Did you know that a dog’s carbon pawprint is 770 kilograms, or nearly 1,700 pounds, per year? Or that a cat’s carbon pawprint is around 310 kilograms, or 683 pounds? In other words, American dogs and cats alone contribute over 100 million pounds of carbon per year. (Still significantly less than humans.)
Pets are great and I, for one, wouldn’t listen to anyone who suggests I get rid of my dog Cooper for the climate. Personally, I don’t think there is anything better than coming home from college to see my puppy run to me crying with joy. There are many studies on the psychological and physical benefits of having pets and I know I feel better when I’m with my dog. And why wouldn’t I? Look at his picture. He’s adorable! I want to minimize the environmental impact of pets to ensure that people can continue to enjoy the company of our four-legged friends for generations to come. After all, don’t you want future generations to have the privilege of having furbabies?
Here are some ways to get started on having zero waste pets:
Food: Feeding our pets is perhaps the single most basic responsibility of a pawrent. We want them to be well-fed and we worry about whether they like their food, or if they have any allergies. However, it’s also environmentally costly – feeding America’s dogs and cats has the same impact as pumping nearly 14 million cars-worth of exhaust into the atmosphere for a year. What’s a pawrent to do?
For one, we can educate ourselves on the most eco-friendly types of food, as well as the packaging. Buying in bulk and buying from the largest container we can find (as opposed to one-a-day tins of cat food) helps reduce packaging waste. It’s also good if you can find pet foods that come in recyclable packaging, or pet foods that participate in TerraCycle’s program.
Cleanliness: If feeding our pets is a pawrent’s most important responsibility, a close second is ensuring they have a clean environment to live in. This means picking up after their waste. Dog waste can be composted, made even easier with compostable doggie bags. (Cat poop can also be composted if their litter is plant-based.)
But giving your fur baby a clean environment isn’t just about cleaning up their waste. Although cats are pretty good at keeping themselves clean, dogs need baths. As with soaps and shampoos meant for humans, using doggie shampoos that come in bars instead of liquids reduces packaging waste. And just like humans, quick baths to conserve water are also great.
We all have a responsibility for future generations and lowering our carbon pawprints is part of that. We are responsible for ensuring that our future generations (including dogs and cats) have a planet that they can not only survive on, but thrive on. But what does it mean to thrive? People have lots of different definitions: being a parent, having a fulfilling job, finding love, filling their time with activities they enjoy. For millions, animals bring joy, love, laughter, and a best friend. They provide meaning, purpose, a reason to get out of bed, exercise, an “in” to socialize with other humans, and in cases of service dogs, independence. For people like me, thriving involves animal companionship, so by making wise environmental choices today, we can ensure humans can continue to thrive alongside their beloved pets. I want people of all generations to be able to benefit from the love of our more-than-human companions – even those who inexplicably prefer cats to dogs.
By 2023 Called To Climate Action Student Leader, Katie Walsh