Here at Highwave, we’re always looking for ways to walk more softly on the earth. Things like eliminating single use plastics, carrying your own bags, cups, and lids, are all good ways to live more sustainably. But have you ever looked at the effect your pet is having on our environment? A UCLA researcher found that just the act of feeding your pet, creates about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide and methane annually. That’s equivalent to the pollution created by 13.6 million cars a year! So what’s a responsible pet owner to do? Read on for a list of ways we found to take care of your animals, while reducing their impact on the planet.
Adopt don’t shop
Pet overpopulation is a huge problem in the US. With more than 1.5 million shelter animals euthanized every year, it’s important for humans to do their part to help control dog and cat populations. An easy way to do that (aside from spaying and neutering) is to adopt from a rescue or shelter. Purchasing from breeders and pet stores, creates a demand for more breeding, when there are already millions of animals looking for homes. Adopting saves lives, and helps shelters and rescues preserve their limited resources.
Feed a sustainable pet food
Buying food made from sustainable, responsibly sourced ingredients is one of the most eco-friendly things you can do as a pet owner. Foods made from chicken, turkey, or fish, use fewer resources and generate less waste, than ones using beef or pork. When buying food or treats for your animal, try to buy in bulk and make sure the packaging is recyclable. Want to do more? There are tons of recipes for DIY dog and cat foods online. Just be sure to ask your vet about your dog or cat’s dietary needs, before switching them to a new food.
Choose green toys and supplies
Take a trip to most any pet store, and you will quickly see the impact of this category on our environment. Plastic toys in plastic packaging, competing with synthetic beds stuffed with even more plastic fibers. Durable, washable, toys, beds, and supplies, made from reclaimed or sustainable materials, are healthier for your pet and the earth.
Use non-toxic grooming and pest prevention products
This one should be a priority for every pet owner. Many grooming shampoos, sprays, and pest repellents contain harmful toxins and nerve agents, which can poison wildlife AND your pet! The runoff from these chemicals can also affect our waterways. Look for products made from sustainable sourced natural, organic ingredients that are free from toxic chemicals, dyes, parabens, and sulfates.
The scoop on poop
Pets in America are responsible for creating about 5.1 million tons of feces each year, and it doesn’t just go away. It washes down storm drains and into water sources when it isn’t disposed of properly. This can cause salmonella and e-coli infections in humans, and contributes to algae super blooms, which can sicken both humans and animals. Always pick up your pet’s waste, and be sure to use biodegradable bags to dispose of it. If you have cats, consider using kitty litter that’s non-toxic and from a sustainable source. The silica clay used in most supermarket brands is derived from strip-mining, which destroys habitat, displaces wildlife, and contaminates water tables.
Spay and Neuter
As a pet owner, spaying or neutering your animal is one of the best things you can do for the environment. In the US, domestic dogs and cats are responsible for around 1.5 percent of emissions of methane and nitrous oxide. Just their dietary needs, account for 30 percent of the environmental impact from animal production, when looking at the use of land, water, fossil fuel, and pesticides. The more that dogs and cats reproduce, the bigger the burden on environmental resources.
A dog’s natural instinct to hunt and chase can be especially harmful to wildlife. Always keep your dog on a leash when out amongst native plants and animals, especially any areas where endangered species are more exposed. Cats are the worst offenders and are a massive source of bird mortality, killing upward of 4 billion birds per year. Cats should be kept indoors whenever possible, especially between dusk and dawn. If you’re unable to keep them indoors, you can place a bell on their collar to give birds and other native animals a chance to escape.