What is a “Sustainable Pet Lifestyle”?
Before I address a sustainable pet lifestyle, let’s first get a basic definition of sustainability. If you ask multiple people what their idea of sustainability is, you will likely get varying definitions of sustainability. In a basic form sustainability means striking a balance between our resources and our needs by not depleting our natural resources.
In her book, Pets and the Planet, Carol Frischmann comments: “In the context of pet ownership, it means providing for our pets in a way that leaves the earth as resource-rich after we care for our pets as it was before we acquired them.” That’s simple enough, right?
In a study published by Gregory Okin, a UCLA professor, pets in our households create about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide and methane annually, equivalent to the impact of 13.6 million passenger cars on the environment. I recently saw an article that related a household dog to be equivalent to an SUV and a domestic cat to that of a passenger car per year. So clearly making a change of any kind with caring for our pets in a more sustainable manner will make a difference; if we do this together as a community, we can make a change.
The number one contributor to the environment is our pets’ diet. I’ve seen various statistics on pet food’s environmental impact, but what is basically agreed upon is that meat production, not only in the US, but worldwide causes a huge environmental impact and our pets account for 20% of that production. Correspondingly, the production of pet food emits large amounts of planet warming gases. Eliminating meat is not an option, particularly if you are a cat parent, since cats are obligatory carnivores and must eat meat. Dogs, however, are omnivores and don’t necessarily need to have meat every meal.
What can we do to be more sustainable pet parents?
1. Examine our pets’ diets and with consultation with your veterinarian, decide if alternative protein is an option or doing a hybrid diet of meat and alternative protein. (I will start a discussion on alternative protein in my next blog post).
2. Consciously choose eco-friendly pet products. Look for products that are made from sustainable materials or that can be recycled or biodegradable. (This is where Three Corner Woods can help!)
3. Consider using natural cleaning products instead of harsh chemicals.
4. Looking for a new furry family member? Look for perhaps a smaller breed that consumes less. Better option yet is to adopt from a shelter or rescue.
5. Instead of clay litter, look to natural pine bedding to use as a litter.
6. Repurpose household items such as towels or old sheets to use as car seat covers, blankets, furniture or crate covers.
In the future, joining with Three Corner Woods we will discover other ways to be more sustainable pet parents. But we are not alone; according to a Rover.com survey of 1,000 pet parents, nearly three quarters said they are interested in learning about living more sustainably with their pets, and 81 percent said that taking care of their pet in an environmentally friendly way is important to them.
Jim Faust is the proprietor of Three Corner Woods, a sustainable pet lifestyle shop which operates within Schiers Market in Chambersburg, PA and online at www.3cornerwoods.com.
 Pets and the Planet, A Practical Guide to Sustainable Pet Care; Carol Frischmann (2009)