Are Pets Contributing to Climate Change?
When it comes to climate change, we often think of human-generated emissions and their impact on the environment. But what about our pets? Pets — especially cats and dogs — account for a large amount of environmental waste, and the way we care for them can have a significant impact on the planet. We love our pets, and it looks like many, many Americans agree. Approximately 90.5 million U.S. families have at least one pet to love. According to the American Pet Products Association, we spent nearly $104 billion on our pets in 2020 alone. That's a lot of love directed toward our fur babies – and a big environmental impact. We'll go over how sustainability is becoming a buzzword in the pet industry, as well as some of the practical steps we can take to make a difference. We'll continue to cover more action steps all pet parents can take in additional blog posts.
The idea is often divided into four components: human, social, economic, and environmental. Each pillar plays an important part in the overall goal of sustainability.
The basic idea behind human sustainability is that in order for our economy to grow and thrive, we need to make sure that everyone – regardless of their background or circumstance – has the opportunity to meet their basic needs. Healthcare, education, nutrition, and skills development all fall under the pillar of human sustainability.
We know that low wages are associated with lower life expectancies, so As rewarding as it is to address the challenges of a rapidly changing world, our ambition is to make sure consumers have access to high-quality goods at an affordable price. By prioritizing ethical sourcing and fair wage practices in all stages of our operations, we are taking steps toward achieving this vision. Supporting brands that ensure all people in their supply chain are treated fairly is one way to make an impact.
Social sustainability is the ability of a society to meet the needs of its current members while also preserving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is often described as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Social sustainability is based on the principle of intergenerational equity, which holds that each generation has a responsibility to ensure that future generations have the same or better opportunities for wellbeing. There are many factors that contribute to social sustainability, including economic growth, social cohesion, and environmental protection. While there is no single blueprint for attaining sustainability, it is clear that addressing inequalities and promoting sustainable development are essential elements. With increasing awareness of the need for sustainability, more and more businesses are beginning to adopt policies and practices that support it.
Environmental sustainability has been defined in many ways, but the most commonly used definition is: "the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance." In other words, sustainability is about maintaining our planet so that it can continue to support human life and all the other species that call Earth home.
There are many ways to achieve sustainability, but one of the most important is to use natural resources wisely. This means reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and, instead, using renewable energy resources like solar and wind power. It also means using resources more efficiently so that we can reduce waste and pollution. Some businesses are already leading the way in sustainable practices, and more and more consumers are supporting them with their purchasing choices.
The chart below shows the different sources of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This is a great place to start across industries to achieve a more sustainable world.
Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most commonly used definition is from the United Nations Brundtland Commission, which describes sustainable development as "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development requires meeting three essential goals: environment protection, social inclusion, and economic prosperity. Protecting our environment is critical to sustainable development because it ensures that natural resources will be available for future generations and that the planet will be able to support human life. Social inclusion is essential for sustainable development because it ensures that everyone has a fair chance to participate in and benefit from economic growth. Finally, sustainable development requires economic development and prosperity, which means creating opportunities for people to improve their lives while using resources in an environmentally sustainable way. Refer to the World Resources Institute for more information on initiatives toward sustainable development goals.
There's a lot to unpack when it comes to sustainable development, but at its core, it's about creating a world that can continue to thrive long into the future. This means ensuring that we protect our environment, including everyone in economic opportunities, and use resources wisely. Meeting these goals is essential for creating a sustainable world.
Sustainability and Pet Products
As pet ownership becomes more popular, the demand for pet products has increased. Unfortunately, many of these products are not sustainable and can actually be harmful to the environment. For example, plastic pet bowls are often made from non-recyclable materials and can end up in landfills. Likewise, disposable pet waste bags are also a major source of pollution. They are usually made from plastic and can take centuries to break down. To reduce the environmental impact of pet ownership, it is important to choose pet products that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Look for items made from recycled materials, or choose products that can be reused or composted. By making sustainability a priority, we can help to reduce the environmental impact of pet ownership.
Biggest Environmental Focus Areas for Pet Owners
There is no denying that pet food has an enormous impact on the environment. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from meat production. Dogs and cats are responsible for 25-30% of the U.S. meat consumed, which is roughly equal to France's human population.
While it is certainly true that some of the ingredients in pet food are not suitable for human consumption, it is important to remember that pets are not humans. As such, they have different dietary needs and can safely consume things that we cannot. With that said, there is no denying that the trend of premium pet food products containing more animal-based ingredients is an intriguing one. This trend appears to be driven by the increasing view of pets as family members (we agree!). As more and more people treat their pets with the same level of care and affection that they would a child, the demand for high-quality, sustainable pet food products has steadily increased. Fortunately, the market has kept pace with this demand, offering a growing selection of sustainable pet food products. This is a topic we'll cover in more depth in another blog post.
For now, the biggest way to reduce your pet's environmental impact is to avoid overfeeding.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average dog produces about 274 pounds of waste a year. Multiply that by the 77 million dogs in the United States, and you get over 20 billion pounds of pet waste produced each year.
While some pet owners are diligent about picking up their pet's waste, many people believe that pet waste will simply decompose and disappear when left outdoors. However, this is not the case. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that can contaminate local waters, as well as nutrients that can cause excessive algae growth. This can create problems for both people and wildlife. When disposing of pet waste, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t impact the environment. One sustainable solution is to compost pet waste. This process breaks down the waste and transforms it into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Composting pet waste is a way to be more environmentally responsible and reduce your impact on local waterways.
If you cannot safely compost pet waste, we recommend purchasing these dog poop bags. These are the only dog poop bags certified to biodegrade in a landfill.
As the demand for pet products continues to grow, so does the transportation and shipping required to bring these products to market. While this increased demand presents an opportunity for climate leadership and sustainability, it also raises concerns about the impact on the environment and climate change.
Pet products are typically shipped by air, which is a carbon-intensive process. In addition, the packaging materials used to protect these products during shipping can add to the environmental impact. Some companies are beginning to take steps to address these challenges, such as using recycled materials for packaging and seeking out more sustainable shipping methods. However, there is still more work to be done in order to reduce the impact of pet product transportation on the environment and climate change.
As the global population continues to grow, so does the demand for food and other goods. To meet this demand, manufacturers are increasingly turning to sustainable packaging solutions. Pet food and products are no exception. Sustainable packaging helps to reduce the environmental impact of pet food and product packaging, while also mitigating the effects of climate change. Sustainable packaging is made from renewable or recycled materials and is designed to be reusable or recyclable. Sustainable packaging solutions help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and waste generation. As more consumers become aware of the importance of climate change, they are increasingly likely to seek out products that are packaged in a sustainable manner.
Recycle Old Toys
In our throw-away society, it can be easy to forget that the things we use every day have an environmental impact. From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, everything we consume has an effect on the planet. Our pets are no different. The food they eat, the toys they play with, and even the beds they sleep in all contribute to the growing problem of pollution. However, there are ways to reduce the environmental impact of our pets. One way is to recycle old pet products and toys. By giving them a second life, we can help to reduce waste and conserve resources. Another way to reduce our impact is to gift gently used items to local shelters while other animals wait for their furever homes. If that sounds like something you'd like to do, check out our donation program.
Do you have any tips for living a more sustainable life? Share them in the comments below!