Reduce Your Carbon Pawprint

April 3, 2011

I pride myself on my low carbon footprint.  I generally ride my bicycle to work.  I live downtown in a small house.  My husband and I share one car. I don’t eat meat.  I recycle.  Blah blah blah.  So, you can imagine my dismay when I read that a medium-sized dog has double the environmental impact of driving an SUV 10,000 miles!

According to Robert and Brenda Vale, authors of the book: Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living, “…dogs are bad for the environment because they are large carnivores, so it takes a lot of land to provide their foods.”  OK, I get that, that’s largely the reason I don’t eat meat, but I cannot imagine life without my dear sheepdog Makeba.  So, I started looking into ways we can live with our pets without unnecessarily stressing the environment.

First and foremost, adopt a needy pet.  In other words, get a recycled dog!  This doesn’t mean you can’t have the breed of your dreams, it just means you have to search a little bit longer to find your perfect match.  My husband longed for a Border Collie, but I told him that I would never buy a purebred dog as long as hundreds of animals are being euthanized at the shelter every month.   I visited the Charleston Animal Society regularly, and one day there was the cutest little Border Collie puppy just waiting to be taken home.  I adopted her immediately.  Ok, check one – I have a recycled dog.

The next item on the list is to have your pet spayed or neutered.  Unwanted puppies burden our society and the environment just because of their sheer numbers.  All dogs and cats are spayed or neutered before they leave the local shelters. Check.

Now we have to deal with the inconvenient truth that dogs and cats poop, and their excrement is not good for our soil or water supply.  Thus, we need to pick up our dogs feces.  I use the newspaper bags for this purpose when I walk Makeba.  If you don’t use recycled plastic bags to pick up poop, I’d recommend that you buy biodegradable bags.

Now to the subject of what to feed your pet.  Although there are some fairly balanced vegetarian pet foods out there, as a veterinarian, I do not recommend vegetarian diets.  Instead of asking your carnivorous pet to go vegetarian it might be better to use organic foods.  There are plenty on the market now.  Keep in mind that packaging is a huge stress on our landfills.  Try to buy foods in bulk and store them in your own re-usable Tupperware containers to keep them fresh.

You also can make your dog’s food with fresh organic products.  Ask your veterinarian for help with a recipe if you choose to do this.  Make sure the mixture is balanced with the proper vitamins and minerals.  While I don’t do this, I do feed my dog a rabbit and potato diet made by a company that uses green production methods.  Poultry and rabbit farming have a lower environmental impact than beef, so chicken or rabbit diets are a little greener than beef or pork based foods. You can definitely make your own pet treats.  Fun recipes abound on the internet.

When I looked at Makeba’s toys, I realized that I was really dropping the green-living ball here.  Plastics inevitably make their way to the landfill and Makeba has her share of squeaky plastic toys.  From now on I will buy sustainable toys like Loofah pet toys by Olive Green Dog Company or Cosmos Balls by Orbee-Tuff.

When it comes to flea and tick control the key is prevention.  Keep your pet on a veterinary approved flea prevention year around and you avoid the need for chemicals in the house and the yard.

There are hundreds of ways you can turn your pet green.   There is a great blog out there called raiseagreendog.com that can help you come up with more creative ways to own a dog without overly stressing the environment.

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