As it turns out, very green. She may be white and beige and fluffy, but she is definitely very green.
There are many plus points to having a pet, they are valuable and important to their human families, and we love them. But they can have a large carbon footprint, primarily because of the food they eat. Cats and dogs in particular get through a lot of meat. And us humans have lots of cats and dogs as pets. According to the University of St Andrews, pets eat about a fifth of the world’s meat and fish! That is a lot! (http://www.transitionsta.org/paw-print-your-pets-carbon-footprint/) The environmental footprint of the production of meat is large, from the effect on natural habitats, the amount of energy needed to produce and process the meat, and let’s not forget farting cows which release tonnes of methane into the atmosphere every year.
An average sized dog can be responsible for up to one tonne (1000kg) of carbon dioxide emissions each year. A cat, which relatively eats less, may contribute about 300kg.
To get this into perspective, the average human is estimated to be responsible for 7 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – and that is with all the travelling, buying clothes, eating, heating, going to football matches, washing, etc that we do. So one dog is about 15% of that. That is quite a lot. (Source: Mike Berners Lee, How Bad are Bananas)
On the other hand, a cute little guinea pig contributes about 30kg. That is because it is both small and vegetarian. And this is if you buy hay and manufactured food from a shop. If you can feed it grass and leaves from your garden, or waste vegetables from your kitchen, that may reduce it even further.
Is there anything we can do to reducing the carbon footprint of our pets? Yes there is!
- Buy products from companies with a good sustainable and environmental track record. For example, is any fish MSC certified, does the food contain palm oil, does the company have a sustainability policy?
- See if your dog will eat vegetarian. Dogs in particular, although not cats, can thrive on a purely vegetarian diet. Ask your vet if you are concerned about their nutrition. This will have a huge impact on their overall carbon footprint, and some people even say that their poop does not smell as bad!
- Where possible buy in bulk to avoid necessary packaging, or unnecessary delivery journeys.
- Think about the toys you are buying for your cat, dog, or even guinea pig! Buy durable ones, those made locally or from materials that can be recycled or composted. You could always make your own unique toys from materials you have lying around the house rather than buying something new.
- Use biodegradable or compostable doggy poop bags, and biodegradable cat litter
So, whilst a gorgeous fluffy little guinea pig may have a lower carbon footprint than a large dog, there are always things you can do to reduce the carbon footprint of all your furry friends.