Because you are here reading this blog, you probably have a pretty good idea of your carbon footprint and make conscious decisions for a sustainable lifestyle. Yet, you might be as surprised as me to find out that owning a dog could be worse for the environment than driving an SUV!
Robert and Brenda Vale explain in their book: Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living that the environmental impact of owning a pet can be significant and probably completely off our radar screen!
According to the authors, we might as well own a Toyota Land Cruiser rather than a Toy Poodle. In fact, a medium-sized dog (25-35 pounds) has double the environmental impact of driving the SUV 10,000 miles. Robert Vale explains:
“Basically dogs are bad for the environment because they are large carnivores, so it takes a lot of land to provide their foods.”
Is it time to ditch the dog? What can we do to make pet ownership more eco-friendly?
Here’s some suggested green pet ownership tips:
- Change your dog’s diet. The best bet is to make your own, natural and organic kibble, instead of purchasing giant bags that are heavy and expensive to transport. Veterinarians can help you with homemade meal recipes, if you decide to go this route. Otherwise, buy locally made products. Just as the local food movement is beneficial for our diets, you can cut down on carbon emissions by purchasing dog food that has traveled less than 100 miles. Chicken or rabbit-based dog food has a lower environmental impact than beef-based kibble, as well.
- Choose green shampoos and toys for your pet. Purchase products that do not include sodium lauryl sulfate, plastics or other synthetics. Dog beds with organic cotton or hemp are a plus. There are some other great products made from recycled plastic bottles and other materials, including balls and toys.
- Spay and neuter. It goes without saying that pet birth control can help minimize environmental impact. After all, if your pet doesn’t reproduce, there are less cute little doggie mouths to feed!
- Use biodegradable bags for cleaning up dog waste. Even better, we love this project that uses energy from dog waste to light up a street lamp and illuminate a park. Talk about renewable energy!
- Consider safer flea and tick treatments. Especially if you have young children at home, chemicals on your pet’s fur can be accidentally ingested, raising cancer risks. Choose from the NRDC’s list of safer flea control choices, or make your own.
- Downsize your dog. That’s right – go for a smaller breed, or even a cat, bird or fish instead. The smaller the paw, the smaller the carbon footprint!
- Use your own carbon credits to justify dog ownership. Considering the impact of owning a dog, you might want to make some changes in your own personal habits to give you leeway for the additional burden on the environment. This might include eating a vegetarian diet, carpooling or taking mass transit for your commute or riding your bicycle more often.
We all love our pets, so we’re not suggesting that you give up your dog in the name of Mother Earth. Just be a smart, responsible owner and then both you and your best friend can breathe easier.