• Megan at ZeroSmart

The Average Carbon Footprint of a Pet

Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 3.2 million households in the UK have got a new pet. This now means that the country has 17 million pet-owning homes. We all know pets are part of the family - but how good are they for the planet? Here is everything you need to know about your pet’s carbon footprint and what you can do to reduce their impact on the climate.


What is a Carbon Footprint?


A Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by our actions. The carbon footprint of our pets, therefore, is the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by their actions (primarily, their diet). With the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) reporting that there are now34 million pets in the UK (including 12 million dogs, 12 million cats and 3.2 million small animals), our pets create a considerable carbon ‘pawprint’ on the globe.


The Average Carbon Footprint of a Dog


An average size dog emits770kg of CO2e per year. A bigger dog could create a footprint of up to 2,500kg per year. This is the equivalent of a ninety-hour drive! The majority of their carbon footprint is generated from their diet. A study published in the journal PLOS One reported that a country made up of just cats and dogs would rank fifth in the world for meat consumption, which has a huge impact on the climate.


The Average Carbon Footprint of a Cat


Your pet cat generates an average of310kg of CO2e per year. This is the equivalent of a twelve-hour drive! UCLA researchers calculated that meat-eating by dogs and cats creates the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which has about the same climate impact as a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars. This can all be offset from just £11 a year with our Pet Carbon Offset.


Does a dog have a bigger carbon footprint than a car?


A dog can have a considerably higher carbon footprint than a car, especially if it has a very beef-intensive diet. A large dog’s carbon footprint could be up to 2x that of a family car's average annual usage.


A graphic illustrating a cat, an average dog and a large dog.
Caption: Average Carbon Footprint of an average Cat, average Dog and a large Dog.

What Makes up a Pets Carbon Footprint?


It is mainly our furry friend’s diet that makes their carbon footprint so high. Pet food is mainly meat-based, which means its effects on our pet’s carbon footprint and the planet is huge.


The production and processing of animal meat for food represent one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse emissions in the western world.


Pets are estimated to eat 20% of the world’s meat and fish, and if the pet food industry were a country, it would be the 60th biggest CO2 emitter globally.



How to Minimise your pets Carbon Footprint


Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to reduce your pet’s Carbon Footprint and help safeguard the future for all animals on earth:


1. Consider their food.


The first way to reduce their carbon footprint is to simply reduce the amount of food which they eat. In the UK 51% of dogs and 44% of cats are obese which drastically affects their health, meaning there is more than one reason to make sure that you don’t overfeed your pets. Another way to reduce our pet’s carbon footprint is to reduce their beef intake. The carbon footprint of beef is nearly four times that of chicken. Opting for fish, chicken, or insect-based options (yes! Insect based food is the) is a good way to significantly reduce your pet’s carbon footprint. Insect based options are increasingly gaining traction with owners, with brands such as Yora claiming to be “… the world’s most ethical and sustainable pet food.”



2. Toys


The pet care accessory market has grown by 66% in the past ten years. For Britain that boils down to just over £70 per person on average. Plastic pet toys come at a huge cost for our environment - pet toys continue to drive demand for unsustainable, fossil-fuel derived products. One way of reducing our pet’s impact on the planet is to reduce the number of toys or make sure that you only buy sustainable toys for your furry friend. Companies such as Green and Wild make their toys from sustainable jute, a natural plant fibre. It is tough and long-lasting and is produced without using any added compounds that would harm or be released when chewed. Jute is 100% biodegradable and is a great sustainable option.



Green and Wild's range of eco pet toys
Green and Wild's eco pet toys

3. Sustainable Pet Essentials


Finally, our pets have a lot of essentials - including their leads, their litter or poop bags. But there is now a huge market for sustainable pet essentials. Such as Stinky Ram, whose beds are not only eco friendly (made from 100% natural materials), but are also designed to be long-lasting and hypoallergenic. Or, Feline Pine who make sustainably sourced cat litter: No trees are cut in the production of their litter, instead, they use kiln-dried shavings reclaimed from lumber production. Finally, brands like The Green Poop Bag, make eco dog poop bags “Helping to save the planet one poop at a time.” These are all sustainable swaps that help reduce your pet's impact on the planet.


4. Offset Your Pet


When it comes to making your pet environmentally friendly, there is only so much that cutting their food, swapping their toys and changing their litter will do. It is unavoidable that having a pet is going to cause some emissions that hurt the planet. Fortunately, you can support verified scientific projects that eliminate their carbon footprint with organisations such as ZeroSmart. You can offset your pet’s emissions entirely for just £12.00 PER YEAR for a dog. If you prefer to account for both your own and your pet’s emissions, then you can simply add your furry friends to your Family Plan, ensuring you are all doing your bit for the environment.


Small dog running on grass, with a ball in his mouth.
ZeroSmart's Pet Plan

Conclusion


In conclusion, our beloved pets may not be all that great for the environment but the joy they bring to us is irreplaceable. With the average dog producing 770 kg of CO2 per year and the average cat just under half of that - the 34 million pets in the UK do create a considerable Carbon Footprint. But not all hope is lost. By making small sustainable changes to your pet’s life and by offsetting their emissions with ZeroSmart, they too can become a force for good in the world by reducing their carbon footprint to zero.