Do you have a carbon pawprint?
The key to any effort to increase energy efficiency, reduce electricity consumption, and lower our carbon footprint is to realize that the world is a system. Everything is connected. The actions taken by a couple in Melbourne have an impact on the environment all around the world. It’s often difficult to envision just how connected everything is, and the tendency is to assume that certain aspects of our modern lives are exempt from conservation and energy saving considerations. Like, for example, our pets and the growing industry based around ‘humanizing’ their existence through luxury items and food.
In other words, we’ve come a long way from the family dog and your local Cat Lady. The time has come for all pet owners to consider not just their own carbon footprint, but also the carbon pawprint of their little friends.
Energy efficiency and pets
Pet ownership worldwide is on the rise, and in the United States alone pet care is a $50 billion industry and growing fast. For most people a sentence like that evokes images of furry friends sitting on your feet on cold winter nights, snouts greeting you at your door, and the annual ritual of feeding your dog peanut butter for the amusement factor alone. But it’s estimated that a medium-sized dog has a similar impact on the environment as driving an SUV-type vehicle 10,000 km a year. In other words, it’s time to start thinking about your pet’s emissions.
The luxe pets and power consumption
It would be bad enough, of course, as the world assembles an army of dogs and cats (and guinea pigs and ferrets and who knows, parrots or reptiles, too) all of which require tons of energy to create their kibble, toys, and other products. All of that food has to be sourced for meat and grain, processed, tinned, and shipped out across the world – as the pet population increases they’re forming an army of resource-hungry citizens in developed countries – and we’re not using the word citizen lightly. Many of these pets are living better than we are!
The marketing around many pet products has been described with the term humanizing. This means companies are encouraging pet owners to think of their pets as part of their family, as having the same rights and needs as people. This is a pretty natural instinct, as many traditional pets such as cats and dogs have evolved over the centuries to resemble in broad strokes a human baby – the large eyes and general form of a kitten or puppy in particular evokes a maternal and paternal reaction in people. It’s easy to convince pet-owners that the small mammal you’ve invited to live in your home requires food of the same quality and presentation as you do.
As a result, pet food is becoming more and more expensive and more and more resource-intensive in an effort to make it appear more delectable and appealing to humans in order to convince them that they are treating their pets with the right level of care. Additionally, the products being marketed to pet owners have become increasingly, and amazingly, complex and luxurious. Pet treadmills, pet spa services, air-conditioned pet houses in the backyard – many of our pets live better than fellow humans just a few blocks away. And few of these items are built to be energy saving products – though this can be dealt with by using a standby power saver as with any human product.
Pets are living creatures that deserve affection, care, and good lives. The benefits of pet ownership for humans are clearly demonstrated. There is a point, however, where you’ve gone beyond taking care of them and it’s all become a little silly – and pet treadmills are most probably that point. Every pet owner around the world should take a moment and consider the resources required to keep their critters in style, contact the companies that make their pet food and ask for information about the carbon footprint of their factories and sourcing, and, perhaps most importantly, ask themselves if Fido really needs an air-conditioned dog house.