Our pets are part of the climate problem. These tips can help you minimize their carbon footprints

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(CNN) Our four-legged friends don’t drive gas-guzzling SUVs or use gas-guzzling appliances, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a climate impact. In fact, researchers have shown that pets play a significant role in the climate crisis.

But what do Barkley and Whiskers have to do with the warming of our planet? It’s the products we buy for them that need a closer look.

Their diet, rich in meat, contributes the most to their carbon footprint, the production of which requires an abundance of energy, land and water. And pet food production emits huge amounts of gases that warm the planet.

According to a 2017 study, feeding dogs and cats creates the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide in the United States each year. That’s about the same impact as 13.6 million cars on the roads. And if our four-legged friends were a separate country, it would rank fifth in the world in meat consumption, behind China, the United States, Brazil and Russia, according to the UCLA professor and author of this study, Gregory Okin.

But do not panic. Saying goodbye to your best friends is not the answer.

In addition to all the joy they bring, pets have a measurable positive impact on our physical health and mental well-being. Having a pet in the family is associated with less stress, fewer heart attacks, lower rates of depression and higher self-esteem.

“Our work does not mean that we are ‘against’ keeping pets,” said Pim Martens, professor of sustainability at Maastricht University and researcher on the impact of pets on the planet. . “There are many benefits too. Just be aware of the ‘side effects’.”

So, what should a concerned pet parent do? Here are some ways to minimize your pets’ environmental impact while still caring for your furry fleet.

Do an assessment of your pet’s diet

First and most importantly, responsible owners who are considering making significant changes to their pet’s diet should discuss it with their veterinarian to ensure it meets their pet’s needs.

In fact, if you’re the proud owner of a feline, you shouldn’t even think about changing their diet. Cats are obligate carnivores – they must eat meat, according to Angela Frimberger, a veterinarian at Vets for Climate Action.

Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores and don’t necessarily need meat at every meal, much less sirloin steak.

“I wholeheartedly hope that pets receive good quality, nutritionally appropriate food,” Frimberger said. “But for most healthy pets, the tendency to feed foods with premium ingredients goes back to our habit of viewing our pets’ needs through the lens of what we would like, rather than what they need. really need or like. We must remember that what we are interested in does not necessarily equate to true nutritional quality for the animal.”

Frimberger noted that there are new food developments on the market that are worth investigating, especially for dogs, including lab-grown meat. A 2014 study found insects are a good nutritious source of protein for pets – and are not likely to disgust your companion (unlike humans who would find eating such creatures revolting).

“Insect-based pet foods can be nutritionally complete and are starting to hit the market around the world,” Frimberger said. “They may also be a solution for some pets with food allergies to traditional protein sources.”

And of course, only give your pet the amount of food he needs: he will be healthier and feel better if he is not overweight.

Remove waste



Buy pet toys with your pet’s true well-being in mind. Resist the urge to shop for fun.

While items like toys, bowls, litter, poop bags, and leashes are often necessary for your pet, it’s just as important to look at their durability, supply chains, and possibility of recycling as the product itself.

For cats, look for the most environmentally friendly litter option your feline will accept, such as those made from organic materials rather than clay. Although clays are natural soil minerals, they must be mined, which contributes to soil erosion, habitat destruction and groundwater contamination.

For dogs, choose biodegradable poop bags and always pick them up, no matter where you are. Studies show that failing to pick up puppy poop could cause harmful microorganisms such as roundworms, E. coli and giardia to survive in your yard for up to four years, posing a health risk to humans.

Okin recommends flushing pet poop directly down the toilet.

“Our water system is designed to treat toxic waste and prevent these pollutants from entering the environment,” Okin said. Just make sure you don’t throw other things in there, like animal poop bags or non-disposable cat litter. Feces only.

And while it may be tempting to dress your little ones for various outings and vacations, it’s important to purchase items with the pet’s true well-being in mind. In other words, ask yourself: what does your pet really need and what are you buying just to satisfy his shopping urge?

“We need to think about the real needs of the pet rather than our tendency toward consumerism,” Frimberger said.

Adopt responsibly



Small pets – including mice, birds and turtles – have a lower climate impact.

The general rule is that larger animals will have a greater climate impact than smaller animals, mainly because they need more food. So you may want to consider smaller breeds or species if you want to minimize your impact on the planet. The carbon footprint of a Chihuahua will be much smaller than that of a Saint Bernard, for example.

You might also consider that certain animal breeds tend to have more health problems.

“Avoiding animals with known health problems will reduce the need for veterinary intervention, which has a carbon footprint, and, more importantly, reduce unnecessary suffering in terms of poor health and well-being,” said Gudrun Ravetz from Vet Sustain.

And for those who don’t like stuffed animals, cuddles and drool, you’re in luck.

“Small rodents and birds are great options,” Okin said. “Snakes, turtles and reptiles can also have a very low impact for those interested in them.”


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