How to cut your pet’s carbon footprint for the climate

The carbon pawprint of our four-legged pals largely depends on how we take care of them. Here's how to slash those emissions in a few simple steps.

Whether you're a cat person or dog person (or an all-animals-are-amazing person), we can all agree on one thing: Our furry friends are loyal life companions and have the incredible power to brighten even our dullest days. According to a global 2016 survey on pet ownership, more than half of the world’s population share their living spaces with at least one four-legged buddy, and in 2018, there were 471 million dogs and 373 million cats living on planet Earth. 

Inevitably, all these pets leave a massive carbon footprint on the planet. It’s estimated that an average-size cat generates 310kg of CO2e per year, while an average-size dog emits 770 kg. For a bigger barker, this figure even goes up to 2,500kg. What cats and dogs eat annually generates the same amount of carbon emissions as a year’s worth of driving 13.6 million cars

The good news is we can drastically slash our furry friends’ carbon footprints with a few simple hacks that will also boost their wellbeing.

Sources: Nature (Vol. 562), Global Environmental Change (Vol. 65).

7 tips to slash your pet’s CO2e emissions

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Slow down with that daily kibble. In the US, dogs and cats eat about as many calories as the population of France in one year. At the same time, 20% of UK dogs are obese (wait, doesn’t this sound familiar?). The solution here is simple: Don’t overfeed your pets. Check with your vet how many calories they actually need according to their size and physical activity. This won’t only slash their carbon footprints, but will most likely make them more healthy and agile (and keep them from turning into fluffy bowling balls).  

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Skip the beef. Pets have a large pawprint mainly because of their large meat consumption, especially beef, whose carbon footprint is nearly four times that of chicken. That's why removing or reducing beef from your pet’s diet makes a massive difference. Opting for fish, chicken, or insect-based food (our office dog Ben loves it!), is a great way to slash your pet's carbon footprint. Check out Yora or Tomojo for sustainable insect options.

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Ditch fancy pet food to minimize waste. The largest environmental impact of the pet food industry stems from how proteins are sourced. High-end pet food that uses human-grade meat requires more animals to be raised, which generates more greenhouse gases. But this type of food won’t necessarily make your pet happier or give it the nourishment it needs. Dog food or cat food that contains meat scraps is completely healthy for pets — as long as the balance of nutrients is there — and also cuts down on food waste, as it uses animal parts that us humans don't consume. 

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Prepare some food yourself. But first, do your research: A dog’s diet, for example, should be composed of 40% protein, 50% vegetables and 10% starch. With this in mind — and with some advice from your vet — you could think about mixing some kibble with fresh ingredients, like carrots or eggs. This can help make your pet’s diet more varied and balanced, and potentially reduce the amount of food you would normally waste. Remember that many foods humans eat are harmful to pets, so always check before introducing a new food to their diet (for example, cats can’t have garlic or raw eggs, while avocado and macadamia nuts are toxic for dogs).

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Shop sustainable pet essentials. A lot of what we buy to take care of our fluffy buddies can actually harm the planet. Take cat litter: Most of it is made from bentonite clay, which is extracted through strip mining, a very harmful practice for the environment. Try out Feline Pine, which is made from reclaimed pine shavings and guar bean gum, or Yesterday’s News, made from recycled newspaper. When it comes to skin and hair care, take a look at this guide for natural shampoo options.

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Donate, reuse, or buy second-hand accessories. Go with a circular approach: Buy second hand toys, bowls, or bedding, donate them instead of throwing them away if they’re still in good condition, and use your creativity to find DIY options to make your pet happy.

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Pick up that poop and use biodegradable bags. Poop police speaking here: Don’t forget that your pet’s waste can be harmful for the environment, especially cat poop, which can contain a parasite that is dangerous to humans and animals. Don’t flush animal waste down the toilet, use biodegradable bags instead.

The bigger picture

The way we care for our pets can drastically reduce your carbon footprint and that of your furry best friend. With a few simple changes to your daily routine, you can easily slash their CO2e emissions as well as improve their health. The bottom line: What’s good for the planet is good for your furry companion too — with no compromises on tasty treats. 

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