We can reduce our ecological footprint through several measures.Image: iStockphoto / max-kegfire
06/12/2022, 13:3506/12/2022, 13:40
During the day we walk with them in the park, and in the evening they will cozy up with us on the sofa – dogs are constant companions in everyday life for a fifth of the Germans. However, we rarely think about the impact of our faithful companion on the environment: Since dog food is mostly meat, litter bags are usually made of plastic and leashes are made of leather. Isn’t it more sustainable?
A pet lives in almost every second German home, according to a representative study conducted by the Association of Pet Products Manufacturers and the Central Association of Zoologists in Germany. The dog ranks second on the popularity scale, approximately 10.3 million dogs live in German families.
Dogs are the second most popular pet among Germans after cats. Photo: Pet Products Industry Association ev
It is clear that this large number of animals also has an impact on the climate. Like its owner, the dog also has CO₂ emissions. – because it produces climate-damaging emissions during its lifetime.
That’s how big CO2’s paw print is
In 2020, a research team from the Technical University of Berlin found out for the first time how much emissions a dog is responsible for. The result is pretty impressive: A 15 kg dog emits about 8.2 tons of CO₂ over the course of 13 years of life..
“8.2 tons of CO₂ corresponds to 13 return flights from Berlin to Barcelona, or almost as much as is emitted in the production of a luxury mid-range car like the Mercedes C250,” says Matthias Finkbeiner, research team leader. When calculating the life cycle score of dogs, the study also found that mainly animal feed and dog excrement are responsible for severe environmental pollution. are. But what exactly is it that makes dog food so harmful to the environment?
Biggest environmental factor: dog food
There has been a debate for decades about the best way to feed a dog. Opinions differ on whether it is a “classic” omnivore – like an omnivore, a vegetable, or exclusively with raw meat. The fact that dog food is so bad for the climate is primarily due to the fact that it is often very high in meat. After all, the dog is descended from the wolf and needs meat in its diet, right?
Dr. Berg is a vegetarian, but he feeds his dog an omnivore. photo: dr-berg-tiernahrung.de
Gregor Berg is an animal nutrition expert. and operates its own online pet food store. He knows what nutrients dogs really need and how best to give them. In the interview, Watson explains what sustainable dog food can look like.
“It has been scientifically proven that a dog does not need certain raw materials that only meat can provide.”
When it comes to a climate-friendly diet, Berg immediately thinks of lean foods: “A vegan diet, for example, uses fewer resources and is therefore more sustainable than a high-meat diet – for both humans and dogs.” According to Berg, contrary to what many people think, vegetarian nutrition is not a problem for adult dogs: “Of course, dogs naturally eat meat. but it has been scientifically proven that a dog does not need certain raw materials that only meat can give him“, He says.
Is dog food also suitable for vegans?
The expert explains that a dog, unlike a cat, can itself process certain “building blocks” into proteins and vitamins. For example, it can convert the beta-carotene in carrots into vitamin A. This makes the dog an omnivore, but it does not need to be fed meat because it can process many of the substances found in plants.
According to Berg, a vegan diet is also possible for adult dogs. “But it requires a lot of knowledge about nutrition and Feeding your dog vegan is not something you can do on the side.“It is quite difficult and time consuming in everyday life. “Especially with puppies, I wouldn’t recommend it.” Supplementing a dog’s diet with dairy products and eggs makes sense as they contain a lot of the protein and sulfur amino acids that a dog needs.
Sustainable eating with meat
Even if you don’t want to feed your dog without meat, you can pay attention to sustainability. For example, not only by feeding fillet pieces, but also by using everything from a slaughtered animal. You should not worry, because even with cheap dog food, meat that is unhealthy is not used.
“However, if a piece of meat, for example, is discolored, it will not be bought from a butcher. I don’t consider it critical to use it in the feed at all – on the contrary. ” If animals are to be slaughtered, their meat should be used as respectfully and to the fullest as possible. “For me, it also means sustainability,” the animal nutrition expert told Watson. “I love my dogs, but I don’t have to go to the butcher and serve them only fillets – I think that’s too decadent.”
“If the animals have already been slaughtered, their meat should be used as respectfully and completely as possible. For me, it also means sustainability.”
Berg does not understand people who “bleat”, that is, they feed their dogs only raw meat. This is neither good for the environment nor necessary for the welfare of dogs.
Eco friendly life with a dog
But not only dog food can have a negative impact on the environment. Almost every area of a dog’s life climate-damaging emissions. To keep this to a minimum, Sandra Plath opened an eco-friendly dog store. Because when she wanted to supply her first dog, Stella, with the necessary accessories, she was overwhelmed by the smell of plastic and synthetics in stores, she tells Watson.
“There is an environmentally friendly alternative to just about every product you need for your dog.”
She founded her shop Fräulein Plath out of the conviction: “There is an environmentally friendly alternative to almost every product your dog needs.” Buying organic products is not only good for the earth and climate, but also for your dog. “For example, most plastic toys can be traced. harmful to dogs because they are loaded with chemicals and pollutantsTherefore, in its online store, Plat focuses on recycled materials, organic quality and natural substances.
Sandra Plath only wants the best for her dog Stella.photo: Sandra Plath
This affects all areas of the life of a four-legged friend.. In Plath’s eco-shop you can buy dog beds, toys, grooming products such as leashes and collars – each product is environmentally friendly and has been selected by Plath. The leashes and collars in her store are made of cork, not leather. “Cork is a renewable raw material that is 100% recyclable and very similar to normal leather – absolutely brilliant. Leather production avoids animal suffering and poor working conditions.”explains the store owner.
Another topic, albeit uncomfortable, is poop bags. They are usually made of plastic, which is increasingly polluting the environment and the seas. However, many cities give away plastic dog bags for free. It might be good for the wallet and cleanliness, but it certainly isn’t good for the environment, Plath says. “I don’t think cities should be giving away these plastic bags for free because they only exacerbate the problem. Finally, there are food bags made from recycled materials or cornstarch that are biodegradable.”
The animal market is becoming more sustainable
As Plath explains, more and more dog products are being made these days. Thus, the huge animal market responds to the demand of numerous environmentally conscious customers. However, as a rule, for eco-products you have to pick deeper in your pocket than for goods from a discounter, Plath admits. Good quality has its price.
However, switching to sustainable products is essential. “If we are to leave the planet we live on to our children and grandchildren, then we must refocus now and focus on sustainability. There are about ten million dogs in Germany, and even a small change can make a big difference.”
Be careful when walking
Owning a dog is not only a joy, but also a great responsibility. Mandatory, for example, daily walks – even in rain and snow. If you don’t want to harm the environment, there are two important things to keep in mind.
Not everyone lives near a park or wooded area, so many dog owners drive their car for a bit until they get to where they start the walk. If you add up these daily car trips, it becomes clear that many climate-damaging gases are produced that are absolutely avoidable. It is better to start right from the front door and accustom your four-legged friend to this route.
In addition, researchers from Belgium found which is extremely dangerous for the environment when dog excrement is left in nature reserves. In the study, scientists show that dog feces are rich in nitrogen and phosphate—unwanted nutrients leach into the soil and put a strain on ecosystems and biodiversity. To remove the pile of your own four-legged friend is therefore the duty of every dog owner not only in the city, but also in nature.
Prefer without a dog?
For Sandra Plath, giving up the dog as a pet for the sake of the environment is out of the question. After all, like all other animals, they have the right to live in this world. “Not keeping dogs as pets cannot be a solution. because Sustainability and dog ownership don’t interfere with each other.”
Anyone who wants to make their life with a dog sustainable can do so, for example, through meat-free eating and the use of sustainable animal products. As with humans, for dogs, it’s not about perfection, but about taking many small steps towards resilience.
In addition, four-legged friends will take us to nature again. and will have many positive effects on our well-being, as Plath explains. “They keep people healthy and make them happy. And if together we keep their ecological footprint small, there is no better companion than a dog.”