How Big Is Your Pets’ Global Pawprint, and How Can You Help Lighten the Load?

By Nicole Rasenti

It’s no exaggeration that when it comes to caring for our pets, we’ll go to the ends of the earth to make sure they’re happy and healthy. We buy the best food (of which there are thousands of brands to choose from) and the lushest squeaky toys (many made with plastic), and that’s not even mentioning all the other necessities that go along with catering to our pets (poop bags, litter, and walking/travel accessories). It’s undeniable…


If you’ve got a DOG, their daily food consumption probably consists of a few cups of kibble (which contains meat and fish products, grain and vegetables) and some snacks (like bully sticks or dried liver). That’s a lot of food. In fact, it makes up 20% of the farming and agricultural industry.

Now, all of that food has to go somewhere right? Most dogs poop 2-3 times a day. That’s 2-3 poop bags that end up in the bin each day, which equals about 1344 plastic poop bags a year, per dog.

Pet waste accounts for a large number of bacteria found in urban watersheds, causing algal blooms, which results in oxygen depletion in the water, killing off fish and other aquatic creatures. 

As for CATS, their daily food consumption includes multiple feed times (if not 24/7 access to their food bowl) of meat-and-fish-concentrated meals.

Now, cats, unlike dogs, are obligate carnivores. This means that they have to eat meat to survive, making it impossible to modify their meals.

They also require kitty litter. Some litter brands  require strip-mining to extract the absorbent clay necessary to produce their product. This practice leads to soil erosion, habitat destruction, and groundwater contamination.

Other litters require long lists of ingredients made up of harsh chemicals and perfumes.

So, where does that leave us? Sure, we could opt for smaller pets who pack a much smaller environmental punch, as UCLA geographer, Gregory Okin suggests. But, who would take up all the space on our beds if we did that? Who would make sure we exercise every day, come rain or shine?

The better option is to rather consider how we can help lighten our pets’ load along with our own. We’ve got a few suggestions.


Alternative Dietary Options
As mentioned before, there’s not a whole lot we can do about our cats’ dietary requirements, but when it comes to our dogs, we have options. As natural scavengers, dogs are adaptive and can easily thrive off the less desirable meat by-products of human food. They can also be vegetarian. Vegan even! There are already a number of popular plant-based dog food brands on the market, like Percuro , Hownd, and Yarrah.

There have also been a number of scientific developments in the sustainable protein alternatives department (think fungus and insects).


Waste Management for Dogs

Invest in biodegradable poop bags (and make sure they actually are biodegradable). 
Better yet, if you have a garden, with a little research and some dedication, you could commit to creating a compost pile.

Better still, check with your local waste management plant to see if you can flush your pet’s poop down the loo and have them handle it from there. 

Waste Management for Cats

Wood shavings or sawdust alternatives make for the best eco-friendly litter options. However, there are many other interesting options available too.
OkoCat and Tofu Kitty Club are among the many, easy-to-find online brands who cater to pets and the planet.

Eco-Friendly Toys and Accessories 

When it comes to toys, beds, bowls, carriers, and dog walking accessories, there certainly are conscious decisions we can make. Decisions to invest in long-wear accessories that won’t require frequent replacing.

Items that are produced locally and by smaller manufacturers. Supporting brands that prioritize sustainable and ethical resources and use eco-packaging. The idea here is quality over quantity, and sustainability over mass production.

Some brands to look into here are Mongrel London (eco-friendly toys), and Waverley Mills (recycled wool and up-cycled cotton beds). 

image background

We can continue to enjoy our (infinitely more colorful) lives with our four-legged family members, but we can also pay it forward by helping to lighten the load where and how we can.