The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker shows parents how to do their part for the climate revolution. She encourages readers to stop stupid environmental decisions and start taking smart actions to better the environment. This section shares how to keep pets while minimizing the sometimes negative impacts of domestic animals.
"The average carbon paw print of our dog or cat is higher than an average human from countries like Haiti or Afghanistan."— Larry Schwartz, Salon
When I was growing up, my family had a menagerie that ranged from gerbils to Welsh ponies, with the occasional piranha thrown in. Mostly, though, we were Dog People. Purebred German shepherds kept showing up because my sister befriended a dog rescuer who knew DeMockers couldn’t refuse a lonely shepherd in need of kids and a yard. This is how, at fifteen, I came home from camp one summer to find Linda awaiting me.
Suddenly, I had a built-in best friend. Linda was a patient listener, uncomplaining jogging partner, and foot warmer who greeted me with joy the moment I opened my eyes each morning. She offered the unconditional love that drives countless North Americans every year to impulsively bring home big-eyed puppies. Dogs are good for the human spirit. Or, as my friend Tim says, “Dogs and people — we go way back.”
The only problem with this interspecies lovefest, climate-wise, is dog food — or any pet food, really. Some use palm oil, which is a ruinous ingredient for our climate or palm oil derivatives. And pet foods collectively use a lot of carbon-intensive beef.
If you have a pet, consider some of these solutions — though always pay attention to your pet, and consult your vet, to meet your lovable fur-ball’s particular needs. Many dog-lovers buy palm oil–free food made from soy or a variety of other meats (which have less environmental impact than beef). Also, you might buy meat by-products from local butchers, which reduces packaging and transport. For our dogs, we picked up a monthly supply of frozen and bloody cubes to toss into the basement freezer (which made my every trip into the dark, underground room for Linda’s food feel a bit like a scene from a horror movie).
Cats are obligate carnivores who usually do well with poultry, lamb, pork, or fish; some cat-lovers request scraps at the fish market. While some owners advocate vegan cat food, the Feline Nutrition Foundation cautions that cats are very dependent on protein, and if they don’t get enough “to supply their energy needs, they will break down their own body muscle and organs.”
As with human food, it helps to buy organic food in recycled/recyclable packaging, though that’s pricier. Also make sure you aren’t overfeeding your pet. As with its people, North America’s pets now suffer increasing rates of obesity.
Then there’s poop: Much of what is left on the ground in parks ends up in rivers and streams, wreaking havoc on water quality and wildlife. If you have dogs, pick up and, if possible, flush bacteria-laden feces in the toilet, so they’re appropriately processed, not landfilled. To protect waterways, walk dogs elsewhere.
Check out Flush Puppies, which boasts a dog poop bag that is compostable (in industrial waste facilities that accept pet waste) or flushable in your home toilet.
If you have cats, don’t flush cat poop or kitty litter. Cats often carry a parasite that evades sewage treatment plants and harms sea creatures. Instead, try litter from sawmill scrap or newspaper clippings, which lets kitty share her opinion on articles that deny the reality of global warming.
If you have...
- A cat: Keep kitty indoors to lower the number of birds killed annually by cats (some estimate one billion birds). If you let kitty roam, try CatBibs (exactly what they sound like — bibs for cats), which work better than bells to reduce bird killings; visit Cat Goods.
- A dog: To learn more about organic and palm oil–free dog foods, read the in-depth report by Ethical Consumer. Make simple, nontoxic toys with rope, socks, balls, and toilet paper cardboard, or reuse your kids’ outgrown stuffies. Find fun ideas online. Try bamboo collars and leashes; natural, renewable bamboo doesn’t contain toxic petrochemicals.
- A hankering for a pet: Consider adopting, which helps with pet overpopulation. Then, spay or neuter your pet to prevent unwanted litters.
More from The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution:
Mary DeMocker is the author of The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution as well as cofounder and creative director of 350.org’s Eugene, Oregon, chapter. She has written about conscious parenting and climate activism for the Sun, EcoWatch, Mothering.com, Spirituality & Health, Oregon Quarterly, and the Oregonian. She lives with her family in Eugene, Oregon. Find out more about her work at www.marydemocker.com.