the insides of cages, and cleaning litter boxes. It's nontoxic and much cheaper than alternative cleaning products.
Eco-friendly pet products: These days, finding eco-friendly pet products is easy! A quick Google search turns up countless results for environmentally friendly dog products - everything from dog toys, beds, and leashes to dog clothes, and grooming products. An added benefit of environmentally friendly products is that they are not only healthier for the environment, but for your pet as well! If you can't find or afford eco-friendly pet products, consider getting creative and making some of your own! Most pets aren't picky, and would enjoy a homemade toy just as much as something store bought. An old sock can be just as much fun as a new toy, and a re-purposed blanket can be just as comfortable to a sleepy pet as an expensive new pet bed.
Owning a pet doesn't mean you have to give up on being kind to the environment. Being more environmentally friendly has the added benefit of, more often than not, also being healthier for our pets! Remember that there is no reason to approach being environmentally friendly with an 'all or nothing' mentality. Every little bit helps!