We’re all becoming far more conscious about the environmental impact of our day-to-day actions. As such, if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably taken the time to look at your lifestyle and where you can make more eco-friendly choices. After all, we share our planet with so many species; as animal lovers, we have to be mindful of the damage we’re doing to their habitat, too. So, if you have been trying your best to ‘do your bit’, have you considered your pet? Is there such a thing as sustainable pet care?

The short (and positive!) answer is, yes! There are so many ways in which we can take care of our four-legged (and two-legged!) friends, without compromising their care, that ensures everything we’re providing is safe for both our pets and the planet. 

Here are our top tips to reduce your pet’s environmental pawprint…

1) Choose products that are durable and long lasting.

When you’re choosing pet products, avoid any that could easily break or become damaged. They’re likely to just end up in landfill. Think about a toy that’s going to last the distance – take a dog that’s a chewer, for example. They can make light work of a soft toy (that can’t be recycled). Much more suited to them is something tough and durable, like a KONG toy. Hours of fun and years of use – that’s a win-win! 

Now what about your pet’s food and water bowls? It goes without saying, they need to be plastic-free. Ceramic and stainless steel bowls are far more resilient; easy to clean and long-lasting. For a gold standard eco-friendly bowl though, try bamboo. Many of the top bamboo bowls on the market will last for years and, when the time does come to say goodbye to them, they break down into compost. 

And while you’re at it, check out the packaging: Is it recyclable or biodegradable? Depending on how often you’re buying for your pet, this can make a significant difference. 

2) Check out the the food you’re buying for your pet.

It’s well established that agriculture has a high carbon footprint, especially some types of intensive meat production (we’re thinking especially American-style feedlot beef). While we’re not saying your pet needs to go vegan (although research is increasingly suggesting that this is a viable option for dogs at least), it is worth considering how much ”meat” there is on the label. Here in the UK, pet food needs to be made from ingredients that are for for human consumption – so those widely derided ”byproducts” are actually perfectly safe and nutritious: they’re just not the bits that we humans like! But by buying a diet with more “meat” (ie the bits we would eat), you’re driving more food animal production and slaughter, whereas using less means that the animals are being used more efficiently.

Of course, evidence does suggest that a fully balanced and complete commercial vegan diet is nutritionally adequate for dogs, so you might decide that’s the best way forward. Although it is important to be aware that while intensive arable agriculture to produce these plant based diets is responsible for far lower carbon emissions, it can be more costly in terms of biodiversity collapse and soil erosion, and some studies suggest that more animals die in the harvesting of a kilogram of wheat than a kilo of beef.

We are of course aware of an ongoing debate over how healthy vegan vs raw food vs commercial dry or tinned foods are. So if you’re not willing to lose the meat, how about insect based protein? Nutritious and lower carbon, and with fewer animal welfare concerns, it might be a nutritional sweet spot!

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Still not convinced? OK, if you feel your pet needs a high meat diet, then make sure its extensively raised grazing meat (upland sheep or cattle), or wild game (venison, pigeon, pheasant), as these animals have the lowest carbon footprint.

3) Steer clear of plastic food pouches – or put the extra effort into recycling them.

This leads nicely on from our previous point, as one of the main packaging areas you’ll need to consider when it comes to your pet (particularly one where you’re frequently buying), is their food. Most pet food pouches are made from what’s known as flexible plastic, often an aluminium-plastic mix. This makes them a little more difficult to recycle as the metal and plastic needs to be separated. Thanks to more recent advances, many of these pouches (particularly from the bigger pet food companies) are now recyclable. However, you will need to be prepared to take your used pouches to a recycling point and not just pop them into your household recycling. 

If you’re keen to avoid plastic pouches altogether, paper-wrapped dried food is an easier choice. For those pets that love their wet food, consider aluminium trays or tins which are fully recyclable. 

4) Buy in bulk.

While we’re on the subject of pet food, can you buy in bulk? Across any of your pet products (food being the most likely regular purchase), if you can bulk buy it reduces the need for frequent shopping trips or deliveries. Every little helps!

5) Comfort without compromise.

We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep – and it’s just as important for our furry family members, too. A pet bed, depending on the size of your pet and their specific needs, can be a significant investment, but absolutely worth it! So when you’re making that investment, ensure it’s eco-friendly. That means it doesn’t come wrapped in plastic packaging, and it’s not filled with hidden plastics or synthetic fibres. Do your research and you’ll easily find an eco-friendly pet bed, often made with bamboo, natural mixes of hemp and cotton, eco wool or organic cotton… the list goes on! And your pet can ‘paws’ and rest easy, knowing they’re doing their bit for the planet whilst enjoying the comfiest of cat naps or the dreamiest of dog dozes!

6) Carefully chosen cat litter.

Yes, we’re even considering cat litter when it comes to eco-friendly shopping! We’d recommend either choosing a more sustainable litter such as wood, or opting for compostable litter where possible.

7) Pick out the best poo bags for the planet.

Did you know that plastic poo bags can take over 500 years (even up to 1,000 years) to degrade in landfill? Composting your pooch’s poo is an option (but must be done so with care), or alternatively, using biodegradable bags is a must. 

8) Pet hair is everywhere! What can you do about it?

You can often spot a pet owner a mile off – but then who doesn’t love a bit of pet hair on their clothing? Regular brushing of your pet can obviously help with this, but if not, you may be turning to rollers. Very effective at removing pet hair, the downside is that most use plastic-coated sheets that end up being thrown away. There are different options available, so as with everything, see if you can spot something more long-lasting. Or failing that, a somewhat simple pet life hack is those long-lasting, durable rubber dishwashing gloves that are sitting in your cleaning cupboard – perfect pet hair removers!

9) Treating your pet to a new toy? Make it an eco-friendly one (assuming you need to – see point 10 below!)

Aside from DIY or durable toys, if you’re shopping for something new for your pet to play with, bamboo toys (yes, bamboo is top of the list again!) are right at the top of the tree when it comes to eco-friendliness. There are some great options out there, so settle down for a little research to find the ‘purr-fect’ present for your pet. 

10) Repair, reuse, recycle!

Does your dog or cat need a toy? Do you need to buy new? Can you make one that can be safely played with out of fabric you already have, or repair damaged toys rather than throw them away?

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This mostly applies to toys, but those of you who are more creative and handy with a sewing machine may even venture into making your own pet bed, too!

When you look at all aspects of your pet’s care, it becomes quite easy to see that, with some simple steps, we can all make some minor changes that could ultimately have a big impact. 

We have one planet; it’s up to us to protect it not just for humankind, but for all the wonderful animals we share it with – our pets included. 

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