Recently, I read about a study done by researchers at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. They calculated that owning a medium-sized dog is as unfriendly to the environment as driving 10,000 kilometers a year in an SUV!
I was devastated when I read this. I try hard to reduce my carbon footprint – I recycle, avoid flying and have replaced my SUV with a smaller car. But what about my dogs? How could I make them “greener”? Happily, there are several simple ways to help save the environment by reducing your canine’s carbon “pawprint”!
1. Give him more veggies
Meat is less sustainable to raise than vegetables and grains. And many dogs can fare well without meat. Bramble, a border collie from Great Britain, lived past 20 eating nothing but rice, lentils and vegetables. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition confirms that even very active canines such as racing sled dogs can maintain excellent physical condition on a meat-free diet
Having said this, I have to admit that my own attempts at turning my dogs vegetarian ended in a hunger strike. They wanted meat, and that’s all there was to it. And some dogs need meat for health reasons, so be sure to check with your vet before going this route.
Even if your dog can’t or won’t eat an all-vegetarian diet, you can replace some of the meat in his meals with fresh vegetables, healthy whole grains, lentils and a bit of cottage cheese or yogurt.
2. Look for organic and local ingredients
Free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics, organic pet foods are gaining in popularity. Just be sure to look for products that are certified organic – the word “organic” on a product doesn’t necessarily mean it is organic. Buying pet foods that source their ingredients from local or regional farms is also an earth-friendly move. And try buying food in bulk if you can – it limits packaging and trips to the store.
3. Buy eco-friendly pet products
Almost every pet product can now be purchased in an “eco” version – from recycled plastic collars to organic hemp toys colored with natural dyes to fleece coats made of recycled water bottles. You can also opt for natural ear cleansers, shampoos and other products that don’t contain artificial fragrances or sodium lauryl sulfate (toxic to aquatic organisms).
4. Use biodegradable poop bags
Plastic bags can take over 100 years to decompose – biodegradable ones, just a few weeks. Some are even flushable. (Turn to page 80 for more on environmentally-responsible pet waste disposal.)
5. Spay/neuter your dog
The Humane Society of Canada calculated that in six years, two dogs and their offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 puppies. You get the picture! Spaying and neutering keeps dog populations down and help lightens the environmental load.