How to Reduce Your Pet’s Carbon Paw-Print

You wouldn’t think that a dog or cat could contribute that much to the degradation of the environment, but you might be surprised how much waste and pollution is associated with owning a pet. Certainly they don’t harm the environment to the same degree that humans do, but they eat processed foods (with manufactured packaging), they require heat and air conditioning, and even electric a Petsafe wireless fence in some cases. And then there is the huge number of plastic bags used every year for the disposal of pet waste. So if you’re looking to reduce your pet’s carbon paw-print as you find ways to embrace a greener lifestyle, here are some ways to do it.

The easiest place to start is with food. Most pet food is not actually that good for your pet to begin with. The main ingredient in the majority of dry kibble is corn, which is a filler that is largely devoid of nutritional value to your animal. And since there is as yet no approved organic pet food on the market, you’re better off skipping the manufactured foods and opting to make your own. Your vet can advise you as to what needs to be included in your pet’s diet; it will vary by animal, but it generally includes cooked meats and whole grains mixed with fruits and vegetables. You’ll probably have to give a daily vitamin, as well, to ensure that they’re receiving all the proper nutrients. The only problem here is dental care, since soft foods will become lodged in your pet’s teeth and lead to faster decay.

Another interesting idea is to compost your pet’s waste. This comes with an urgent disclaimer, though: you CANNOT, under any circumstances, use it in your garden! Domesticated animal waste is toxic to humans, so you should keep it far, far away from your fruit, veggies, and other edible plants. However, it’s not so bad if it seeps into the soil near your flower beds. You can safely compost by the following method: dig a hole in the ground that is large enough to place a plastic garbage bin in. Drill several holes in the side of the bin and put it in the ground, then place rocks or gravel in the bottom for drainage. Keep it covered at all times with the lid (it should be slightly above ground level). Place dog, cat, or other waste inside and add some water and septic starter (found at hardware stores). The waste will begin to break down and seep into the soil, greatly reducing not only the amount of waste in the trash, but also the number of plastic bags. You may also be able to train cats to use the toilet.

You can also reduce water waste by using a foaming, waterless shampoo (generally made from natural oils that are non-toxic to your pet), buy eco-friendly pet toys (like hemp rope, toys made from recycled plastic, and balls composed of non-toxic materials), and use ceramic food bowls instead of plastic ones (which may contain harmful BPAs and are almost certainly manufactured in a high-waste, high-pollution facility). In short, there are dozens of ways to reduce your pet’s carbon paw-print, and most of them will also improve the health of your best friend.