Many people today are worried about their impact on the environment, or whether or not our planet can continue to sustain human life as we now know it. Have you ever stopped to think about how raising your dog impacts the environment?
In their book Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, authors Robert and Brenda Vale assert that the resources required to feed a dog, including the amount of land needed to feed the animals that go into making dog food, are equivalent to the amount of resources needed to build and fuel two Toyota Land Cruisers.
Lest you think the Vales are just tree-hugging eco-freaks, the results were independently replicated in a study at the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, UK. Neither study looked into emissions of the dogs vs. the SUVs.
There are several ways you can reduce your dog's impact on the environment, and one of the biggest is to switch to a higher quality food. Choosing a food with a real protein listed as the first ingredient (rather than "meal" or grains) will have a positive impact on your dog's health, even as it reduces the amount of waste that ends up in your yard. Look for lamb, chicken, beef, or poultry as the first ingredient on the bag.
Don't forget to look at the treats you are buying. Most are nothing more than "junk food" for your dog. Just as you probably don't allow your kids to eat unlimited amounts of chocolate and hard candy, you shouldn't allow your dog to eat a whole bunch of treats. Most cookies are made primarily of grain products that your dog doesn't really need in any great quantity.
Natural treats such as fruits and veggies might make better treats. You might have to experiment a little to see what your dog likes, but bananas, carrots, and potatoes seem to be universal favorites.
In addition to looking at the ingredient statement on your dog's food, take a look at the packaging. This also holds true for dog toys and other supplies. Look for items with minimal packaging, as well as for packages that can be recycled. In some cases, even the supplies will be recycled, such as dog leashes made from recycled climbing ropes.
If you buy canned food, be sure to recycle the cans, and check the plastic packaging on toys and supplies to see if it can be re-used. When possible, buy in bulk because the larger sizes usually have proportionately less packaging. Even the bags you use to carry home your purchases can sometimes be recycled, assuming you don't already re-use the bags for pooper scooper duty.
Once you get your dog food home, how do you serve it to your dog? Plastic bowls for food and water can expose your dog to bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical which leaches out of plastic over time. Using stainless steel or ceramic food and water dishes reduces the risk, and they usually last longer than plastic, which puts less into landfills.
Last but not least, how are you packaging your dog's waste? Many people use plastic grocery bags, as noted above. However, these are hardly biodegradable. Did you know there is a corn-based bag that is fully biodegradable? You can buy a one-month supply of 100 bags for about $20. PoopBags.com also carries earth-friendly toys, treats, beds, and a product called Flush Puppies, which are poop bags designed to dissolve in water so you can just flush them down the toilet. These run about $17 for 60 bags.
If you use training pads in the house, check into machine-washable reusable puppy pads rather than throwing the plastic ones into the landfill every day. You might even save some money!
Many companies are now making rope toys and stuffed animals from hemp or from renewable or recycled products. Some examples:
A very important, but often overlooked, way to reduce the carbon footprint of dogs is to simply reduce the number of dogs in the world by spaying or neutering your dog to prevent unwanted litters. You can also help by adopting a shelter dog rather than buying a dog from a pet store, which likely came from a puppy mill. Adopting a shelter dog reduces the amount of resources used to heat and cool the facility.
You can also reduce your heating bill at home by using your dog as a foot warmer or bed warmer!
If you're concerned about our planet, and the legacy we are leaving for our grandkids, try out some of these suggestions, and "make this world a better place for you and me."
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