We all want the perfect pooch, a humble companion that continues to brighten up our day. From providing companionship to increasing fitness and physical health, our pets have become the centre of our households and increasingly more popular amongst the population. With 51% of UK adults owning a pet in 2021, it’s safe to say that both dogs and cats have become a valued member of the family. However, as we play with our pampered pooches, it’s critical that we are prioritising sustainability too.
Mirroring the environmental damage we see from unsustainable manufacturing, fast fashion and exhaust emissions, owning a pet can also be carbon costly. From veterinary care and treatment to plastic-based toys and dog bags, our four-legged friends contribute to both plastic and carbon waste depending on their diet and lifestyle. With the average UK household producing an estimated tonne of waste each year, it’s never been more important to adopt environmentally-friendly pet care techniques to reduce both your plastic and carbon footprint.
The Carbon Pawprint
According to Darcy Matherson in her book, Greening Your Pet Care, “a medium-sized dog has a carbon footprint of 2.1 acres, roughly twice the 1 acre for a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle driven 10,000 kilometres a year”. From environmentally toxic waste posing as a threat to aquatic lifeforms to plastic-based dog bags adding to the plastic pollution problem, it’s time to scoop that poop and recognise the size of your carbon pawprint.
With 40% of pet owners claiming that they refuse to pick up their pet’s waste, there’s is no wonder that our waters are being continually littered with harmful bacteria. As the food and fashion industry continue to evolve to reduce their carbon emissions by swapping plastic for bamboo and fast fashion for eco-alternatives, it’s time for the pet industry to step up too.
How To Become A Planet-Saving Pet Owner
Prioritising both your pooch and the planet has never been easier. Pet based eco-swaps are on the rise and newfound information on carbon-friendly pet nutrition are making headlines. Caring for your pet doesn’t have to put the environment at risk. By reducing your pet’s carbon pawprint, watch yours shrink too for a more sustainable future.
Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for both your pet’s gut health and the environment. Meat typically has a larger carbon impact than veggies. However, it’s imperative that cats and dogs receive a balanced diet to meet their nutrition needs. However, this doesn’t need to come at a cost to the environment. Making sustainable choices such as buying from ethical food brands can make all the difference. For example, if you’re looking to cut out carbon polluting meat sources such as beef, why not switch to a chicken-based diet or alternatively invest in pet foods that use insect protein as a sustainable alternative to animal proteins.
For the waste-conscious pet owner, it’s also simple to reduce plastic waste during dinner time. Invest in a set of long-lasting metal food bowls that can be cleaned between uses for ultimate longevity. Plastic packaging also needs to go if you’re striving to become more future-friendly. Switch pouches for tins as they are a more widely recycled material. Buying in bulk can also be great for both your pocket and the planet. Larger bags of dry food often cost less per gram and last over a long period of time. Therefore, cutting your plastic footprint in half.
Plastic Free Play Time
As long as your pet has something to sink their teeth into, scratch with their claws and cuddle in their bed, they are not fussy. Swapping plastic-based high street toys for sustainable alternatives is an easy way to reduce plastic waste and make playtime more sustainable. Buying toys made from sustainable materials such as bamboo and hemp decreases plastic manufacturing and harmful carbon emissions. Especially for bigger dogs, swapping to a bamboo or rubber-based toy is a great durable addition to playtime. These toys last up to 3 times longer than a plastic or nylon based product.
DIY pet toys are also a must for a zero-waste household. Before throwing away your recycling, pull out that multi-pack cereal box or cardboard toilet paper rolls. Watch your pet have hours of fun ripping up their toy. The best thing about cardboard-based products is that they are not only plastic-free but can be easily composted after use.
Scoop The Poop
An estimated £21 million is spent a year on cleaning up dog poop. Man’s best friend is certainly no friend of the environment when toxic excrement is left to seep into local waters. With the power to increase nitrogen content and deplete oxygen in an aquatic environment, it’s safe to say that leaving your pet’s waste out in the open is the largest sustainability risk factor.
As shown in the graph above, even those who bag up their pet waste can still contribute to plastic-based pollution. That’s a total of 746,211 plastic bags, including dog bags being found lining the beach in just 24 hours. With plastic bags taking up to 1000 years to decompose in landfill, it’s time to switch to a sustainable alternative. Investing in biodegradable pet bags can help reduce your plastic footprint during your daily walkies. Made from a material that is designed to decompose and be easily composted, waste is no longer a concern. Better still, water-soluble bags can be used for in house waste. They are easily flushable and therefore a waste-free solution.
Prioritising both your pet and the planet has never been more simple, yet important. As more of us continue to swap lockdown loneliness for a four-legged friend, enjoy your pooch while also contributing to a more sustainable future.