Reduce your Carbon Pawprint

*by Luke Vanderzeil*

So you finished all the puzzles in your home, joined an online gaming clan, brewed 20Ls of Kombucha and successfully murdered your first ever sourdough starter. Lockdown has made people venture into weird and wonderful places that we would normally dare not venture, to escape the increasing boredom and depression that is the age of COVID.

I have now entered the pet consideration stage of lockdown, which is both exciting and terrifying. My partner and I have always wanted a dog but I wasn’t sure if it could be done in a sustainable manner. Well, once again I’ve poured through a tonne of research to tell you it is indeed possible.

I will be focusing primarily on dogs in this blog but much of this can also be applied to cats and some smaller pets.

Adopt don’t shop

This is the first and arguably most important point when it comes to deciding on whether a new pet is right for you and the planet. A 2017 study estimated that around 250,000 healthy but unwanted dogs and cats are put down every year in Australia 😢.

By choosing to adopt a pet over an animal that is purchased from a breeder, you are very often literally saving that animal’s life. From an environmental point of view, it is more sustainable to adopt an animal that already exists, than supporting the breeding industry that is producing more animals and in turn more emissions. 

Furthermore, many breeders found on Gumtree and similar networks are either illegal or treat their animals in an unethical manner. 

Bear in mind, adopting an animal can come with other types of baggage such as behaviour and trauma issues, but overall it can be a very rewarding and sustainable option for pet owners.

Feeding time

I know what you’re thinking, “Luke wants to make our pets vegan!”. First of all, cats are carnivores, they need meat. You don’t see Simba grazing in the fields now do you? Can you feed dogs a vegan or vegetarian diet? The answer is yes, but only with strict guidelines and under the supervision of a nutritionist. As this is both timely and expensive, there are fortunately other sustainable meat options at your disposal for your pooch.

When it comes to purchasing food (both dry and wet options), consider these points when making a decision with the environment in mind:

  • What is the main protein source?
  • Is the food local and made in Australia?
  • Can I purchase this plastic-free or recycle the packaging?
  • Values of the company

In Australia, we are lucky enough to have access to kangaroo based pet food. Kangaroo meat produces much fewer emissions per kilogram than regular beef or lamb so choose food that has only kangaroo meat as the main protein source where possible. One of the more affordable brands is Instinctive Bite from Pet Circle.

A great example of an ethical pet food company is OpenFarm who are not only available in Australia and have high ethical standards but have gone the extra mile to partner with TerraCycle for one of the world’s first recyclable pet food bags, nice.

This checklist can be applied to pet treats as well. I should also mention that making your own pet food is a great option if you have the time but considering I barely have the hours in a day to feed my own tum, I don’t want to risk my potential pet going hungry.

For bowls, food mats and licking pads you can’t go past Lickimat. They run a zero-net cardboard warehouse and use natural rubber, making their feeding accessories non-toxic. You don’t eat off cheap plastic every night, so why should your four-legged friend? 

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I want to play with the hoomans

You can never have enough toys for your furry friends, but have you ever considered what they are made of? Many toys have dangerous colours, toxins and plastics present so you always want to do your research.

Opt for natural toys such as jute rope, hemp rope or toxin-free toys. Brands such as Rufus and Coco make toys from natural rubber! As they are going to be chewing on these items for many hours, I would want only the safest products for my doggie.

As always, Facebook Marketplace is a great location for all things secondhand. I got all my pet toys from here when I was fostering two dogs as well as their beds, bowls and leads! (Make sure it really is secondhand).

Again, making your own toys from old fabrics and clothes tied into knots and other creative designs is also a great DIY solution.

A final note on chemical safety. If you get pest control done at your home for bugs, rats or mice be sure to go with a company that has certified pet safe chemicals.

A harbour bridge worth of poop

Yeah that’s right! Australian dogs produce a Sydney Harbour Bridge worth of poop every year...oh sorry, my correction, every month! Where does it all g...of course, landfill! In the words of Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, well you should know what he says by now.

ian malcom 15

What can you do? Well, you can buy compostable pet poo bags and while this is better than the oil generated plastic kind, they are still being buried deep beneath us. If you have a yard or access to a community garden, there is an answer! 

Enter, the Pet Poo Composter. You can pick these up at Bunnings or from Compost Revolution through local council subsidy. Now they can’t be used in or near a veggie patch, that’s gross, but if you have the space, this will make your pet have one of the lowest carbon pawprints around! Plus you can throw those pesky pet hairs in there as well.

Don’t forget to log this in the action plan page of the ClimateClever App!

Too much poop talk? Just flush your pet poo...how did I never think of that? (This is not an option for cats as their waste can contain toxic parasites that damage waterways).

Composting pet waste is mainly going to attract the attention of extreme sustainability nuts such as myself, so we need local council support on this issue, as seen with this amazing pilot program in South Australia.

Adopting a pet is a big responsibility, not only for the animals but for the planet as well. Make sure you are up for the challenge, and if you are, who knows, you may be showing off your zero waste pooch around the park sooner than you think 🦮

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