It came as a surprise to me that our beloved pooch had its own carbon footprint, but of course it did! When I realised that everything that gets produced, delivered, stored and consumed comes with a carbon footprint, I had a think about the best way to reduce the impact our dog had on the environment. Bear with me as when it comes to pets, people can be pretty passionate… I’m starting with the dogs as that’s what we have (see pic below):
Avoid red meat
We hear all the time about reducing our meat consumption (and if you can’t do that at least avoid red meat), so I chose a dog food that is made from game and fish. Ideally the meat used in your pet food would be from the part of the animal that humans don’t eat, the organs over the breast etc. It’s actually hard to tell from the packaging but aim for a responsible provider and you should be good. I researched my dog food at allaboutdogfood.co.uk.
Choose Dry Kibble
I also chose dry kibble in as large a bag as I could buy so that a) I was reducing the amount of packaging as much as possible and b) there is no refrigeration or freezing cost for storing it. Sidenote: when we got our puppy we were recommended the BARF diet (yes the BARF diet) standing for bone and raw food. Luckily a wise friend of mine who knows all there is to know about dogs said she nearly lost a thumb mincing raw meat and it really wasn’t necessary. Thank goodness for her! I also reuse the large kibble bag as a rubbish bag when it’s empty.
Choose locally sourced food
Food that’s travelled across countries and continents will have a higher footprint than food produced in your local area. I chose Eden Pet Foods as it’s made in the UK.
Right size your pet food
It is tempting but there is absolutely no gain from feeding your pet too much food. It costs you more, it’s wasteful and it leads to expensive vet bills. Controversially I feed dog-appropriate food scraps to ours, by that I mean protein or vegetables. I put them in her bowl, up high, ready for her next meal and then reduce her kibble proportionately. It reduces our food waste and marginally reduces the dog food we use.
It can’t be avoided, our pooches produce a lot of poo. Think about how and when you scoop that poop. My family laugh at me as I have taken to using a spade, picking up the poo, bringing it through the house and flushing it down the loo, thus avoiding using another plastic bag. Use biodegradable bags for when you’re out and about, they break down so much faster than normal plastic bags. And if you’re sure no one’s going to inadvertently step in a poo you can use the ‘stick and flick’ method, get a stick and use it to make sure the poo is buried deep in the undergrowth so it gets absorbed naturally back into the environment.
Toys and stuff
Choose second hand, see if anyone is passing on any stuff they had for their puppy and no longer use. Buy eco products responsibly made. Buy them at the local pet shop so that you aren’t clogging up the last mile to your house - ours has a pick and mix dog snack range plus a loose parrot and a gentle dachie, what’s not to love about that? When our dog had fully grown I invested in a nice collar from dogsandhorses.co.uk who pride themselves on using high quality materials and labour in the UK.
Walk to your dog walk
It probably goes without saying but try to walk to your dog walk, if you live near a park and drive to it, see if you can walk there and back. You’ll save money and clean the air.
Most of the above applies to the cats too but for poo bags think litter. You can make an eco cat litter tray by using two, drilling holes in one and putting old towels in between them. Alternatively avoid the litter made with clay or unnatural materials loaded with anti-smell chemicals. Search out the biodegradable natural litter that clumps (you flush the clumps and put the rest in the composter - more on composting here). I love the sound of the sound of this one from Petscorner.co.uk made from sweetcorn and looks a bit like popcorn.
Bells and whistles
If you love the birds, train your cat to have a collar with a bell on. This gives the birds some warning and avoids you being gifted a flailing bird when your cat comes home from its night travels.
My lovely friend Alex Mitchell writes about gardening for the Evening Standard and keeps chickens. She gave me some top tips for keeping them sustainably. Firstly feed them soy free pellets. Soy for animals is grown in areas of the world such as the Amazon and attributed to deforestation. She uses pellets from Small Holder Feed. She also recommends metal water feeders not plastic ones and uses the products from Grandpas Feeders. Finally she recommends a wooden shed not plastic. You can repurpose an old garden shed or wendy house so long as you give them a perch to sleep on at night and somewhere to lay their eggs.
Thinking about getting another type of pet? Choose a vegan one!
Finally, where you can't reduce, offset. We have an 'Offset Your Pet' package for £9 which offsets 1 tonne of carbon emissions. For
For every 'Offset Your Pet' package purchased, Terra Neutra will donate £2.50 to The National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal