Pets = Big Carbon Footprint

pets, dogs“You take small plastic bag to scoop up the poop…tie the bag with a little knot and, THEN WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE POOP??” My friend Teri asked as she searched for better ways of disposing of pet refuse.

Great question, because other than running around a bit, pets do their fair share of eating and relieving themselves. Lucky they’re so cute.

There are basically three parts to a pet’s large carbon footprint, which in 2009 was compared to that of an SUV:  what they eat, how waste is bagged, and finally how its disposed.

What’s a Pet Lover to Do?

  • Consider a vegan diet. This is probably more feasible for dogs (they do tend to eat everything whether its good for them or not). There is a lot of controversy about whether it’s wise to take pets off of a meat-based diet, but Happy Herbivore recommends it for dogs.  

How to Live a Low-Carbon Life attributes a pet’s meat and cereal diet to their large carbon footprint. It estimates that creating food for one dog generates about three metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
  • Use compostable bags. There is a big difference between a plastic bag that will decompose and a biodegradable/compostable bag. Compostable bags are made from renewable resources, usually corn, and decompose naturally like other organic materials. Regular plastic bags take over 100 years to break down leaving microscopic flakes of plastic behind. Compostable bags begin decomposing in as little as three months and leave no harmful residue behind. Here are some compostable bag resources: BioBag and PoopBags.
  • Consider a Pet Waste Composter. If you have the property to build a composter, separate from the one you use for your garden, away from water and food sources, it will reduce your pet’s impact on the environment and keep their poop out of landfills.We tried a composting dog waste years ago but couldn’t seem to manage the poo-eating bacteria properly so just ended up with a stinky poo-slurry buried in the ground. You can build your own,  or try a commercial composter. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck than we did. We might give that a try again as currently we take more of a rain and sun approach to our dog waste disposal and toss it over the fence into the woods. Even though it’s not near any water sources or other homes, probably not a good idea disease-wise.

Pre-owned Pets
One of the tenets of being low-carbon is to buy used, be it clothing, furniture, houses, or even pets! The reason is that (a) there are plenty of things out there already and (b) buying new creates demand to produce more; and production of anything, it seems, emits carbon dioxide or other harmful greenhouse gases. The Humane Society is a great place to find cats and dogs, or if you like a particular breed of cat or dog, try purebred rescue. My dog, Lolita, is a purebred rescue weimaraner.  Locally, you can search online for pets at Kitsap Human Society.


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One Response to Pets = Big Carbon Footprint

  1. Dr David Samways says:

    The carbon footprint might have been compared to an SUV, but it would be wrong. Just think about it for a moment, is it likely that a dog has the same carbon footprint as an SUV? You’re right, it’s barmy. A Toyota Landcruiser produces 4150 kg CO2 in ten thousand km and that doesn’t account for building it, maintenance, building roads and other infrastructure.

    If a dog ate 165kg of cooked chicken a year it would have a carbon footprint of 1138 kg CO2e. Most dog’s aren’t fed on individually cooked prime chickens but mechanically recovered by-products and so the actual carbon footprint will be a fraction of the figure.