Your pet has a carbon pawprint!
It can be hard to imagine that our furry friends could do any harm to the planet. When they wiggle their tail and play around, all we see is the joy and unconditional love they bring into our lives. We might want to reciprocate those feelings by spoiling them with their favourite foods or toys, but while doing that, we can often forget that our pets have carbon footprints as well. Although their cuteness might be undeniable, let’s choose to be mindful and involve our pets in the fight against climate change!
As you might already know, the definition of a pet’s carbon footprint resembles the amount of greenhouse gases (e.g. CO2) that is emitted to, directly and indirectly, support the lifestyle and activities of our companion animals. The biggest contributor to their footprint is their food. To produce pet food, lots of land, water and energy resources are used, which makes It a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Research has found that traditional pet food produces up to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, a climate impact equivalent to a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars. As of now, there are approximately more than 400 million cats and 900 million pups in the world (source 3). Can you believe that? Given these numbers, we can now understand that the climate Impact made by pets is more serious than ever imagined.
How can we reduce our pet’s carbon pawprint?
We can already conclude that meat-based diets have a higher environmental impact compared to plant-based diets. Don’t worry, we’re not saying that your pet should become a vegan fanatic. However, now is indeed the time to start revisiting the way we feed our pets, as it is possible to love our pets while loving our planet at the same time. Here are some examples:
1. Swap the beef. Try out vegetarian or vegan options. Cats and dogs are able to eat diets that contain grains, legumes, and pulses, which can be a good source of plant-based proteins. Legumes are the fruits or seeds of plants belonging to the Fabaceae plant family. Examples include beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of certain legumes like dried peas, and dried beans. For other vegan protein options, try out yeast, algae or duckweed. The last two are plants that can be grown on water year-round. They have a high amino acid concentration and can thrive in areas where other crops cannot be grown, which makes them more sustainable.
Keep in mind that while vegan or vegetarian options can be suitable for dogs, it will not be the right fit for cats as they are true carnivores. So if your pet is required to eat meat, choose to use by-products like organ meats, or other edible parts of an animal, such as tissues and bones. Choosing by-products will create less waste, as they are highly nutritious parts of animals that us humans would rather not eat. Also, let’s not forget to talk about fish. Small fishes, such as sardines, herring and anchovies, are more sustainable because they have a more rapid growth compared to bigger fish.
Insects might also be an option to consider. The idea is something you'd have to get used to, but insects are far more sustainable than traditional meat-based protein as they are easy to breed and manage. It is demonstrated by a Dutch firm, which claimed to be the world's biggest insect farm, that one tonne of insects can be grown on 20 square meters of space in just two weeks.
2. Reduce their food intake. Because owners love their pets so much, many often feed their animals more nutrients than what is normally recommended. Overconsumption is therefore part of the problem. To go the extra mile, you can visit your local vet and ask about their necessary calorie intake. This is an indirect way to calculate their carbon footprint. Not only will you make the planet a better place, but you’ll also make sure that they are more healthy and agile.
3. DIY! This could be a fun project and rewarding when your pet finds the food irresistible. You can choose your own ingredients and regulate the quality of your own pet food, which is an advantage. Next to that, homemade pet food is fresh, and can (sometimes) act as a cheaper alternative. However, make sure to prepare a balanced diet when doing this at home!
4. Choose sustainable brands. This already speaks for itself. Check if the ingredients have been sourced responsibly. If possible, choose ingredients from organic farms, and also brands that prepare low to middle-meat diets. Before going to the grocery store, do a little research and see if there is a more eco-friendly brand available at your local supermarket.
However, improvement lies not solely in the hands of pet owners, but the pet food industry as well. If possible, a more sustainable way of producing pet food can be applied through for example production facilities that run on renewable energy or green supply chains. Next to that, increasing the bioavailability and digestibility of pet foods may also help with reducing food waste.
Now is the time to start revisiting the way we feed our pets, as it is possible to love our pets while loving our planet at the same time.
Cleaning up can be eco-friendly too!
Thankfully, being sustainable can be implemented in all areas. You're probably thinking about biodegradable or compostable poopbags. But the word "Biodegradable" can often be misleading, as most are only able to break down under very specific conditions (e.g. at an industrial pet waste composting facility or a dog-waste only composting bin). Of course, earth-friendly poop bags are a good way to start, but it's not how you scoop the poop that matters, it's how you throw it away. So, to make the best use of biodegradable pet waste bags, you'll have to:
1. Check your local waste facilities
There is a growing number of cities that look into the process of creating biogas through dog waste, like in Waterloo and Ottawa in Canada. For pet owners living in the Netherlands, dog and cat poop should be thrown away together with residual waste. This waste is then burned in a waste-to-energy plant, and can as a result be used for electricity or district heating (source 10).
2. Bury it
An option to consider when you live in a rural area that has space away from the house. Make sure to burry the waste at least ten centimetres underground, and away from vegetable gardens and water sources.
3. Home biodigester
This is an option if you live in a warm climate area, and have a lot of space outside the house. A home biodigester can turn not only your pet's poop, but also other organic waste (e.g. food scraps) into gas used for cooking! Next to that, it can also act as a liquid fertilizer for your garden. Biogas is produced from the unit, which Is a smokeless blue flamed gas similar to LPG or natural gas that consists of around 60% methane.
4. Flush it
Make sure to first check your municipal sewage guidelines before you carry out this option. At some places, it is possible to flush your dog poop unbagged, straight down the toilet, or in water-soluble waste bags. Make sure to use the right bag though, nobody wants to clog their toilet.
5. Organic/natural shampoos.
And lastly, don't forget to use green products for cleaning your furry friends as well. This also contributes to reducing your pet's carbon footprint.
Don't throw away your pet's toys or gear before they've lived their full life. If you can repair a toy, do it. You won't even need excellent sewing skills. After all, brand new toys are not the only way to make our pets happy. Consider shopping second-hand or swapping items with fellow pet owners. You might come across one-of-a-kind items, plus it can serve as a cheaper alternative for toys & pet gear.
Recycling can also be an opportunity to start getting creative! Our pets don't really have high expectations, so try to look around for materials you already have in your house. With a little google search you'll find lots of crafty ideas to entertain every animal.
Reduce your pet's carbon pawprint with Regreener
To top it off, Regreener has a feature which enables you to plant trees for your furry friends! They also support rainforest protection projects, and reduce a significant amount of CO2 for a small contribution per month. This means that your pets can start regreening the world and help building a sustainable future!
The actual planting of trees is done by local villagers, hired by our partners. They help with growing, planting, and guarding the native tree species to mature on a massive scale. In this way, they also alleviate extreme poverty within the local communities. They have a sense of "ownership" over the trees and restored forest and they protect it with great care. Want to learn more? Check out our project pages here.
But can these projects really help fight climate change? - you might ask. The answer is yes. The impact and quality of a carbon-reducing project is measured by a third-party that certifies the project to international standards. These standards ensure that the projects are what they say they are: Real, permanent and truly green. The third-party will monitor the project to ensure it delivers to its promises. Additionally, these certification bodies also employ third parties to audit the projects to completely remove any conflict of interest in the reporting. There are different standards, but we have chosen to pick the best projects out there through Gold Standard and Verra Carbon Standard (VCS).
Ultimately, we hope to involve as many people and pets as possible in our mission to fight against climate change. It's a mission bigger than ourselves, and we are ready to regreen the world. For more information, check out our family plan here.
Rinus, who lives a climate positive life, taking a climate positive nap! Photo: Diek Olland