Does your pet have a carbon pawprint?
Have you ever filled out one of those semi-detailed surveys designed to tell you how ruinously you consume our planet’s natural resources? On Earth Day, my boyfriend gifted me a website that computes my exact contribution to the our demise. After confessing to my AC, gasoline, shipped food and miscellaneous other consumer needs, the site calculated that we would require 3.2 planets were every human to generate carbon waste the way I do.
Which, in this veterinarian’s animal-addled brain, immediately begged the question: how many planets do my pets need? Is my pet-keeping keeping me from going truly green?
The answer is not immediately intuitive, in case you were expecting some pithy response. I had to think hard on my pets’ needs and expenditures to come up with a reasonable approximation of their “carbon pawprints” (or “hoofprint,” in the case of my goat).
While my goat (should she begin to earn her keep by producing milk) nets a negative score (by offsetting my human need for high-tech, shipped-in milk, cheese and soap), traditional pets can’t boast the same effectively decarbonating properties.
So I sat down to detail my dogs’ green and not-so-green ways. And the major issues came down to these: food, AC and services rendered.
Food was by far the biggest carbon emitter for my pets. Because they go where I go, their AC and heat usage was identical to mine…ditto their fuel consumption (I make no extra trips to the groomer or the vet--that’s me!). So the only additional carbon expenses come from the store bought food I’m now feeding once a day (Solid Gold, I must admit). They still eat my own home-cooked food at their other feeding (which is mostly locally grown and doesn’t have to be trucked in from California).
But I got to thinking, vet services leave a sizable footprint! Even our small hospital gets AC 24-hours a day. And though it gets divided by the 5,000 or so pets we see every year, the energy expenses on the lab driver, the electricity, and all our supplies must be huge! And groomers are just as bad—worse if you consider all that back-and-forth gas it takes to keep Fluffy’s coat looking so fab all year long!
What if having pets is terribly un-green of me?
So I thought I’d come up with the ultimate, green pet (aside from my negative-hoofprint goat). The pet would have to be small (so that the food consumed would be minimized). It would have minimal veterinary and grooming needs (hence a short coat with almost no need of bathing and excellent genetics). And it would require no AC or extra heating (it would thrive out of doors—no bulldogs or hawk-bait Yorkies). As an added bonus, which could even negate its carbon presence, the pet should be capable of taking on a household task (like herding sheep or killing rats).
Finally, I came up with two ideally green pets:
1-an indoor cat with short fur and a penchant for cockroaches
2-a Jack Russell terrier in a large, rodent-infested yard
Rest assured that unless your pet is one of the above (or another working sort), you’ll be adding to your own carbon footprint with each additional pet you take on.
Since undertaking this mental task, I’ve realized that my own coddled Frenchies are…well…useless. But I already knew that. The best I can do is work to offset their carbon-guzzling ways with my own contributions. Does that mean I should get another goat?