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What's the Carbon Footprint of my Pet?

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Have any of you fur parents out there ever wondered about the carbon footprint of your pet? Since animal lovers likely share a love for nature too, we’re guessing you might be interested! A sombre verdict is that no matter how “green” the pet industry gets, it is unlikely to ever become part of a sustainable future.

A bite-sized summary of the key issues

Different types of pets have differently sized carbon footprints, depending on their diet, size, species and lifestyle. Dogs and cats are estimated to be responsible for about 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the US. According to a UCLA study, the meat consumed in pet food generates about 64 million tons of CO2 per year, which is roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of driving for 13.6 million cars! On the other hand, dogs may be able to mitigate some of this by encouraging low-carbon lifestyle choices like walking. Some believe that up-cycled pet diets can help reduce food waste by consuming meat by-products that us humans would typically reject from our plates.

Scientists are still contending over the role pets play in global warming, and this is not exclusive to cats and dogs - aquarium keeping also raises both ethical and environmental concerns, with aquariums being a source of continuous power consumption comparable to that of a typical household fridge.

So, what can you do?

Top 5 tips for reducing your carbon pawprint

1. Adopt, don’t shop. The most ethical adoption options are usually also the eco-friendliest. For example, puppy mills are not only inhumane, but are also notorious for environmental pollution caused by untreated canine waste. Adopting exotic animals might inadvertently support the illegal wildlife trade, further endangering species and disrupting ecosystem services, as the case of the African grey parrot most famously demonstrates.

2. Trees or treats? When choosing pet food, be sure to choose human meat by-products over human-grade meat, and rest assured it will be equally yummy for your furry companion. A very exciting protein-packed plant-based dog food option launched in 2019 by Wild Earth… check it out here.

3. Taking care of business. Depending on where you live, the eco-friendliest way to dispose of your pet’s waste may vary from composting to flushing, or even directly disposing into the trash. This is because dog and cat feces often contain pathogens that might contaminate our soil or water if the treatment options are unavailable. So, be sure to conduct local research for the best option in your area!

4. Who let the dogs out? Did you know that there was once a cat named Tibbles who managed single-handedly to wipe out an entire island species of bird? The case of the Stephen Island wrens supports many existing studies that cat and dog ownership are responsible for killing up to four billion birds and 21 billion mammals annually, endangering much of local wildlife across the globe. Keep your pets indoors, or simply add a bell to their collar to warn wildlife of your ferocious little predator.

5. Pets are for life. Needless to say, if letting your pets out to roam freely is bad for the environment, then abandoning them is much more detrimental. Many abandoned pets end up being invading local ecosystems and outcompeting native wildlife; read this National Geographic article to find out more.

To sum up the pawblem...

The intangible personal benefits of owning a pet should not go unstated. For many of us, our animal companions are the closest interactions we cherish with non-human species, and can become our main connection to the natural world. The health benefits of pet therapy are also aplenty – pets have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and reduce anxiety, to name a few. So, is it possible to be a pet owner and still live a planet-friendly lifestyle? There sure are plenty of things you can do to help...

Interested in learning more about your carbon footprint? Check out our app Capture - we can help you calculate your monthly guideline allowance, based on recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, then balance emissions at the end of each month through verified nature-based offsets. Simply search 'carbon footprint and CO2 tracker' to find us in your app store.

Questions? Suggestions on the next ‘What’s the carbon footprint of’ article? Let us know! Follow us via Instagram @thecaptureapp or send us an email at!


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