Sharing your life with an animal can deepen your connection to the natural world. Despite this important link to Mother Earth, domestic pets may be contributing to climate change. Between their meat-centered diets and the ease of nationwide shipping, is pet ownership bad for the environment? And if so, what can you do about it?
The meat industry has been associated with climate change through the change in land-use and as a result of agricultural processes. Ruminants like cows or sheep emit a greenhouse gas called methane as they digest plants and grasses. Research suggests that millions of tons of greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere from animal agriculture, pet food production, and transportation to warehouses and stores.
Since meat is usually the first ingredient in the diets of over 160 million cats and dogs, the carbon footprint of pet ownership is hard to ignore.
The Issue of Waste
Pet owners know that their pets love to eat. Environmental studies also show the impact that pet waste can have – over 5 million tons of feces is produced by our nation’s cats and dogs. To put this into perspective, that is as much as 90 million people’s waste per year! This fact alone may answer the question: Is pet ownership bad for the environment?
Fortunately, there are things we can do to minimize the impact of pet ownership on our planet. The following lifestyle choices may help you feel more responsible and in control of the future:
- Walk more (your dog will thank you for it!) or train your pup to run alongside your bicycle
- Buy only compostable, biodegradable waste bags
- Spay or neuter your pets, and donate to sterilization clinics to help reduce unwanted litters
- Travel less
- Find locally made pet food
- Only purchase food products with high-value ingredients (perhaps less chicken by-product meal)
- Look for non-beef meat diets, like fish or poultry (some products are more costly, but they don’t lead to overeating, thus resulting in less waste)
- Foster pets to help reduce the numbers of pets in shelters and shrink euthanasia numbers
- Create your own pet toys instead of constantly buying new ones that end up in the landfill
- Help pick up pet waste left behind at public parks
Is Pet Ownership Bad For the Environment?
No one is going to stop living with and caring for pets any time soon. Without a doubt, pet ownership is deeply entwined in our culture. We love pets, and there are things we can all do to positively contribute to a brighter future.