As the importance of environmental health and sustainability begins to pervade every aspect of our lifestyles, from transportation and electricity to grocery bags and toilet paper, you may be wondering why it isn’t easy to make environmentally conscious choices for our pets as well.
The majority of your dog’s carbon footprint can be attributed to dog food. While you may have noticed higher priced “luxury” dog food options flooding the shelves, the trend seems to target customers willing to pay more for a “healthier” high-protein option, but few companies offer products which are geared towards the green pet owner.
Market change and innovation is driven by demand, and with many consumers remaining unaware of the environmental costs of feeding their pets, this issue has yet to become a household issue.
Viewers may have been surprised recently when talk show host Ellen Degeneres began promoting Halo, a brand which offers vegan dog food.
The target market for such a product is twofold, capturing both the eye of vegetarians, who would prefer to feed their pet meat-free options, and also the environmentally conscious, who are aware that the meat industry is responsible for deforestation, high carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, water shortages, and land degradation.
Though Halo is not the only producer of vegetarian and vegan dog food (other large producers are V Dog, and Veggie Pets), options are largely unavailable at local supermarkets and must generally be ordered online. Perhaps with the recent celebrity endorsement, we might see an increase in awareness, as well as an increase in more readily available alternatives.
Another way for you to reduce your pet’s carbon footprint is to go local. A recent and much talked about trend is the “farm to bowl” movement. These are community-based enterprises focused on supporting local agriculture by buying unsold fruits and vegetables from local farms and combing them with meat scraps from local butchers. Farm to bowl dog food can be subscribed for, or bought at local farmers marks (depending on local availability).
Pet food is a $55 billion industry world-wide, and with the number of pets growing steadily every year, something as simple as choosing the right kibble could have a global impact.
So, how can you become a green pet owner?
1) Do your research: know what products you are feeding to your pets and what the eco-impact of those products may be (endangered whale meat was recently found in Japanese dog treats! Research whether or not vegetarian pet food could be right for you and your pet, and ask your vet if the transition can be made.
2) Overfeeding is a big problem in both dogs and cats, talk to your vet about appropriate portion control.
3) Minimise packaging wherever possible, and stay away from single-serving “meals”.
4) Go local! Though an expensive option, farm-to-bowl producers may appeal to those who feel strongly about local agriculture, low carbon, or food waste.
5) Make your own “farm to bowl” by buying scraps from your local butcher.
6) Making use of healthy, unspoilt, non-greasy food scraps is a great way to save money and minimise food waste.