We’ve all got to pull together to tackle climate change. And we’ve heard rumours that dogs want in too! Well, that’s only fair enough! So today we’re exploring how dogs can become climate superheroes and what steps you can take to ensure your canine purchases and practices are as eco-friendly as possible. In short: how to be an eco-friendly dog owner!
As humans, there are loads of things we can do. Many of us already try to reduce our carbon footprint in small but meaningful ways. You know the kind of stuff: travelling by train instead of car or aeroplane, making the switch to green energy, reducing our plastic waste or reducing our meat consumption. But, the question is, what can our dogs do? How can a dog become a climate activist?
Well, firstly it’s worth defining some of the problems. Dogs often receive presents and toys, use hundreds of poo bags, get driven around for walks, and consume lots of food which often comes in single-use plastic packaging. Altogether, the average dog produces around 1 tonne of C02 each year, no small amount!
The good news is that you can make some pretty easy changes to reduce that carbon pawprint and become an eco-friendly dog owner. And as we like to say, planet, people and pets all stand to gain! So, let’s jump in.
Top 5 tips to be an eco-friendly dog owner
Whether you’re already a proud dog parent, or are considering how to become one in an environmentally-conscious way, we have you covered. Here are our top 5 tips to being a eco-friendly dog owner:
- Adopt, don’t shop!
- Switch to plant based food
- Less is more – what your dog really needs
- Dog toys and treats: upcycle and eco-purchasing
- Poop and poo bags: doing it the right way
Adopt your dog from a shelter – if you don’t already have one
In the UK alone, roughly 2.7 million animals end up in shelters. Of these, more than half a million are dogs. Yet despite this, dogs continue to be bred for sale in pet shops and by other breeders. As we’ve already mentioned, each dog produces 1 tonne of C02 each year – we don’t need more dogs than there already are! If you’re looking to welcome a dog into your home, getting in touch with your local animal shelter is the best way: you’re not only giving a new home to someone that really needs it, you also help decongest these shelters and avoid participating in the pet breeding industry which in recent years has grown to massive proportions. What’s more, it’s likely to be a lot cheaper than going via a breeder!
Switch to plant-based food
Swapping to planet-based dog food is a really great way to reduce the carbon pawprint of your dog and become an eco-friendly dog owner. Traditional diets which are meat-heavy have a big carbon footprint. Rearing animals and producing the feed (often soya beans) for these animals requires huge amounts of land, food and water. It’s harmful to the environment, producing air and water pollution.
What’s particularly surprising is the proportion of the meat industry which exists to produce meat for our dogs and cats. Data shows that 39% of total meat production in the UK is for dog and cat food. In the USA and Italy, this figure is 31% and the European average is about 25%.
Plant-based dog food is becoming really popular these days. Despite health concerns, studies now show that vegan or plant-based dog food diets can in fact be the healthiest option. Take Brandel, for instance. Brandel was a Border Collie who held the Guiness World Record for being the oldest living dog. Brandel spent 25 years eating a vegan diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains! Pretty cool!
If you’re considering trying out your dog on a vegan diet, we recommend starting gradually: there’s no need to rush straight in. Try a few different products, read up on their recipes and see which ones your dog likes. There are plenty out there to choose from! You should also speak to your local vet, just to make sure your dog will be getting all the right nutrients. Finally, whenever you pick a vegan dog brand, make sure to do a deep-dive into what they’re selling and check out their reviews. There are quality providers of vegan dog food out there, but this is a big step and you want to be confident! Oh, and don’t forget – dogs can’t eat everything! Watch out for grapes, raw tomatoes and other foodstuffs that are poisonous to dogs.
Less is more – what your dog really needs
Another great way to become an eco-friendly dog owner is to focus on what your dog really needs. It can be tempting to keep buying new presents, new toys, dog clothing… the list goes on! But bear in mind that a dog’s actual material needs are pretty small, and all those toys come with their own carbon footprint. Wherever possible, reduce your consumption of these kinds of toys which will reduce the waste packaging and raw materials needed to make them. For fun, you can always exchange dog toys between friends, or make them yourself (see below). When it comes to food, don’t forget not to stockpile too much food – remember that dog food also has an expiry date and you don’t want any of it to go to waste: that’s no good for the planet or your pocket!
Upcycling und DIYs
If you are looking for some new toys for your dog, why not try some upcycling? There are loads of ideas on the internet for homemade dog toys. It’s a great way to reuse old materials and textiles without throwing them away. With a little effort, you can make some great toys, clothes and other accessories for your dog from what you already have.
Now, if craft really isn’t for you, then consider shopping at an environmentally-conscious shop. It’s likely that these toys have been made in more sustainable ways, with recyclable materials and less packaging!
Poop and poo bags: doing it the right way
Last but not least, it’s time to talk business. Literally. It will come as no surprise that using 2-3 poo bags per day, commonly made from plastic, isn’t doing the environment any favours. With around 13 million dogs in the UK alone, that’s almost 40 million bags a day – close to 15 billion a year! Over the course of an average 13-year lifespan for a dog, the individual figure is up to 15,000! So, with billions of plastic poo bags used every year in the UK alone, it’s worth looking for alternatives such as biodegradable bags, paper bags or washable options. But that’s not all…
Our dogs produce a lot of poo and urine! Researchers have calculated that the average dog produced 0.2 kilograms of poo and 0.4 litres of urine each and every day. For the UK’s 13 million dogs, that adds up to about 1 million tonnes of poo each year – equivalent to pooing the weight of 100 Eiffel Towers every single day, and 2 billion litres of urine, the equivalent of filling 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools every single day. All this poop and urine is really bad for the environment: researchers have calculated that each dog produced 11 kilograms of nitrogen and 5 kilograms of phosphorus per hectare per year – an amount that is simply too much for our ecosystems to handle. That’s why these same researchers have urgently recommended that eco-friendly dog owners should make sure to pick up all their dog’s poop, even in the wildest parts of nature, and that dog owners should try and avoid their dog urinating against every tree and bush out there!
An extra little tip: for those of us with older dogs, or dogs with incontinence issues: there are some great options for reusable and washable dog nappies and belly bands. They can be a great way to save money and reduce waste accumulating in landfills. These products can help protect nature, and keep things clean. The best part is that there’s nothing to throw away: just wash and reuse!
Making small changes to your dog’s lifestyle is a great way to become an eco-friendly dog owner. You don’t have to do everything at once, but why not start with a small adjustment. Doing so can waste, protect the environment, save you money and improve the health of your dog.
What else can I do?
Whilst these are our top 5 recommendations for reducing the carbon pawprint of your dog and becoming an eco-friendly dog owner, there’s always more you can do. If you’re ready to take the next step and completely offset your dog’s carbon emissions, sign up to Climate Pets today!