It is estimated that our dogs and cats cause the emission of 64 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. And yet, pet food companies aren’t doing much, if anything, to reduce waste of the food or it’s packaging. If fact, I’ve witnessed kibble brands-that I was previously purchasing from- switch from paper bags to plastic packaging.
The biggest part of our pet’s carbon pawprint and waste footprint is their meat consumption. Whether that can be helped or not is hotly debated, but from personal experience I know my 60-lb Weimeraner does great on a mostly plant-based diet. While cats are classified as obligate carnivores– meaning they can’t synthesize some proteins on their own and must, therefore, consume meat or supplement carefully- there are cases where a cat becoming vegetarian has improved their health. Dogs, recognized as carnivores for a long time, are more commonly being viewed as omnivores. It really has a lot to do with your specific animal and their needs.
Other parts of our pet’s waste include refuse, toys, bedding, and medicines. Most of these things can be changed and improved with a little bit of research and effort.
Since getting my Howl a little over 2 years ago, I’ve tried and changed many things in order to improve his health. I don’t practice all of these things, but I continue to strive towards all of them in an effort to make Howl as healthy as he can be, while trying m best to save other animals and the planet in the process 🙂
Ever since I got my Howl at six weeks old, I’ve tried to feed him whole foods as often as I can. For his first few months with us, I made most of his his meals in the CrockPot- chicken, carrots, oats, etc. Kibble companies are notoriously dishonest about the nutrition of and sourcing of their ingredients (plastic pieces, styrofoam, and many more questionable ingredients have been found in bags in kibble) and Howl’s reaction to many kibble brands proved to me that I couldn’t trust some corporation to maintain the health of my puppy.
Purchasing kibble means supporting GMO crops, plastic waste from packaging, the animal agriculture industry, and it gives the meat industry a way to make money off of the animals who die before slaughter due to cruelty and disease. It is a difficult thing for any of us to try to counter, given that a bag of dry, non-perishable dog food is easier for us than cooking extra meals. But, whole-foods are extremely important for both humans and dogs and we need to do our best to include them in both dog and cat diets.
Due to my busy life, I’ve not been entirely constant in making homemade food- I seem do it 4 months on and 4 months off. However, with that variation, Howl samples many types of foods that dogs aren’t often enough given (fruits, grains, vegetables, etc.) and it continually teaches me how to improve.
Whether you are feeding your dog a meat-based or plant-based diet, whole foods are great for them and you can cut down on your upstream waste by cooking the food yourself whenever you are able to 🙂
Here are some ways to reduce waste with specific homemade doggy diets:
-Raw food diet: Buy meat in the biggest quantity you can and freeze some of it. Ten-pound bags of chicken can often be found at your local grocery store. If you want to reduce the cruelty inflicted upon the animals that your dog is eating, buy bulk pasture-raised chicken wrapped in paper only. However, no store that I’ve talked to will allow using your own containers due to health codes. Instead, when I am buying Howl some raw pasture-raised meat at Whole Foods, I ask them to wrap it in paper only and I put that wrapped parcel into an old plastic bag so that no blood leaks out. However, this isn’t something I do anymore because Howl’s stomach does much better on a plant-based diet.
-Plant-based or vegetarian: Howl really seemed to like the food on this diet, but it was very hard for me to get him to gain weight on it. (He has has trouble keeping a healthy weight the entire time we’ve had him, despite my following vet recommendations for calories). Whether you want to increase the amount of plant foods in your dogs diet or eliminate most animal products altogether, both will help you reduce the carbon impact of your pet. 🙂 Many grains and beans can also be purchased in bulk.
-Cooked meat diet. A really easy homemade dog food is unseasoned stew : ground turkey or chicken (lower carbon impact than beef), oatmeal, pasture-raised eggs, and even pumpkin or butternut squash.
I highly recommend purchasing the Cronometer app if you are going to make homemade dog food to make sure they get enough calories- don’t look at the percentages on Chronometer, look at the calorie and mineral count. I’ve found all vet recommendations for Howl’s calories to be wrong- he has a high metabolism and needs about 400 more calories than any article or calorie calculator will tell me.
Another note: some people have access to bulk kibble, but I don’t. I currently feed Howl a medium-quality kibble (CRAVE brand) and supplement half of his diet with whole plant foods such as bananas, leftover veggie burgers, oatmeal, canned pumpkin, and tofu. I do think Howl is a vegan at heart ❤ Haha 🙂
I am not by any means making recommendations to you regarding the health of your dog- so be sure to talk to a holistic vet about any changes to make to your dogs diet, supplements, or vaccinations….but I personally don’t do any vaccinations other than the required annual rabies vac for my dog. I do not vaccinate myself, and I won’t vaccinate my dog any more than I have to.
I believe that they work, I’m not disregarding science, but vaccinations are not ethical in the least. The rabies vaccinations contain either human diploid culture (deceased baby tissue) or rhesus lung tissue (monkey lung tissue), in addition to chicken/egg protein and gelatin.
Less vaccinations do mean less driving to the vet, less paper receipts, less environmental impact from the manufacturing, less testing on animals, no trash from the bottles or pill packets, and less chance of bioaccumulation of drugs in the aquatic life and the environment.
My personal guidelines: biodegradable only. Braid your own hemp, jute, or cotton tug rope. Jute or cotton rope can be purchased in bulk at many hardware stores and can be composted once it has been shredded from much doggy playtime 🙂
Bones, cow hooves, antlers, and bull testicles are favorites of Howl’s. I don’t give him plastic toys at all, though one of these eco-friendly toys wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Hair, nails trimmings, and refuse can be composted if you want to start a separate compost pile for dog waste.
If you live in the city as I do, waste bags are a must- though I try to use empty grocery/sandwich bags that I find on the ground around downtown. Biodegradable plant plastic waste bags are sold at Petsmart as well.
The best thing you can do is to make your own dog bed out of secondhand materials. The second best thing you can do is to purchase a dog bed made out of biodegradable materials.
General Health & Hygiene
Wash with lavender palm-free bar soap to prevent fleas. I use Simple Truth Lavender bar soap.
Homemade flea repellent:
-Soak lemon and/or orange peels in 1:1 mix of water and plain vinegar for 2-3 weeks
-Spritz carefully along spine and back of neck, being careful to cover your dogs face so they won’t get irritated from the vinegar.
That flea repellent has worked for Howl, on the rare occasion that he gets fleas- and it’s cheap.
An herbal heartworm prevention medicine in a glass bottle.
Cuts and scrapes:
An organic salve that contains comfrey.
Immunity or Cold/Flu:
A liquid echinacea supplement in a glass bottle.
Yogurt (dairy, soy, or almond milk)
Mashed potato, skin removed
I hope this article has given you some ideas into reducing your pet’s carbon footprint 🙂 Before making any large changes to your dog’s health protocol, consult your holistic vet and do your research.
**Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or medical practitioner of any kind and am not issuing medical advice- just sharing how I care for my dog in a way that is less damaging to the environment**