As climate change looms over our heads, more and more people are doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprints. We recycle, use less plastic, and opt for greener modes of travel to minimize our impact on the natural world. But while we focus our efforts on the human impact, it’s all too easy to forget the damaging role that other inhabitants of planet Earth play. 

They might look cute and innocent, but our pets have a significant carbon footprint (or paw-print) too. Dogs and cats alone make up a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions from animals, while an average-sized dog has a carbon footprint twice as big as that of an SUV driven 10,000 kilometers a year. When you consider the amount of food they eat, the mess they make, and the huge quantities of toys and supplies we buy for them, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn how much of an environmental impact our pets have.

Since our furry friends can’t do much to help the situation, it’s up to you as a pet owner to reduce the impact your beloved companion has on the planet. To get you started, here are four ways to be a more eco-friendly pet owner. 

Change their diet

The pet food industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, consuming huge volumes of land, water, and other natural resources. Beef agriculture is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions, so by switching your pet’s diet from beef to chicken, turkey, or grain-based products, you will be making a big difference. Many pet treats contain unsustainable ingredients such as palm oil, so why not try making your own homemade dog biscuits instead? Not only will you be saving the planet, but you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money too.

Buy eco-friendly toys

Pets love plastic toys, but they’re not the greenest way to keep your pet entertained. As any dog owner will testify to, they are not very durable and end up in the bin before long. As a population, we produce monumental amounts of plastic waste, which ends up polluting the oceans. It is our responsibility to limit the amount of plastic we consume. Try to buy eco-friendly toys made of sustainable materials. These are much better for the environment, and the better quality materials mean they will last a lot longer too.

Ditch the packaging

The majority of pet food, toys, and other supplies come with vast amounts of plastic packaging, which ends up going straight in the trash. But it is fairly easy to avoid this unnecessary pet supply packaging waste. Many large pet stores allow you to fill your own container with pet food, and many companies are offering eco-friendly toys and supplies without unnecessary packing materials.

Clean up after your pet

It seems obvious, but many owners do not pick up after their dogs. The bacteria in animal feces can infiltrate the ground and contaminate water sources, so you must take care to clean up after your pet. Plastic dog poop bags are a big offender, so it’s a good idea to invest in a biodegradable alternative.