The Environmental Impact of Pet Ownership

14th January 2022 10 mins read

Guest Blog: Will Green

Following recent headlines regarding the environmental impacts of pet ownership, Will was invited to speak on the BBC Radio Solent Breakfast Show with Alun Newman. Will provides some additional detail on the discussion.

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Following recent headlines regarding the environmental impacts of pet ownership, I was invited to speak on the BBC Radio Solent Breakfast Show with Alun Newman. The headlines originate from comments Counsellor Mark Howell made in a town hall meeting for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. As a passionate environmentalist and advocate of dog ownership, I was more than happy to contribute to the show on Tuesday 11th January 2022.

Key points included:

  • Targeting zero emissions by 2050
  • Comparing the CO2 emissions of a large dog to that of a large SUV
  • Suggesting the phasing out or scaling down of large dogs
  • Stating that 20% of the world's meat and fish is consumed by pets

I also wish to state that on the show I was associated with Paleo Pets, but to clarify, I most certainly work for Paleo Ridge

The Raw Dog Food Industry

As with any industry, there is a mix of sustainable and unsustainable manufacturers. Unfortunately, when conducting carbon emission studies for journalistic, rather than academic output, a “worst-case scenario” is often used as a standard for CO2 emissions. Without studying and replicating the study, I cannot validate any of the CO2 claims that the headlines are derived from. I can say for certain that the figures would not be the same for a dog fed purely on Paleo Ridge raw dog food.

As environmental leaders, Paleo Ridge are the “best-case scenario”, and by feeding Paleo Ridge as part of a sustainable approach to dog ownership; using compostable poo bags, eco-friendly toys, apparel and welfare products, you can vastly reduce your carbon footprint.

Raw dog food is manufactured using meat considered 'less-desirable' (tripe, offal and bone) for human consumption. These meats would otherwise be discarded or exported around the globe, so by utilising them, we are minimising potential carbon emissions. The integrity and quality of meats that we source are human-grade, but the demand for them in human consumption is so low, or non-existent in some cases to the point that there is a huge surplus of these materials.

In a carbon emissions study, the environmental impact should consider the carbon emissions against the alternative to get an accurate impact assessment. At present the assumption is that not producing pet food will result in zero carbon emissions. An accurate assessment, would consider the impact of manufacturing raw dog food versus the incineration or export of “less-desirable” meat like tripe.

Sourcing Sustainable Raw Meat

As a sustainable pet food manufacturer, our specifications help improve baseline industry standards. We pride ourselves on our ethical and environmental standards for the materials we use, but this does mean that the meats we buy are more expensive and harder to source. We source from within the UK, with some minor exceptions (i.e. Kangaroo), this keeps transport emissions low and helps create jobs in the local economy.

We are committed to sourcing the best ingredients which align with our core values of high-welfare, ethical-rearing and sustainable-farming. We visit suppliers regularly (Covid permitting) to ensure that our high standards are being met including welfare, ethics and the environment.

We have seen some encouraging developments from suppliers including the introduction of new and innovative solutions to dealing with waste. An example includes a new anaerobic wastewater treatment that one supplier has been developing as a particularly apt method of treatment for food wastewater. The process produces by-products that can be used in co-generation heat and electrical plants - even offsetting energy use from the grid.

As these developments continue, we will see the environmental impact of our suppliers continue to decrease. This will in turn further lower our products' impact on the environment.

Sustainable Packaging

In August 2021 we proudly announced that 98% of the company’s product packaging was now recyclable, or compostable. We achieved this figure through a series of projects, including the launch of new packaging for every raw dog food range that Paleo Ridge manufacture. Material choice for packaging plays a large part in the environmental impact of a product; by using recyclable products, you are ensuring that waste packaging can become a commodity, reducing pollutants and waste.

Our delivery-box packaging and void-fill are made from kraft paper which includes a high percentage of recycled fibres, often 100% recycled. This cuts out the need for bubble wrap, and by using WoolCool (100% natural wool) to provide insulation, we are offering an effective and sustainable alternative to polystyrene. Using these materials has ensured that Paleo Ridge has considered all aspects of delivery packaging from an environmental perspective. A return service for WoolCool liners means that customers can recycle and we can keep using these liners time and time again.

The use of sustainable packaging greatly reduces our environmental impact and associated CO2 emissions. Many pet food manufacturers do not use sustainable packaging, so an emissions analysis will predominantly use a high-emissions baseline, which is not representative of us at Paleo Ridge.

Transport Emissions

By using the same logistical networks as other businesses, our transport emissions can be hard to isolate. Careful logistical planning can reduce journeys and transport emissions. Limiting raw material sourcing to the UK certainly helps to minimise emissions.

Our delivery partner DPD aims to become the “greenest delivery company on the planet”. They are rolling out several exciting eco-developments that will also have a substantial impact on lowering emissions. We are proud to work with an established company that is willing to disruptively change to become more sustainable – we look forward to seeing their projects come into effect.

Where Next?

As we all know, owning dogs has many benefits for us humans, contributing to our social and mental wellbeing. Dogs are family, and for many, life without them doesn’t bear thinking about. As with anything that we do, including the car we drive, the way we heat our house, what we eat and how we live our lives, will have an impact on the environment. We can choose to do all of these things sustainably – minimising the environmental impact, even having a positive impact – or we can choose not to. The choices we make culminate in our carbon and environmental footprint, and whether we offset this by planting trees or buying carbon credits – the emissions were still made in the first place. The challenge is for people and businesses to do their research and support sustainable practices, even if they are less convenient.

Hopefully, at Paleo Ridge, we are helping our customers to lessen their impact and lessen the environmental burden that owning a dog has, whilst also helping our dogs to be as happy and healthy as possible.

Further Reading

23rd May 2024

Guest Blog: Anna Webb

It’s interesting that there are many flea ‘species’, including dog fleas, hedgehog fleas, human fleas, but 90% of the world’s flea population is the very well adapted ‘cat flea’ otherwise known as 'Ctenocephalides Felix’.

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