From insect-based diets to banning beef: How you can reduce your pet's carbon pawprint

  • Watch the full report by Alexandra Hartely

Our actions can have big consequences for the environment, from how we choose to travel to the food we eat.

It all adds up to what is known as a carbon footprint which shows how many greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the decisions we make every day.

Many of us know how making changes to how we live, like eating less meat or flying less, can help reduce our footprint and help tackle climate change.

But did you know that your four-legged-friends could also be adding to your carbon footprint?

Credit: PA

How can our pets be adding to our carbon footprint?

Pet ownership has grown since the coronavirus pandemic and that could be bad news for the environment.

In the UK, 3.1 million households have brought home a new pet since the start of the pandemic. That equates to 1.3 million more tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions being pumped into the atmosphere and is the same as the emissions pumped out by 743,629 cars.

So why are our pets causing so many emissions? Well, there's dog poo for starters.

An estimated 3.6 billion plastic bags are used for the disposal of dog waste each year. That's plastic that can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in landfill.

Carbon emissions per pet:

  • Goldfish - 25kg of CO2e per year

  • Average-sized cat - 310kg of CO2e per year

  • Average-sized dog - 770kg of CO2e per year

  • Large dog - 2,500kg of CO2e per year

The food our pets eat also have an impact on our environment. More than 7.6 billion non-recyclable containers are manufactured every year for pet food.

The food itself could be harmful to the environment too.

Just like with us humans, eating red meat in particular is bad for our carbon footprint. Livestock farming is responsible for releasing greenhouse gases like methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide.

You cat could mean bad news for local wildlife Credit: PA

Your cat's exploits in the garden could also have a serious impact on local wildlife.

It is not uncommon for a pet cat to leave a present at your door, but in the UK over spring and summer cats can catch and kill up to 100 million animals. Nearly thirty million of these are estimated to be birds.

So, it is clear to see how much of an impact more pet cats could be having on wildlife.

How to improve your pet's carbon pawprint

So, our pets are contributing to climate change but the good news is there are many things that can be done to reduce their impact on the environment.

Cutting down on treats limits the impact of meat on CO2 emissions, and with over half of the UK's dogs classed as obese it could be better for their health too.

When buying food buy in bulk to cut down on packaging and opt for chicken or fish dry food instead of beef.

Have you thought about insects?

There are companies who have developed insect-based food for dogs and cats. They are a nutritious alternative to meat and account for 96% less emissions than beef.

Buying pet food which is locally-sourced is far more sustainable than food which has to be imported. Look for brands with good sustainability records.

Finally, you can make your own pet food - but you must always speak to your vet beforehand to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need.