pets.jpg You try to do your best for the planet: recycle, maybe keep a compost pile, buy sustainable products when you can. But have you ever wondered about Fido’s carbon footprint? ABC News reported that Robert and Brenda Vale, two scientists from New Zealand, claimed in their book that a pet has twice the carbon footprint of an SUV. Their book’s title is on the offensive side: “Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.” If your household is like ours, getting rid of your pets is out of the question. They’re family. But the book does get you thinking. Your pet generates waste and consumes resources, but doesn’t have the independent agency of a human, so they’re not about to go to a local farmer’s market because of the locally grown, organic food. That’s where you come in, responsible pet owner. There are several ways reduce your pet’s carbon footprint, all of which are surprisingly easy.

Buy green pet products

Just like you can get a host of sustainable products for yourself, you can find sustainable products in pet varieties as well. You can find bamboo pet bowls; bamboo is a fast growing material and therefore highly sustainable. If you want to get a warming or cooling pad for your dog, go with ones that don’t require water or electricity. You can find brands that use pressure activated gel, for instance. When you’re looking for pet cleaning products, buy certified organic products and items like biodegradable pet wipes. Find non-harsh shampoos with natural ingredients. Also, consider getting sustainable fibers, like hemp animal toys and collars.

Spay or neuter your pet

One of the best procedures to keep in mind for sustainability is spaying or neutering. Although it’s impossible to tell for sure how many stray animals there are, The ASPCA states that estimates go up to 70 million cat strays in the U.S. That’s possibly 70 million homeless cats competing for resources. As the New Zealand pair above mentioned, dogs and cats eat primarily meat, which puts them at the higher end of the food chain. It takes much more resources to produce meat, making it a less sustainable food source and, by extension, wild carnivores less sustainable. If you spay or neuter, you take the possibility of strays and their rabid appetites out of the equation. The Humane Society of the United States has resources for finding affordable ways to spay or neuter.

Consider the waste

Every pet owner knows just how much waste his or her pet makes. Rather than having all that end up in a landfill, consider putting the waste into a compost pile. Then when your compost is ready in 6 months to a year, you can use it as a cheap fertilizer for your garden. If you don’t like the idea of keeping the waste around, make sure to use biodegradable waste bags. You can find them at just about any pet store.

Buy organic, sustainable dog food

Make sure your dog’s food is organically and sustainably produced as well. It doesn’t apply to just human food. There are tons and tons of brands on the market from which to choose. Popular brands like Earth Pets Organic, Natural Planet Organics and Newman’s Own Organics are listed as certified organic. There are even ways to put your dog on a vegetarian diet, if you really want to go low-impact. Brands like PetGuard Organics and Natural Balance have vegetarian dog food lines. Putting your dog on a vegetarian diet is a little bit of a controversial issue, however. Plenty of people claim that dogs and cats are engineered specifically for meat consumption (just look at their teeth). But it is possible for their needs to be met with vegan diets. It’s just tricky. Check with your vet before you change your dog or cat’s diet.

Contain your pet

Make sure to leash or fence your dog, and keep your cat indoors, if you can. This will stop your pet from trampling over natural areas and disturbing wildlife. lists cats as a major threat to bird populations. They estimate that cats kill 2.4 billion birds each year. Plus, your pet will be safer.

Upcycle dog accessories

Here’s a fun idea that will be great for using old items and having an enjoyable crafting afternoon. You can make dog beds from old tires, small pet beds from old suitcases, cat toys from old t-shits and anything else you could think of. Get creative with this one, and if in doubt, hit up Pinterest.

Adopt your pet

Adoption is the ultimate in upcycling. You can give a surrendered pet a new home without running the risk of supporting puppy mills. The ASPCA states 7.6 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters each year; 2.7 million animals are euthanized annually. And that’s as sad and wasteful as you can get.

Make sure you’re in pet ownership for the long haul

The ASPCA states, “According to the American Humane Association, the most common reasons why people relinquish or give away their dogs is because their place of residence does not allow pets (29 percent), not enough time, divorce/death and behavior issues (10 percent each). The most common reasons for cats are that they were not allowed in the residence (21 percent) and allergies (11 percent).” Meaning: Don’t take getting a pet lightly. Once you get them, they’re family for the rest of their lives. If the worst befalls you, because life has a habit of happening in unexpected ways, try to find a home for your animal with someone you know. Once an animal enters a shelter, there’s a chance they’ll be euthanized, especially if they’re an older animal. Please don’t contribute to that heartbreaking cycle.

Naturally clean your pet

There are tons of DIY cleaning options for your pet using items you already have in your home for other purposes. You’ll cut back on extra packaging for special products and save money. You can make homemade dog shampoo and de-skunk mixes, just to name a couple. has some good shampoo recipes. For a good DIY de-skunk mix that just requires hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dishwashing soap, go here. For an all-purpose cleaner for pet messes, go with the tried and true one part vinegar and one part water mixture in a spray bottle. Leave on the stain for a few minutes for tough messes, then wipe.