How do we calculate the carbon emissions of cats and dogs?
July 4, 2022

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A force for good!

Here at Climate Pets, we make a fuss about the carbon emissions of cats and dogs. That’s right! Though we love our furry friends, the truth is that combined, our pets have quite the impact on the environment and… dare we invoke the phrase… the dreaded climate crisis.

But, what if it could be different? What if our beloved cats and dogs could be a force for climate good? Is that even possible? We think so and we’re sure you’ll think so too!

But first things first. We need to properly understand the footprint – or, as we prefer to say, the ‘pawprint’ – of our pets. So, here we’re sharing how on earth we know what impact a cat or dog has on the climate.

Introducing the Life Cycle Assessment

‘How the heck did you do it?’ you ask, curiously. What a good question that is. How does one calculate the environmental impact of a single dog or cat? Do we have to hook up our beloved cats and dogs to a big, industrial machine in Frankensteinian laboratories and extract all their carbon dioxide, faeces and heat? Thankfully, no!

So, what’s that other way? It’s called a life-cycle assessment. Let’s shorten that to LCA.

How do we calculate the carbon emissions of cats and dogs

An LCA is a brilliant scientific analysis technique that assesses the environmental impacts associated with one thing across its entire life span. That could be the browning banana in your kitchen: from tree to decomposition. Or, it could be your car, from the materials mined to build it, to the fuel used throughout its life, to the recycling and disposal once it goes to scrap. LCAs are a powerful tool to understand the big-picture impact of a product, being or thing. There’s also a great way to compare one thing against another: whether it’s the laptop you want to buy, or which animal to welcome next into your home.

Though not many people are talking about the carbon emissions of cats and dogs, we’re lucky that a couple of great LCAs have already been commissioned and published that explore the environmental impacts of our pets. We took a close look at these LCAs in order to calculate exactly how much an individual would have to compensate for through carbon offsetting in order to make their cat or dog climate positive. This forms the basis of our membership model at Climate Pets.

Here’s a little more info on those 2 LCAs. Drumroll, please…

Life-cycle assessment #1

Our first LCA was published in 2019 by Jasmin Annaheim, Niels Jungbluth and Christoph Meili for ESU-services GmbH in Switzerland. In this LCA, the authors focused on six types of pet: horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, ornamental birds, and ornamental fishes. (We should note that, currently, at Climate Pets we’re focused only on cats and dogs ) They examined many different aspects of a pet’s life, including feeding, housing, faeces, car journeys and other purchases caused by the pet.

What did they find? Well, it turns out that (unsurprisingly) the larger the animal, the bigger its impact on the environment. In total, dogs produce about 0.950 tC02-e whilst cats produce 0.390 tC02-e. Of course, it changes depending on the size and age of the dog/cat. In this LCA, the standard dog weighs 29kg and was 13 years old. The cats averaged out at 4.2kg and 15 years of age.

They showed that compared with the average consumption of a human living in Switzerland, the relative environmental impact of a dog is around 7%. In total, they calculated that pets account for 1.2% of the environmental pollution from Switzerland’s consumption.

Life-cycle assessment #2

Let’s take a look at our second LCA, authored by Kim Maya Yavor, Annekatrin Lehmann and Matthias Finkbeiner at the Institute of Environmental Technology, Technische Universität Berlin and published in 2020. In this LCA, the researchers looked only at dogs, assessing environmental impact across 15 different categories.

Their findings? Dogs analysed in this LCA produced on average 1.050 tC02-e, a little more than our first LCA. Much like our first LCA, they pointed out that food is the greater contributor to carbon emissions, with the impact of faeces coming in a strong second.

What can I do?

So that’s it folks! Now, if you haven’t already, why not sign up and become a member of Climate Pets and join a community that is changing the world, for good! If you have any questions or would like to discuss our carbon emissions process in more detail, always feel free to reach out to us at woof@climatepets.com.

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