Author: Logan Brown-DaSilva
ABSTRACT: In Canada there are about 7.9 million cats and 5.9 million dogs, with about 93.6 million cats and 77.5 million dogs in the US (Hammerly & DuMont, 2012). In 2014 there were about 220 million registered companion cats and 223 million registered companion dogs worldwide ( Martens & Su, 2019). This paper uses cats and dogs as a way to show the environmental impact pets are having on the environment. This paper includes information on how much CO2 equivalent cats and dogs emit and the impacts of pet food on the environment. Figure one shows that pet food generally contributes the most to the emissions of a pet dog. This paper will also lend a possible solution when it comes to the main environmental impacts that come from food.
How much Carbon do pets produce? Assuming an average dog weighs 33lbs and has a 13 year lifespan, an average dog emits 630kg of CO2 equivalent each year (Kim et al., 2020). This is equal to about 7% of an average person in the EU’s CO2 emissions (Kim et al., 2020). An average dog emits about the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving 72,800 kilometres in a car, assuming the car emits about 120g CO2 equivalent per kilometre (Kim et al., 2020). An average dog also emits about the same amount of greenhouse gases as taking 13 flights from Berlin to Barcelona (Kim et al., 2020). An average dog emits about the same amount of CO2 that it would take to produce a Mercedes C520 (Kim et al., 2020). During its 13 year lifespan an average dog emits 8200 kg of CO2 equivalent (Kim et al., 2020). During its 8 year lifespan a small (16 lbs) dog emits 3000 kg of CO2 equivalent (Kim et al., 2020). During its 18 year lifespan a large (66 lbs) dog emits 19,000 kg of CO2 equivalent (Kim et al., 2020).
Pet food is one of the largest contributors when it comes to the emissions of a pet. Cat and dog food consumption leads to the release of up to 64 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent methane and nitrous oxide (Okin, 2017). Globally dry pet food production emits between 56.3 million tonnes to 151.2 million tonnes of CO2 eq. greenhouse gases per year (Alexander, 2020). That is the equivalent to about 1.1% to 2.9% of the global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (Alexander, 2020). Global pet food production has an environmental footprint that is twice the size of the UK (Alexander, 2020). If pet food production was a country it would be the 60th highest emitting country when it comes to greenhouse gases (Alexander, 2020). That is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of Mozambique and the Philippines (Alexander, 2020).
In China, the consumption of pet food by cats and dogs leads to the emissions of between 16.7 million tons and 57.4 million tons of greenhouse gases per year (Martens & Su, 2019). In Japan, the consumption of pet food by cats and dogs leads to the emissions of between 2.52 million tons to 10.7 million tons of greenhouse gases per year (Martens & Su, 2019). That is equivalent to the emissions of between 1.17 million to 4.95 million Japanese people (Martens & Su, 2019). In the Netherlands, the consumption of pet food by cats and dogs leads to the emissions of between 1.09 million to 3.28 million tons of greenhouse gases per year (Martens & Su, 2019). That is equivalent to the emissions of between 94,000 and 284,00 Dutch people (Martens & Su, 2019).
The main environmental impacts of pet food come from poultry and beef co-products, tinplate and steel can production, as well as transportation of the product to retailers (Kim et al., 2020). One solution that has been suggested has been to optimize pet food in order to avoid these main environmental impacts (Kim et al., 2020).
Alexander, P., Berri, A., Moran, D., Reay, D., & Rounsevell, M. D. A. (2020). The global environmental paw print of pet food. Global Environmental Change, 65, 102153. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102153
Hammerly, T., & DuMont, B. (2012, Spring). The Environmental Impact of Pets. Green Teacher, 25-28. http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/magazines/environmental-impact-pets/docview/1032551769/se-2?accountid=13631
Kim, M. Y., Lehmann, A., & Finkbeiner, M. (2020). Environmental Impacts of a Pet Dog: An LCA Case Study. Sustainability, 12(8), 3394. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ su12083394
Martens, P., Su, B., & Deblomme, S. (2019). The ecological paw print of companion dogs and cats. Bioscience, 69(6), 467-474. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz044
Okin, G. S. (2017). Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats. PLoS One, 12(8) http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181301
Logan Brown-DaSilva is an Environment and Urban Sustainability student at Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto (formerly known as Ryerson University). Currently in his final year, he will also be graduating with a sociology minor.