Are you a ‘green’ pet owner?
It’s often said that you can learn a surprising amount about a person based solely on the way they treat animals. While not everyone is a pet-lover, most people are instinctively compassionate and kind to animals, and many of us treat our pets as members of our family, with their own personalities and role in the family dynamic. If you’re a pet owner, chances are you love your pet and would do anything for them. If you’re also an environmentally-aware and responsible person, you should also stop and consider the impact that your beloved pets are having on the world.
There are a lot of pets in the world – over 5.7 million in Australia alone, and that’s just counting dogs and cats, by far the most popular pets in the Western world. There was a time when dogs and cats had practical roles to play in our daily lives. Cats were often kept in order to control vermin populations, and dogs were frequently trained in a variety of tasks on farms.
Today, however, most pets are pampered and exist solely for companionship and recreation – which means the resources devoted to their daily keep are not offset by any sort of service or work. In other words, pets simply are not very energy efficient. You may look at your dog or cat and think they are just a small animal, but multiply them by the tens of millions and you begin to see where feeding, sheltering, and cleaning up after these cute critters has a huge environmental impact. Here are some ways you can make your pet ownership a little more ‘green’.
Adopt and Fix
First things first: There are a lot of stray animals in the world. By adopting a puppy or kitten from a shelter instead of purchasing from a breeder or store, you are lowering the population of strays without encouraging the breeding of even more animals. By then having your new pet spayed or neutered, you’re preventing more animals from being created in a world that already has many more animals then it can handle. Each cat or dog represents energy used to keep it alive. By adopting and fixing, you reduce energy use over the pet’s lifespan.
Buy in Bulk
Your pet’s food takes immense amounts of resources to create, from the manufacture and transport costs to the costs involved in packaging. Buy your food and other pet needs in bulk to reduce packaging and consider purchasing organic pet food. Set up an automatic feeder on an EcoSwitch to make sure the food stays fresh and is only doled out when needed.
The Straight Poop
One of the biggest negative impacts pets have on the world is their waste products. Not only can animal waste left on the ground contaminate groundwater and spread disease, the only other alternative is to throw it in the trash, meaning it adds to our swollen landfills. Cat litter creates a secondary problem as most cat litter is made from diatomaceous earth, a precious resource that is limited. If nothing else, at least use biodegradable bags to collect the waste in, or put it directly into the garbage with no bag at all.
When buying or building pet shelters like dog houses, use the same principals used in the design of human homes: make it energy efficient and build from recycled materials. Buy pet toys and other products that are made from recycled materials, too. And when they are no longer played with, donate them to the local shelter to get one last bit of life from them.
We cherish our animal companions, but they are expensive to keep in more ways than one. Doing whatever you can to reduce the environmental impact of your pets is your duty to them – and the planet they share.