There are a lot of pets in the world. Just look at the stats for the U.S. and Canada alone: the ASPCA says that there are approximately 144-176 million companion animals in United States homes, while a 2014 study by the Canadian Animal Health Institute found that there are roughly 13.4 million pet cats and dogs in Canada.
Now, imagine the positive environmental impact if each of these pet owners adopted a few simple, sustainable practices regarding the ownership and care of their pets. What a difference that would make!
That difference starts with each of us. Here are 6 easy ways to become an eco-friendly pet owner:
1. Adopt from a shelter
What better way to embark on earth-friendly pet parenthood than to adopt a sweet soul who needs love and care? There are millions of shelter pets who need homes—and millions who don’t get one in time and face euthanasia. By adopting just one pet from a shelter, imagine how many resources—food, toys, medical care, paid staff—are freed up to help another animal in need. If more people adopted from shelters, these resources would be conserved thousands, even millions of times over!
2. Care for your pet with sustainable products
The pet care market is booming! Do your part by purchasing products that promote environmental sustainability. For example, you can use grooming and food products that are sustainably sourced. Purchase items that are sourced or packaged with recycled or recyclable materials, from pet food bags to kitty litter. And when your dog poops? Pick it up using a biodegradable bag.
3. Speaking of dog (and cat) poop, compost it!
No, it’s not natural fertilizer! In fact, animal feces can be a dangerous contaminator to nearby water sources. Throwing it in the trash isn’t an environmentally-friendly practice either; millions of tons of animal feces get dumped in landfills every year, where it sits and rots for decades. So what’s the best way to dispose of the doody? Turn it into compost (just don’t use it to fertilize edible plant gardens!), or flush it down the toilet in biodegradable bags, as long as you check with your water treatment center first. To learn more about eco-friendly ways to dump dog doo, click here.
4. DIY your dog and cat treats
Save money, wasteful packaging, and your pets from ingesting questionable ingredients by making their snacks yourself! Research some easy, animal-friendly biscuit recipes, or feed them pet safe people foods. Just to name a few, cooked eggs, carrots, and meat are generally safe for both dogs and cats. As always, moderation is key, and check with your vet before feeding your pet anything new.
5. Feed your pets sustainable food
Purchase food that is responsibly sourced with sustainable ingredients, and you’ll be supporting a healthier pet and planet! Certain brands, like Open Farm and Wellness TruFood also promote recycling through TerraCycle, a company that partners with brands to reduce the carbon footprint of their customers by finding innovative ways to recycle typically non-recyclable waste.
6. Play with environmentally-conscious toys
Whether it’s a kitty plaything that’s wonderful for the world, or dog a toy made from sustainable stuff, make your pet’s play planet-friendly. Want to really prevent waste? Consider which of your “junk” may be your furry friend’s new favorite toy (like old balls, stuffed animals, knotted T-shirts as pull toys, etc.—just make sure it’s safe!). You can even try to make your own; cats are easily entertained with aluminum foil balls or paper towel rolls. Lucky for us, our furry friends are easy to please, as long as we love them.