Today is Earth Day and it’s a great time to consider the impact of our household pets on the planet and what we humans can do to reduce their “carbon pawprints.”

Yes, it’s true. Households with pets have larger carbon footprints than others. Pet loving homes tend to consume more foods, generate more waste and utilize energy at higher rates. Nonetheless, there are a number of steps pet owners can take to curb their carbon cravings. Here are my top eleven:

1-If you have a choice (if your pet doesn’t require prescription foods), buy pet foods produced closer to home. Though manufacturer’s labels often tell only part of the story, foods packaged nearby tend to require less fuel.

2-Use clay or sand litters for your cats. It takes less petroleum to bring these products to market. Even better, use shredded newspaper to save on shipping. For exotics, buy the recycled, biodegradable shavings instead of the cedar or cypress chips (they weigh less, too, so shipping's cheaper).

3-Cook for your pets or supplement their commercial diets with locally grown meats and produce. (Easier said than done, I know.)

4-Feed dry over canned foods, if possible. Less packaging material is required and the shipping differences are dramatic. With today’s high quality kibble, you need not fear your pets are losing out, health-wise  (as long as you select wisely).

5-Compost your pets’ leftover foods instead of trashing them—and don’t ignore the fertilizer potential of some of our less traditional pets’ droppings. My goats, for example, produce excellent plant power via poop.

6-Don’t excessively warm or chill your home for your pets while you’re out. They mostly don’t mind the difference and they’ll find the warm and cool spots in your home easily if you set the thermostat at a balmy 80-85 in the summer and a snug 60-65 in the winter (if it's cold where you live).

7-Use stainless steel forever-bowls for your pets. You’ll never need to replace them.

8-Brush your pets daily to reduce your vacuum energy needs (and make her coat shine, while you’re at it). Consider storing her fur to have it spun it into yarn for your next knitting project (you can find online sources for this service).

9-Turn off the lights and the TV while you’re away. They see better in the dim light than we do. If your pets require soothing sound therapy, use a simple CD player or radio.

10-Recycled cardboard scratching posts are excellent and re-recyclable. Give them a go instead of the standard carpet-coated kind. 

11-Never buy exotics sourced from the wilds and get your pets locally; there are are enough throwaways and rescues around to last us all through 2020.

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