Ask G

Ask G: Eco-pets

Can you own a pet and be environment-friendly too?

Do you know how much we add to the greenhouse effect by owning a pet?

-- Trung, Qld

dogs

Credit: Wikimedia

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Good question! If we humans have a carbon footprint, then the furrier members of our households similarly have a carbon pawprint.

The size of your pet's greenhouse impact will depend on the type and size of animal, what you feed it, trips to the vet or obedience school, the products you buy for it and many other factors.

According to environmental retailer and consultancy Neco, the total emissions associated with the average medium-sized dog are 1.9 tonnes per year (for which carbon offsetting from Neco costs $38.12 per year) and 400 kg emissions per year for the average adult cat (carbon offsetting: $8). But it can be much more.

Alarmingly, my local pet store now has a clothes rack. Yes, you too can buy designer duds for your chihuahua, just as Paris Hilton does (please read heavy sarcasm into this!). The dollar value of the pet product market is rapidly growing, particularly in the premium or luxury market.

The landmark book Affluenza by C. Hamilton and R. Denniss highlights up-market pet products as a sign of our society's consumption binge.

Pets need food, shelter, care and attention. They don't need pet cologne, diamond-set nine-carat gold name tags or treats that cost $100 per kilogram.

Remember that every product you buy required energy, water and material resources to make and consequently has a greenhouse cost.

Consumerism gone rampant is a big contributor to our increasing greenhouse emissions. With pets, as with everything, you can reduce your greenhouse impact by simply buying less useless stuff.