7 Ways to Reduce Your Dog’s Carbon Footprint
The average dog is responsible for approximately 1,600 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year—and with more than 69 million dogs living in the US, it’s safe to assume that our beloved pets could be taking a significant toll on the environment. Yikes! If there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s that it has given rise to “environmentally conscious pet ownership.” This means, more owners are getting educated about their dogs’ habits, the long-term implications they may have on our planet, and earthy-friendly solutions that may mitigate the problem.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s impact on the environment, there are many ways you can reduce its carbon footprint. To start, here are seven ways to introduce more sustainability into your dog’s life.
1. Feed sustainably.
The food your dog eats can have effects of planetary proportions. Foods sourced from animals, particularly red meat, have a higher environmental footprint than other food groups, and it just so happens that dogs in the US consume plenty of it. That's not to say you should steer your dog away from this vital protein—no. Instead, consider feeding your dog more sustainable protein sources, like chicken, turkey, rabbit, or fish. Besides what you feed your dog, it would help if you also considered the packaging for your dog's food.
Our dog's food often comes in packaging materials, like plastic, that contribute to landfills and take years to biodegrade. That said, consider purchasing food packaged in recycled or recyclable materials. You might also want to buy your dog's food in bulk, which you may keep in reusable containers. That way, you put less waste in the bin without skimping on your dog's nutritional requirements. Just remember that if you plan on switching your dog's diet to something different, do so slowly and incrementally to avoid tummy upset.
2. Waste not.
Single-use plastic items rank high on the list of the world's worst pollutants. Water bottles, one-and-done utensils, and yes, even the bags you use to dispose of your dog's poop are all detrimental to the planet. While this doesn't mean you shouldn't use poop bags—dog excrement can be toxic to both humans and the environment—there are ways to pick up after your dog more sustainably. For one, you might want to consider dog bags made of not just biodegradable but compostable material, as there is a big difference between the two.
Both refer to materials degrading over time, but compostable products break down more quickly and into a safe organic material. If you want to purchase actual compostable poop bags, it needs to have an ASTH D6400 certification. With that in mind, these are often expensive. The next best option would be "oxo-biodegradable" poop bags. The material is under the ASTM D6954 regulation, made with earth-safe ingredients, and is said to break down within a two-year timeframe.
3. Use "clean" grooming products.
As with human beauty products, dog grooming items may contain ingredients, like synthetic colors and fragrances, that aren't just harmful to the earth but also to your pet's health. Artificial colors, for instance, may irritate your dog's skin, whereas synthetic fragrances could result in upper respiratory problems in some dogs. Luckily, there's been a push towards "clean" products that promote transparency and a simple ingredients list—better yet, many pet manufacturers are following suit.
Today, you can find pet grooming items made of natural, sustainably produced, or USDA-organic-approved materials. These will keep your dog squeaky-clean in the most eco-conscious way possible. If you want to take it a step further, look for packaged items in recycled or recyclable materials, as many grooming products—shampoos, conditioners, and two-in-one cleansers—often come in plastic. You can also make your own if purchasing sustainable grooming items aren't within your budget.
4. Clean green.
Life with dogs gets messy, but some of the products you might use to clean up after your pooch may cause more harm than good. Household cleaning products use chemicals that are poisonous to both you and your dogs. And when the chemicals are thrown away or washed down the drain, these toxic chemicals make their way to lakes, rivers, and oceans. Want to change the way you clean? Look for supplies with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safer Choice label.
The EPA reviews not only product ingredients but also product performance and the sustainability of packaging. Another option is to make your cleaning products. They're inexpensive to make and commonly use pantry staples that you might already have. For example, you may use a combination of white vinegar and baking soda. These are both pet-friendly ingredients, and they work wonders at lifting away stains and unwanted odors that your four-legged pal might've left in its wake.
5. Buy well and buy less.
When you own a dog, you'll need essentials to keep it happy and healthy. Unfortunately, essentials, like bedding, food and water bowls, leashes, collars, and toys, aren't made sustainably. They contain plastic and other toxic materials that take a toll on the environment when produced. Aside from that, we sometimes buy more than we truly need, leading to more waste. So, when shopping for dog essentials, opt to purchase from manufacturers who care about the planet as much as you do.
Many offer eco-conscious alternatives, such as those made of recyclable materials, like bamboo, hemp, stainless steel, and wool. Others use recycled materials, like plastic bottles. You'd be surprised at the abundance of sustainable options there are if you sought them out. What's more? Many of these products aren't just sustainable but also built to last. Alternatively, you might also want to take hand-me-downs from friends and family members who own double of the same pet items. Just be sure they're in usable condition before using them for your dog.
6. Travel by paw.
Although traveling by car is convenient, especially with a four-legged companion in tow, walking your dog is better for the planet. Our cars emit smog, smog, carbon monoxide, and other toxins, which all contribute to about one-third of air pollution in the United States. Going carless can significantly reduce carbon dioxide production—something to keep in mind the next time you reach for the keys. While you will need to transport your dog in a car now and again, travel by foot when you can.
Walking not only reduces your family's carbon footprint, but it's also a fantastic way to sneak in more quality time with your dog. Alternatively, you may opt for a bike if that's accessible to you. You may install a basket for your dog, or train it to run alongside your bike when you are out and about. Should you decide to travel by bike, be sure to practice safety at all times. Avoid busy streets, use the right protective gear, and most importantly, ensure your dog is up to the task.
7. Don't throw away old items—donate them.
If you've accumulated heaps of old dog stuff that you don't want in your house anymore, resist the urge to trash it. One dog's trash is another dog's treasure, and many animal shelters could give new life to items your dog no longer enjoys. Animal shelters take in all sorts of items, like beds, food and water bowls, leashes, collars, and grooming tools. Some centers will accept items in poor condition for recycling, but it's best to donate items that are perfectly usable for the dogs under their care. If you have friends or relatives who need items that you have but no longer want, you might want to consider giving your old stuff to them. Whatever you decide to do, be smart about the way you dispose of your dog's junk.
The planet might thank you for it later.