By Sarah Grace McCandless, Animal Planet
Clearly, the size of your pets’ carbon paw print has a great deal to do with the type of animals you have. However, reducing that paw print depends more on the choices you make on their behalf. Keeping in mind the topics discussed here should help you to make greener choices for the health of the planet — and your pet.
If you’re up on your eco-lingo, you may be surprised to learn that the term “carbon footprint” wasn’t even a part of green movement vernacular until the 1990s. Today, however, people commonly use the phrase to describe the amount of greenhouse gases generated by day-to-day activities. You can figure out the carbon footprint of a person or organization, but either way, the measurement reflects the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) produced per year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on average, each American home creates approximately 9,000 pounds (4 tons) of CO2-eq annually.
But it’s not just people who make an impact on the environment — pets do too. In fact, some experts argue that a domestic animal’s carbon paw print, which may include everything from the food they eat to the toys they play with, can be quite significant. For example, according to a Mother Jones magazine report, just driving 10 miles (16 kilometers) a week to an off-leash dog park can produce up to 400 pounds (0.2 tons) of carbon a year. When you add up all the factors, it’s clear that pets can leave a lasting mark on the world around them. So the question for owners is this: How big is your pet’s carbon paw print? Grill yourself on the following topics to get an idea.
Where did my pet come from?
You may have already taken strides toward shrinking your pet’s carbon paw print if you got your furry friend from an animal shelter. Perhaps without knowing it, you helped address the issue of pet overpopulation. Shelters take in anywhere from 6 to 8 million dogs and cats every year, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and about 4 million of those animals end up being put down. There simply aren’t enough homes out there to accommodate all these would-be pets — especially because many potential owners buy animals from pet stores and breeders, which only adds to the pet population by creating a demand for more of them.
Pet population overload can cause problems in the ecosystem mainly because it multiplies the detrimental effects of certain aspects of pet life and pet care, such as waste creation and food production, both of which you’ll learn more about later on. In general, the more you’ve done to help curb this population growth — including spaying or neutering your pet — the smaller your pet’s carbon paw print will be.