By Julie Knapp, MNN
If you’re a dog owner and call yourself eco-conscious, guilt might set in after reading the new book Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living by Robert and Brenda Vale, which reveals dogs are worse for the environment than SUVs.
The authors, who designed the first sustainable settlement in the United Kingdom in 1996 and are architecture professors at Victory University of Wellington in New Zealand, measured the environmental impact of our lifestyles from the food we eat to how we travel to sports, hobbies and pets based on the Ecological Footprint technique created by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees.
Bottom line: Our pooches cost the Earth more than a Toyota Land Cruiser. According to the Vales’ research, a medium-sized dog has twice the impact of driving the luxury SUV 10,000 miles. Why? “Basically dogs are bad for the environment because they are large carnivores, so it takes a lot of land to provide their foods,” says Robert Vale. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to get Fido out of the doghouse.
Put your dog on a diet
Since your canine’s carnivorous diet is the biggest factor in his environmental impact, start by looking at what goes in the dog bowl. Most dog food isn’t produced in an eco-friendly way, and the heavy bags of kibble or cans of wet food have to travel miles to get to your door.
Dr. Viv Harris, veterinarian and author of Natural Remedies Dogs and Cats Wish You Knew: A Holistic Care Guide, suggests making your own dog food using locally grown or organic veggies. Your vet can help you work out the perfect mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins to meet your dog’s needs. And with all of the tainted pet food scandals in recent years, your dog may be better off eating homemade meals anyway. After all, many dog foods that claim to be natural still contain byproducts or low-grade meats.
If the do-it-yourself doggie diet sounds like too much work, look for smaller, locally made dog food brands. Or select chicken or rabbit based-kibble, which have a lower impact than beef.
Do your doodie duty
If you ask the Vales, dog poo isn’t such a big deal compared to what goes in the other end. However, if you don’t scoop up the poop, it can contaminate our waterways. If you’re a city dweller and use plastic bags to clean up, choose biodegradable poop bags.