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The Best Ways to Reduce Your Dog Carbon Footprint

Ahead of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, the government’s COP26 spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, has suggested these micro-steps the British public can make to combat the climate crisis. 

Her advice includes not rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and reducing food waste by putting bread in the freezer. Stratton’s ideas have attracted some major criticism for not going far enough in the fight against climate change. 

Of course, much more will need to be done if we are going to save the planet. 

However, the conversation it generated got us thinking about how our pups are contributing to the climate crisis and the part we can play making them more environmentally friendly.

Read on to find out all about a dog’s carbon footprint, plus some simple actions we can take today to reduce it. A word of warning for pet parents everywhere: the environmental stats make for shocking reading!

The benefits of owning a dog

Before we launch into all the reasons why pups are problematic for the planet, let’s talk about exactly why they’re considered man’s best friend. 

  • They are shown to improve our mental health and reduce our stress levels.
  • They help prevent loneliness 
  • They keep us fit and encourage us to get out in nature more 

A dog’s carbon footprint 

For those of you who consider these cute and cuddly balls of fluff member of your family, some bad news: they’re really damaging to the environment.   

You might not think about it every time you pat your furry friend on the head, but it’s true

They guzzle down proteins, such as beef, and produce mountains of noxious waste. In the US alone, pet owners are responsible for an estimated 3.7 million tons of dog poop every year, with an estimated 9.4 million tons of total animal waste over the same period. Dog food production also requires vast amounts of natural resources.

According to studies, pets produce the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which has about the same climate impact as a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars.

Broken down in CO2 output per dog, this means an average-size dog creates around 770 kg of CO2e per year. A large dog produces a whopping 2,500kg of CO2e per year. 

Clearly, these are some worrying stats. So, what can us responsible dog owners do?

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple solutions to help significantly reduce your dog’s environmental impact. By choosing things like eco-friendly bedding and purchasing biodegradable pet toys, for example, we can keep our dog’s quality of life high, while lowering their impact on the environment. All without breaking the bank.

When it comes to solving climate change, these are only puppy steps. But they are certainly a good place to start.

Choose eco-friendly foods

We all know that eating meat is bad for the planet. Cattle farming causes deforestation and creates huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. This makes it a major contributor to global warming. 

According to studies, pets consume up to a fifth of the world’s meat and fish. Their predominantly carnivorous diet is the main reason that dog’s carbon footprints are so high. 

There is much debate at the moment as to whether a vegan or vegetarian diet is healthy for dogs. Most vets and experts maintain that a mixture of starches, animal proteins and fats is best for our canine friends. However, if you want to reduce a dog’s carbon footprint without turning them plant-based, there are a few simple diet changes you can make. 

The first and easiest step is to avoid overfeeding your dog. While it might be hard to resist your pooch when it begs for more food, remember: obesity is a major cause of health problems in canines. By not feeding them too much, you will benefit both the planet and your pet.

The next thing to do is to look out for eco-friendly dog foods that are made with sustainably sourced meat and fish. This way, you can meet your pet’s nutritional needs without damaging the planet.

Lesser-farmed meats like wild boar can be a good alternative to beef. Thanks to their naturally foraged diet, and lack of farming, the carbon footprint of wild boar is reduced by 83%.

And finally, if you’re choosing eco-products, their packaging should also measure up. Make sure to choose products that are recyclable.  

Opt for a compostable or biodegradable poop bag

Probably the least glamorous part of dog ownership, dog poop disposal is also a huge environmental problem. With over 9.9 million people in the UK owning a dog, that makes nearly 8 billion plastic poop bags going into landfill each year. And that stench is set to linger: the average plastic bag takes around 500 years to degrade in landfill – that is, if it ever full degrades.

All of this means that swapping to a compostable or biodegradable poop bags is an easy way to reduce your dog’s carbon footprint.  

Recently, there has been some controversy about whether dog poop bag brands have been twisting the facts to appeal to green-minded consumers. In fact, recent research found that brands claiming their bags were compostable didn’t actually break down for up to 1000 years. 

However, there are some great products out there. Look for plastic-free options made from corn-starch, plant oils. Adio plastic, Mutts Butts and Beco pets all provide these types of eco poo bags.

It’s important not to flush these bags down the loo or add them to human compost as dog poo contains harmful pathogens. However, they can be disposed of as usual. Or, better still, they can be added to any carefully-managed compost which is used to feed non-edible plants. They should decompose over a period of 3 months.

Switch to eco-friendly bedding

When it comes to choosing bedding from your pup, think about how you select your clothes with the environment in mind.

This means avoiding products made with plastics or polyester. Instead, opt for those made from natural fibres.  Unlike plastic-containing bedding, these products will biodegrade over time and the manufacturing carbon footprint will also be considerably lower. Another plus: these kind of fabrics tend to be gentler on your pup’s fur. 

This makes it a win-win, both for your dog and the planet. 

Select eco-friendly toys

Playtime for pups can often involve a lot of plastic. But thankfully there are plenty of easy ways to make it more green.

Aside from the obvious of getting outside and playing with your dog in nature, you can also use your creativity (and YouTube videos) to make some at-home toys. Just make sure your dog can’t bite bits off your creation, or playtime might end up with a trip the vet. 

For those of you looking to invest in new dog toys, it’s worth doing your research to source something eco and durable. While there are plenty of toxin-free products made from recycled plastics and organic materials, most are still made from hard-to-recycle plastics.

Look for products made from eco-sources. Natural rubber, for example, is sustainably tapped from trees, make it’s a perfect choice for dogs. Hemp, is another good alternative. It grows in abundance, needs few resources and takes up little space, allowing other crops to be grown in the same fields. 

You can also reduce your pup’s use of plastic products by swapping out plastic from their bowl and other accessories. Bamboo, a type of grass, is a great choice as it is both durable and biodegrades naturally. 

Greener grooming

Whether you see washing and grooming your pooch as fun or a chore, it is an essential part of pet ownership. 

That’s because it helps you keep your dog’s skin clean and moisturised. It also protects your pup from pollutants, pollen and other chemical nasties they might come into contact with. 

But while cleaning your dog has obvious benefits, choosing the wrong kind of products may mean you’re doing more harm than good. When buying a dog shampoo with the planet in mind, try to avoid products that contain harsh chemicals you struggle to pronounce. These harm the environment when flushed away, and aren’t great for your pup either. 

If you want to go one better, choose a doggy shampoo with an ethical accreditation. These, like the products at WildWash, use only natural ingredients and contain no parabens, phthalates, phosphates, petrochemicals, sulphates, palm oils, or PEGs.  

The takeaway

According to studies, dogs have been part of our lives for circa 14000 years. And we want them to bring health and happiness into our lives for thousands more.

But with the planet in crisis, and with CO2 emissions from our pets playing a worrying part in it, we need to take action. 

So, let’s make this beautiful partnership more sustainable and take these simple steps to reduce our dog’s environmental impact. 

It’s not the solution to the climate crisis, but it’s certainly a good place to start.