Nurturing Nature Through Responsible Pet Ownership

By Farzana Kabir

March 1, 2024 at 12:00 AM

Illustration by Rakib Zaman Khan

Illustration by Rakib Zaman Khan

Our beloved planet is getting a little bit hotter every day. Climate change and the rising sea levels have been bad news for the 8.7 million species that call Earth home. According to reports, the global wildlife population has declined by an average of 69% since 1970. Among the key factors of biodiversity decline are habitat loss, species overexploitation, invasive species, pollution, climate change, and diseases (Living Planet Report 2022). Our planet's ecosystem is vast, diverse, complex, and symbiotic. As such, the planet's well-being equates to the species' well-being and vice versa. Restoring the world’s wildlife populations to significant levels can increase the absorption and storage of atmospheric carbon. Wildlife comeback can help us keep global warming below the critical 1.5oC threshold. This can be a huge game changer in our quest to tackle climate change issues and keep our planet happy.

So, if you are sitting in your cozy urban bedroom reading this and wondering how to save the African Sumatran tigers in another part of the world, the answers lie closer to home than you think. Since all things on our planet are connected as part of a global tapestry and ecosystem, how we live our everyday lives impacts our planet's overall health. This is the best part of living a sustainable, green life and making planet-friendly consumer decisions; we truly have the means to restore nature and live a better world for the next generations.

According to the 2023-2024 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Sixty-six percent of U.S. households, or about 86.9 million families, own a pet. With that sheer number of pets in the US alone, it is sufficient to say, luckily, many individuals care for the well-being of other living beings that share this planet with us. But have you ever wondered about the ecological impact of having a pet and the carbon footprint of your furry companions?

The joys of having a pet outweigh all the effort we put in to ensure our pets have the best lives. Pet parents' strong relationship with their pets can influence people’s beliefs and attitudes towards wildlife and nature. Having pets can increase people's time in nature, corresponding to a decreased fear of wild animals and a greater understanding, appreciation, and connectedness toward nature. Our overall positive attitude towards nature can increase the likelihood that we will engage in environmentally respectful behaviors and be concerned about environmental issues. Environmentally conscious decisions regarding your pets will ensure that when we care for them, we also care for the planet. So, if you are an animal lover and wondering how you can save Earth with the help of your trusty, fuzzy side-kick, here are some tips to get you started.

Making Eco-friendly Pet Food Choices

The pet food industry on a global scale is a billion-dollar industry, so the choices and options are vast. With increased eco-conscious brands, choosing pet foods with safe ingredients is no longer difficult.

Pet food releases ~64 million tons of CO2 annually, or 30% of meat consumption’s environmental impact. Luckily, many green pet food brands are Certified B Corp, Climate Neutral Certified, and a member of 1% for the Planet. Hence, they are careful about the ingredients that go into the food and even the impact the packaging of the products would have on the environment. Some forward-thinking brands get creative with the protein source by exploring alternative, low or zero-impact, green protein sources like insect proteins. Crickets and mealworms are some of the most used insect protein sources. There are brands that also now have vegan and vegetarian pet food options. The protein in the vegan pet food options is derived from plant-based sources such as chickpeas, buckwheat, oats, and green peas.

You can also choose to make your pet treats and food. This will eliminate the packaging waste from the equation. Many pet food recipes are online for you to experiment with and explore. You are just one kibble closer to changing the world by making sustainable pet food choices.

Enjoying Eco-friendly Playtime

All pet parents like to care for their pets and want to ensure they are comfortable and happy. We spoil our pets with toys and give them comfortable pet beds to rest in. Many pet toys, bowls, accessories, and beds are made of synthetic materials and plastics. Plastics and synthetic pieces are not readily biodegradable and do not decompose; these will eventually end up in landfills and oceans, harming aquatic life.

The good news is that eco-friendly pet toys and accessories are readily available now, thanks to eco-conscious brands that ensure the source materials are biodegradable and planet-friendly. Toys made of reused and recycled materials are excellent choices for your furry friend and the environment. Natural toys, such as hemp, organic cotton, recycled rubber, azo-free dyes, etc., are good green options. They are also a smart choice for your pet’s health, as the organic materials do not contain any harmful chemicals that can harm your pet with long-term use.

If you feel creative, you can create DIY accessories for your pets. You can even create cardboard boxes as fun play areas for them. This eco-conscious choice will be a fun bonding experience for you with your pet as a pet parent. You should also donate your pets’ old toys and accessories to your local animal shelter. This prevents it from ending up as a pollutant.

Ensuring Proper Disposal of Pet Waste

As responsible pet parents, it’s necessary to properly dispose of pet waste as it can negatively impact the environment. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that can end up spreading diseases. It can also leak into the groundwater supply or be washed into lakes or streams, contaminating them. 

If you are a proud cat owner, being mindful of your cat litter can also impact the environment. Luckily, some eco-conscious companies manufacture cat litter made of organic materials like corn, dried wood, wheat, and newspapers. Biodegradable and compostable cat litter is good for the ecosystem and a healthier option for your cat.

Similar tricks exist when you dispose of your dog waste as well. Biodegradable and compostable dog waste bags can ensure that the waste is safely contained and does not contaminate the environment when disposed of.

Embracing Minimalism in Pet Care

Less is more is a good motto for you and true for your furry companions. This is where you can take a page out of their book. Have you ever seen how much your dog enjoys playing with a stick they found in your backyard? Or how does your cat like to nap sitting inside discarded cardboard boxes? Your furry kids are masters of embracing the simple minimalist life; hence, making eco-conscious choices regarding toys or bedding can positively contribute to a low carbon footprint.

Next time, before you decide to buy a fancy new bed for your pet, think of how to revamp the old one or give it away to be reused. Most local animal shelters accept pet food, toys, and bedding as donations. So, a great way to reuse or recycle your pet’s old toys and bedding is by donating them to your favorite shelter for other furry friends to enjoy.

Overbuying pet food and other pet items also has a negative ecological impact. The road to a zero-waste world means limiting the waste we generate by making eco-conscious consumer choices and limiting the amount we buy or discard. By buying the right amount of food and other products, you are also making an economically conscious decision. Alternatively, buying the needed products in bulk reduces your carbon footprint by reducing packaging waste and trips to the store.

Protecting Your Local Wildlife

If you are lucky to live near nature or have wildlife frequent in your backyard, it’s essential to be a gracious host to them. Limiting the use of pesticides and chemicals in your garden or yard ensures that your pets are safe and makes it safe for the wildlife in your neighborhood.

As much as your favorite cuddle bug enjoys snuggling up to you indoors, it’s important to remember that our pets have predatory instincts. If your pet enjoys time outdoors, ensuring it’s safe for the little critters in your neighborhood is important.

Cats are especially prone to acting out their hunting instincts no matter how well-fed the cats are. In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds yearly. Cats have contributed to the extinction of 63 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the wild and continue to adversely impact a wide variety of other species, including those at risk of extinction, such as Piping Plover.

So, how can you be a responsible pet owner while being kind to your outdoor neighbors? The first step is to make sure you are observant of your pets when they spend time outside. Keeping your dog on a leash or accompanying him on his excursions outside will not only keep him safe, but it’ll keep the other animals outside safe, too.

Most cats live longer and healthier lives when they live primarily indoors. But if your cat enjoys time outside, training them on a harness or supervising their time outdoors is also a good step.

Our pets are an integral part of our lives and a significant part of our well-being. Creating safe and ecologically responsible choices for them makes us responsible guardians towards them and the planet that cares for us all.

Readers curious about adopting the 'Responsible Way of Pet Ownership,' Ecomilli offers you to read London Insect Farm Hatches Plan for Greener Way to Feed Animals.

An earlier version of this article cited 90.5 million households with pets. Most recent data from 2023 shows that 86.9 million, roughly 66% of U.S. households own pets. The article has been updated to reflect the correction on 5/22/24.


Ecomilli, we're on a mission to transform the world into a greener and more socially just place. We believe that everyone has the power to make a difference, and we're here to help you do just that.

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