Do you wonder how to meet the needs of your pet without compromising the health of the environment? As a pet owner pursuing a sustainable life, it’s also important to consider your pet’s carbon pawprint. Apart from humans, pets also have a significant environmental impact. As such, towards a healthier planet, more than a passing thought towards sustainable pet ownership can help pet lovers support a sustainable lifestyle.
As cuddly as our furry friends are, they play a part in environmental change. Pet waste, plastic poop bags, and plastic pet toys contribute a negative impact on the environment. Also, cats and dogs are carnivores. As a result, they primarily eat meat. Animal rearing, meat production, and its supply chains contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.
Various strategies and tips exist to ensure that your pet has a low carbon footprint. Low impact pet ownership entails using eco-friendly pet products down to the way you handle dog and cat waste. Pet dogs are said to contribute about 7% of the yearly environmental change effects of the average European Union resident2.
What’s more, we have a lot of pets! From the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey that the American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducted, 67% of households own pets. That translates to about 85 million households in the United States alone1. In the UK, about 51% of adults own a pet3. Additionally, dogs and cats top the list of the most popular pets4.
It’s clear that the pet industry needs to subscribe to eco-friendly practices. As pet parents, apart from patronising eco-friendly pet companies, below we’ve selected 9 of the best tips to raise an eco-pet.
As a pet parent, it’s only normal that you’d want your pet to have all the best products. Of course, because they essentially become part of the family. Whether this is related to pet toys, pet food or cat and dog beds, as humans, there’s the tendency to want to provide the best for our animal friends at home.
However, overbuying individual items leads to a major environmental challenge as many goodies generate waste. As we know, waste causes pollution to the environment, which can go on to affect general health and wellbeing. Even when buying from eco-friendly pet product companies, it’s important to be mindful of the items your pet actually needs. Alternatively, you can buy the necessary items in bulk, reducing packaging, carbon emissions from driving to the store, and it can help you save money. Ultimately, it decreases the number of trips you make to buy supplies.
To support an eco-friendly lifestyle, it’s vital to curb waste. If you’re someone who purchases impulsively, it’ll help create a shopping list before going out for pet supplies. This is one of the ways to curb overbuying, overspending and therefore reduce waste. If you’re on a zero-waste journey, this tip will also guide you. This way, you and your pets will be a step closer to significantly reducing your environmental footprint.
Check out our guide to sustainable pet products for eco-friendly options.
Cat and dog waste significantly contribute a negative impact to the environment. As pet parents, it becomes necessary to handle the disposal of this waste properly. Although you may think leaving the faeces of your furry friends behind is natural, it poses challenges. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that can end up causing health problems if left in the natural environment. The primary culprit here is the possibility it can leak into the groundwater supply. Also, rainwater can wash the waste into lakes or streams, contaminating them. A more obvious reason to properly dispose of pets’ faeces is that it causes odour problems in the environment.
If you’re a cat owner, it’s important to pay attention to the type of cat litter you purchase. This is because some litter companies use harmful ingredients that affect not just animals but also humans. Apart from the environmental effects, quality eco-friendly litter also reduces odour and saves you clean-up time. For your cat, make use of litter that contains materials that you can compost and will biodegrade. Brands are now making natural cat litters from materials like corn, dried wood, wheat and newspapers.
With dog waste as well, it can easily be washed into water bodies, causing harm. Although some people believe in flushing dog faeces, there’s the possibility that the microorganisms can end up in water bodies. This is why one of the best eco-friendly options is to use biodegradable or compostable poop bags. This goes for both dogs and cats. These bags can easily decompose, unlike plastic bags that are toxic to the planet.
My AlphaPet (on Amazon)
This brand offers compostable dog faeces bags made from corn starch. They have unscented green and rose-scented bags to choose from. Unlike plastic bags, these ones are biodegradable and compostable, leaving zero waste.
PURINA Yesterday’s News Cat Litter (on Amazon)
This brand provides unscented paper cat litter with a quick-dry feature. The product is made with recycled paper and comes in eco-friendly bags.
The diet of cats, dogs and your pets, in general, is another aspect to examine when switching to sustainable care. One of the ways to reduce your environmental footprint, and that of your pet, is to consider the food your pet consumes. Since cats and dogs are carnivores, they consume huge portions of meat. On the downside, the processing of this type of food contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
People and studies have revealed that meat production and its supply chain contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Such gases contribute to the global warming effect on the planet . Apart from this, you may also find unethical practices behind the harvesting process of pet food. As a result, it is worth considering evaluating your pet’s food supply, including the pet food companies you patronise. Towards more sustainable pet care, owners of pets and animals need to become knowledgeable about the source of pet food. Doing so will aid you to ensure that the origin adheres to sustainable and ethical practices.
If you’re thinking of making pet food at home, it’s important to check with your pet’s veterinarian. Forearmed with the correct information and a nod from the vet, homemade pet food is an excellent way to adhere to eco-friendly practices. When buying ingredients for dog food or cat food, consider shopping from local stores. If you choose to buy packaged food, ensure that the packaging is eco-friendly. Also, you must avoid overfeeding animals to prevent health issues like pet obesity.
As simple as it may sound, this tip is relevant to caring for your pets sustainably. First, there are the health challenges caused by overfeeding. Overfeeding can lead to pet obesity, which can cause further problems such as diabetes. These complications will put your pets in an uncomfortable and risky position. Just like in humans, these conditions can be life-threatening. So, rather than feeding your pets more than their bodies need, only serve them up just what they need. In the long run, this also helps you save money. Whether this is money spent on supplies or possible medical bills to revert the damages of obesity, you can also consult the veterinarian concerning diet requirements and portions.
Concerning the environmental effects, overfeeding means more purchases, resulting in an accumulation of more packaging supplies and a higher environmental footprint. Also, when more people overfeed, it causes a greater demand from meat producers. So, you can see the long chain of ecological effects that overfeeding causes.
We can’t necessarily control the mess animals, and pets make. However, we can intentionally choose how we clean up. Whether it’s vomit or pee, these furry friends can sometimes make a lot of mess. Instead of making use of harsh chemicals to clean up, why not consider natural cleaning supplies? Toxic ingredients can seep into your carpets, sofas and other furniture. If pets take these in, it can affect their health. Not only this, but the tissue papers you use to clean with these chemicals can end up in the natural environment.
Some of the store-bought cleaning products contain a lot of toxic chemicals and materials. Also, they can prove pretty costly. To avoid these chemicals, one of the best tips is to use products within the home. People use items like lemon, vinegar and baking soda as cleaning agents free of chemicals and toxic materials. Desisting from using such chemicals also contributes to a sustainable lifestyle and are easy to use and safe for the entire family. So when next your dogs make a mess, consider using household mixtures as cleaning agents for sustainable pet care.
Many toys, bowls, accessories and beds are made of synthetic materials. Many times, for instance, dogs will chew up their toys till they’re useless. People will then throw out these plastics, which do not decompose. To support your sustainable lifestyle, there are tips to avoid this. If you’re feeling creative, one of the useful tips is creating DIY accessories for your pets. You can even create cardboard boxes as fun play areas for your dogs or cats. This option is one of the many tips to prevent the accumulation of plastic within the home. As we know, plastic opposes a sustainable lifestyle.
On the other hand, you can also decide to purchase toys and accessories made from recycled or repurposed pieces. Plastics and synthetic pieces end up in landfills and oceans. The product itself and the chemicals used to make it go on to affect land and aquatic life. By choosing eco-friendly accessories, you’re making a conscious choice to protect the people and the planet. In cases where your pet no longer wants a particular item, you can donate it to an animal shelter. This prevents it from ending up as a pollutant.
Several brands create sustainable accessories for pets. We’ve highlighted two below.
Harry Baker (on Amazon)
Harry Baker creates accessories with the people, planet and pets in mind. The brand uses sustainable and recycled pieces to make its products. Harry Baker sells items like bowls, toy storage, loungers and leashes.
West Paw (on Amazon)
This brand creates and sells non-toxic and latex-free toys for dogs. West Paw offers chewable designs that are also recyclable.
Adopting may not jump out as sustainable at first, but there are many sustainable benefits when you examine it. Apart from saving money, you’d otherwise spend in a store, and you’ll also be helping to reduce the number of stray animals. In terms of environmental effects, many stores and people tend to transport animals from various locations. By adopting from a local shelter or rescuing, you’ll be reducing your environmental footprint because transportation contributes to the release of toxic gases into the atmosphere. Apart from the transportation issue, there’s also the risk of diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the risks of importing dogs from a country or countries with high rabies cases.
By adopting, you’ll also be limiting the possibility of indirectly supporting unethical breeding techniques. For instance, puppy mills breed dogs in poor conditions for commercial purposes. Many times, their cages are overcrowded, and they are denied healthy dietary requirements and clean water. The facilities then sell these pets in stores for profit. People may not know where these furry friends come from, thereby indirectly supporting this industry. The best option in such cases is adoption within the country.
Regularly grooming your pets will help to prevent fleas and ticks as part of your sustainable pet care routine. This process also entails washing their beds to ensure they’re sleeping in clean places. In this light, it’s important to use non-toxic shampoos and soaps. These not only prevent fleas but also prevent harmful chemicals from seeping into the water drains. Chemical-filled soaps and shampoos can irritate an animal’s skin and can also be harsh on their hairs. Therefore, using natural soaps and shampoos is best. This way, bath time is both a clean and eco-friendly process.
When people groom their pets regularly, this helps to reduce the need for flea and ticks treatments. Frequently, these treatments and sprays are heavily chemical-based. Not only do they affect pet health, but they also affect human wellbeing. Many of these pest-control sprays contain harsh ingredients linked to issues like respiratory problems and cancer. To prevent this, regular baths and combing of animal fur become necessary. This prevents the need for chemical sprays and also maintains the healthy condition of your pet. Additionally, vacuum and clean the areas where your pets stay or play often. This provides clean places for them to play and reduces the chances of flea infestations.
Sustainability in its various forms requires necessary lifestyle changes. Right from our individual choices, we can make a difference. When it comes to pet care, it’s also important to regularly review your routines. These include feeding routines, grooming routines and even play routines. Taking some time out to examine these helps you identify areas where you can be more sustainable. This will also help you think of eco-alternatives to many accessories within the home. For instance, swapping plastics for eco-friendly accessories and chemicals for non-toxic cleaning agents. Through this regular review process, you’ll notice how processes become more streamlined and less stressful.
Examining walk routines involves taking walks instead of drives. For instance, dog walks are normal; however, you can also take walks when you need to go to the store. This helps you reduce the amount of toxic emissions your vehicle releases into the atmosphere. As a result, it helps to decrease you and your pet’s environmental footprint. Walking is also healthy and keeps your pets happy.
There are many ways to care for your pets more sustainably. We’ve provided the tips in this article as a way to guide you. Pursuing a sustainable lifestyle while having a furry friend at home doesn’t have to be an impossible journey. Acknowledging the environmental effects is the first step. Making the necessary lifestyle changes then comes next.
American Pet Products Association (APPA). (2020). Pet Industry Market Size, Trends & Ownership Statistics
Yavor, K. M., Lehmann, A., & Finkbeiner, M. (2020). Environmental Impacts of a Pet Dog: An LCA Case Study. Sustainability, 12(8), 3394.
People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). (2020). PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2020. [PDF]
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). (2018). U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics