Whether we realize it or not, almost all the choices we make for our four-legged family members can be devastating to the environment. Just like we generate a copious amount of waste, our pets also have a significant ecological “paw print” of their own. With approximately one billion pet dogs and cats around the world eating billions of pounds of GMO meat and grains every year and producing half a billion pounds of garbage every day, they certainly have a massive effect on the health and sustainability of our environment.
But being a pet owner doesn’t have to drastically impact our household carbon footprint if we make responsible decisions. While the most significant challenge that Eco-friendly pet owners face is the balance between the needs of our animals and the needs of the environment, pampering our cuddle buddies and keeping them healthy and happy should always come first. After all, they’re cherished and loyal members of our family who flood our hearts and lives with sunshine and laughter and help us cope with stress and loneliness. If you’re trying to stick to a sustainable lifestyle, you don’t have to stop at your own footprint – keep your pet’s ecological footprint in mind.
So, how can we make our pets more planet-friendly? Let’s check out some whip-smart and helpful tips for maintaining an Eco-friendly household with your furry or feathered darlings!
#1. Don’t Shop, Adopt From A Shelter and Save A Life!
Seven million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States because there is no room for them in shelters. Even more alarming, 70 million stray animals are living in the US without regular food or shelter. Choosing to adopt a pet already in need of a home rather than one from a breeder is both more economically friendly and one less animal out there trying to make it on the streets.
Many of the animals raised to be sold in stores are transported from afar and often come from unhealthy sources (i.e., puppy mills). Transporting pets to stores or traveling out of town to visit a breeder increases our carbon footprint when we could cut travel down significantly by visiting our local pet shelter. By adopting from a local shelter, you are helping the shelter rescue and help other animals and running local programs.
#2. Neuter or Spay Your Fur Buddies
This might seem obvious, but getting your animals spayed or neutered is one of the best gifts you can give to the environment. There’s an overabundance of pets without homes. Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized in the United States, because there’s no room for them in shelters. It’s best to spay or neuter your pets to curb overpopulation and unnecessary euthanization. It will help control the pet homelessness epidemic and protect them from diseases like prostate issues, testicular cancer, malignant breast tumors, and uterus infections.
#3. Feed Your Pet Thoughtfully and Sustainably
One of the most significant contributing factors to your pet’s ecological “paw print” is their food. If buying sustainable pet food doesn’t appeal to you, make your own! Though time-consuming and somewhat controversial, raw diets are a huge fad right now (and they cut down on processed ingredients). You can even make your own dog treats, so you have a clear picture of what’s getting into their bodies.
#4. Opt for Recyclable Toys Instead of Plastic
Just as you try to avoid toxic plastics, flame retardants, and harmful household chemicals for your own health, you should also consider your pet’s health when purchasing toys, bedding, and grooming products. Especially if you have a particularly noisy pet who likes to destroy and chew everything that moves, plastic pet toys can end up in the garbage or landfills where they’ll never decompose.
Opt instead for toys made from recyclable materials or natural fibers. Read labels! Purchase organic bedding, and opt for collars, leashes, and toys made from natural materials or plastics that do not contain phthalates vinyl or BPA.
#5. Use Non-Toxic Pet Shampoo and Cleaning Products
Feel better about your pet’s least-favorite activity by using Eco-friendly pet shampoos that are free from toxic chemicals and manufactured with natural ingredients. Make sure it is non-toxic and free of dyes and parabens — it’s not only better for your pet’s skin and hair, but it also ensures that no excess chemicals end up going down the drain and into the environment. Do your research or ask your vet first, because many companies advertise their products as “all-natural” when they’re really not. And if your pet has an accident indoors, use Eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products to clean up after them.
#6. Simplicity Is Best
The needs of dogs and cats are as simple as ABC: Food, water, exercise, medical care, a collar with tags, and lots of love. Although it might be fun, purchasing tons of fancy decorative collars, fancy toys, cute little outfits, and other accessories adds significantly to your pet’s environmental footprint. All that stuff is not really necessary for your pet to be happy and healthy!