It’s no secret that having pets can have a tremendous environmental impact: not considering the type of ingredients in pet food choices, not cleaning up waste, and running through toy after toy without trying to reuse parts that can be reclaimed can add significant amounts of material to the waste stream.
But shop at most traditional pet supply stores and the options for responsible purchases are minimal. So on Earth Day, here are a few tips for reducing the carbon footprint of pet ownership.
1. Adopt a rescue animal
As the mantra goes, “Don’t breed or buy while others die.” What that mantra doesn’t reference is the environmental impact that overpopulation of pets means to any community. While some breeders have the goal of producing litter after littler to preserve a breed and specific desirable traits, that leaves other purebreds and mixed breeds cast aside. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that in 2015, anywhere from 6 to 8 million animals entered shelters across the United States, with approximately 2.8 million lost to euthanasia before finding their forever homes.
Adopting a rescue animal serves a community by easing municipal shelter demands as well as giving a deserving cat or dog a home. Check out petfinder to start your search today!
2. Spay or neuter your pets
The best way to prevent overpopulation and crowding in animal shelters is to prevent animals from procreating. Even more, street animals procreating adds to community burdens for taxing Animal Care and Control officers to get these animals services. In Sacramento, be sure to follow the calendar of both Front Street Animal Shelter and Sacramento County Animal Control for Spay Day in November. Pet owners who are city residents can sign up for low-cost spay and neuter services as well as rabies vaccinations and even microchipping. Additionally, some rescue groups also sponsor mobile vet clinics in the summer months. For more information, check the city of Sacramento Animal Care spay and neuter program page for information on the SPCA program (call 916-504-2810 for dogs and 916-504-2811 for cats).
Additionally, your animals may enjoy healthier lives: pets may avoid the possibility of devastating illnesses such as testicular, ovarian, uterine cancer and a reduced risk of prostate disease.
3. Tag your pet
Use simple technology to keep track of Fido or Kitty. Microchipping a pet as soon as you adopt them is a solid option. Be aware, that if the animal is young, the chip – the size of a grain of rice and usually inserted between the shoulder blades – can migrate and thus, be hard to locate when scanned.
What further complicates matters is the fact competing companies exist and a lost pup can remain lost if a vet tech uses the wrong reader to scan for a microchip.
One possible solution is the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool, which aims to act as a translator between all participating microchip databases, such as AVID, or American Veterinary Identification Devices.
Dr. Gina Spadafori, writing in her column on SacBee.com, says “Once a microchip identification number is entered into the tool, within seconds, a list of registries with microchip registration information is available, along with the registries’ contact information. The registry with the most recent update appears first,” she posted in October 2010.
Don’t forget that most humans rarely wander about without a mobile device: consider hanging tags. Waggtaggs from Bark Busters are durable, offer quite visible engraving and are made from recycled silver.
4. Purchase pet food in biodegradable or recyclable packaging
Buying in bulk is one way to avoid tossing lots of wax-paper lined packaging into a landfill. Even better is purchasing brands that use packaging that biodegrades or can be placed in a recycling bin instead of a trash bin.
Williams Walters wrtes on petfoodindustry in 2014 that this packaging preference is expanding as a trend, having taken root in Europe in early 2010s. Mondi, based in Germany, led the way. It expanded by leaps in the United States in 2013, thanks to the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable advancement in the industry. This nonprofit specifically focused on petfood packaging starting in 2013.
Brands noted for offering environmentally friendly packaging to date include, TLC Whole Life Natural Pet Food. Since 2008, according to the company’s information, the food has been packaged in recyclable plastic bags and delivered in containers made of at least 50% recycled material.
For more information on specific brands, see petfoodindustry.
5. Scoop the poop!
10 million pounds of #2 a year. And it likely goes to landfills, which isn’t bad, because left lying around in our neighborhoods, it could kill grass, mess people’s shoes and stain their homes, and worse, wash away down the street into the raingutter and into a municipal sewage and water supply system, where it adds to the cost of treatment.
So, scooping is good. But landfill space for pet poop is bad. Just ask some of the foremost authorities on waste reduction, such as Will Brinton, founder of Wood’s Ends Laboratories, in Maine. Consider the biodegradable bags that allow the container and the waste to biodegrade [hint: while Walmart bags really can’t be reused for anything other than pet waste collection, they prohibit the biological processes.
Dogster.com in a recent column reviews the various pros and cons of biodegradable pet waste collection products on the market, because we all have different needs.
With just a few easy steps – similar to all the attention you pay to yourself and your home – pet ownership can be green without robbing your wallet of its green.