The literal footprint of your dog may be relatively small, but their carbon footprint may be bigger than you expect.
One analysis found that the impact of a medium-sized dog is greater than that of an SUV.
Another study found that feeding the world’s dogs and cats create the equivalent of 64 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Happily, there are some changes you can make to reduce your dog’s carbon footprint.
Try these 10 ways:
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Adjust his diet
Food is perhaps the most significant source of a dog’s carbon footprint, especially since they need meat to be healthy.
While it may be detrimental to put your pup on a vegetarian diet, you can look for products with certain characteristics that help you reduce your dog’s carbon footprint.
For health reasons, you want a protein to be the first ingredient but consider sometimes swapping beef for other meats with smaller impacts, such as chicken, turkey or fish. Check with your vet before making any significant changes to your pet’s diet.
Also, look for companies that use renewable energy, have facilities near where you live and use sustainably-sourced ingredients.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Watch waste
Your dog’s poop is another way in which your pet can impact the environment. Always clean up after your pet to prevent pollutants from leaching into the natural environment.
Also, reduce your dog’s carbon footprint by using biodegradable poop bags, as plastic ones won’t break down in landfills.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Choose eco-friendly products
The pet products industry is worth almost $70 billion, but much of that isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.
Toys, bedding, food bowls, leashes, collars, shampoo and even high-tech pet cameras … the list goes on and on. Switch to products with recycled or sustainably-sourced materials to reduce your dog’s carbon footprint.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Use environmentally-conscious pet services
Even if you take steps to be a more eco-friendly pet owner, not all kennels, groomers and other service providers take the same measures.
When shopping for these services, seek out ones that advertise environmentally friendly practices. Online directories and other resources can help you find these sustainability-minded businesses.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Buy in bulk
As with products for humans, when you buy pet products in bulk, you reduce the footprint of your purchases because you cut down on the amount of packaging.
Next time you run out of food, treats, shampoo or other things your pets needs, buy in bulk and refill smaller containers.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Recycle empty containers
When you do end up with empty containers, if possible, recycle instead of throwing them away.
When shopping for items for your pet, check the packaging to see if it’s recyclable before your purchase.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Reuse or donate old pet supplies
You might also be able to find a second use for empty containers as well as many other things, such as collars, beds, blankets and much more.
If you have pet products you don’t need anymore, consider giving them to a pet-loving friend or your local animal shelter. That way, you’re reducing waste and helping pets in need.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Adopt a shelter pet
Changing the way you find your furry best friends is another way to reduce their environmental footprints.
If you typically get your dogs from breeders, try switching to shelters. There are already so many dogs in need of a loving home.
Adopting from shelters reduces demand for dogs from breeders, helping ensure fewer homeless pets.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Spay and neuter
Spaying and neutering your dogs is another way to prevent pets from becoming homeless.
It also has health and behavioral benefits for your pup.
Unless you’re sure you’re ready to have a litter of puppies in your home, always spay and neuter your dogs.
Reduce your dog’s carbon footprint: Exercise more
Pets can also be an excellent motivator to get more exercise. They need to walk for their health and it helps you by forcing you to get out.
Take that motivation a step further, and substitute running, walking, or riding your bike with your pooch whenever possible instead of driving around town. You’ll be helping the planet, as well as improving both your dog’s and your own health.
Emily Folk is a pet blogger and avid dog lover. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.