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Fido: Family Pet or Eco-Terrorist?

Updated on December 22, 2009
How Green is your pet?
How Green is your pet?

The other day, the cats, the dog and I were enjoying a rather stimulating debate over global warming. Is it fact or fallacy…or perhaps just a simple case of man’s ever inflating ego and his need to control his environment? The dog appeared puzzled…or perhaps she just wanted to go outside and take a poop. I’m forever getting the two mixed up because I am not fluent in Dog-speak. The cats’ response was unanimous and they fairly pounced on the word “man.” Frankie, the ragdoll, would have expounded further about how the woes of the world are always mankind’s fault, but I simply held up my hand and nipped that little tirade in the bud. I’ve heard it before…blah, blah, blah…

I allowed them a few moments of self-righteous smugness before I dropped the bombshell. “It seems that one of you is leaving a rather large carbon paw print. This beastie, who shall remain nameless, is less eco-friendly than Daddy’s diesel guzzling, hemi-powered, dually Dodge pick-up truck!” The dog breaks out into her typical imbecilic canine grin, her tail beating the carpet into submission in happiness. Puzzled by her response, I quickly review my accusation. Ahhh…perhaps it’s because I used the D-A-D-D-Y word.

To test my theory, I pause in our current discussion and probe the dog’s word recognition skills. “Da..Dee?” I say. Nacho wriggles her entire back end with joy. Skeptically, I eye her and decide that this would not be a true scientific experiment if I did not insert some sort of sugar pill word. Focusing all my attention on the dog, I coo…”Truck?” Sure enough, Nacho unplants her squirmy butt and proceeds to perform her doggy dance of joy.

Khan, the Siamese, is quick to point out that either word could be considered a source of pleasure and excitement for the pooch and that in order to determine whether the dog is truly a moron or not, we should introduce a non-pleasure inducing word. He has a valid point…as usual. I lean in closer to the mutt and using the same tone of voice previously employed, I say, “diesel?”

Khan gives a contemptuous snort as Nacho goes into doggy paroxysms of delight. “Let me guess…,” he says in his usual sardonic tone, “it’s the dog, isn’t it?”

Unfortunately, Khan is right…again. Little Nacho is not green.

Nacho's Required Reading
Nacho's Required Reading


According to New Zealanders, Robert and Brenda Vale, in their book “Time to Eat the Dog:  The Real Guide to Sustainable Living,” Nacho is an undeniable environmental threat.  She eats, she poops and except for playing a mean game of fetch…she’s rather useless.  The Vale’s suggest off-setting the carbon paw print of the family dog by replacing it with a pet that could serve a dual purpose…like a chicken. 

To be fair, I haven’t really read the book.  I’ve gleaned bits and pieces from articles written about their work.  In my humble opinion, judging from what I have learned, the Vale’s could have made a greater contribution to global ecology by sparing the trees upon which this rubbish was printed.  Even if it was recycled paper…

I am not a scientist.  Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat.  I’m a practical and economical soul.  Things cost money…cars, fuel, houses, furniture…everything.  It is in my best interest to conserve my finances and to this end, what I have I make last.  I would never call myself a rampant consumer. 

But just to put things in perspective, I decided to find out the size of my own carbon footprint before I started loading the truck with cats and dog to be carted off to the nearest Humane Society outlet for disposal.  Or I should say returned.  My pets are recycled animals…no new ones were created for my personal gratification.

A simple technique to train your cats to be more energy conscious

I have to admit, at first I was a bit confused by the information that I found. According to a carbon footprint is defined as “the amount of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) that you and your business are putting into the environment.” For example, merely by existing (i.e. not taking into account my home, cars and air travel), I generate 4.99 tonnes of CO2 per year. However, in the book by Robert and Brenda Vale, this eco-footprint is measured in hectares, because their determination is based upon food consumption and the energy expended to produce these consumables.

Now I don’t know about your vehicle…but my husband’s truck does not run on kibble. And although it might make it easier for me to retire, the cats do not seem interested in entering the manufacturing industry at this point in their nine lives.

Apples and oranges…

Here is the comparison of my secondary footprint to that of the pets:

Food Preference
I eat a mix of white and red meat 
Organic Produce
Some of the food I buy or grow is organic 
I never buy or grow organic food, or don't know what we buy
In Season Food 
I try to buy or grow some in season food 
I don't try to buy or grow in season food
Imported Food and Goods
I prefer to buy goods closer to home
I don't notice where goods come from
I buy new clothes when I need them
I only buy second hand clothes
I try and buy things with little packaging
I don't buy anything which has packaging around it 
Furniture & Electricals
I only buy essential equipment and use it until it wears out
I only buy second hand furniture and appliances 
Some of my waste is recycled 
I don't recycle at all 
I occasionally go out to places like the movies, bars or restaurants 
I only do zero carbon activites (e.g. walk, run, sleep) 
Car Manufacturing
I own one car 
I don't own a car 
Finance and Other Services
I use the standard range of financial services 
I don't even have a bank account 


The cats and dog have a secondary paw print of only 2.14 tonnes of CO2, even despite their apparent disdain for recycling.  Obviously, they have a more canny idea of how to be green than I do…so who’s the eco terrorist now?

Does this mean that our four-legged furry friends should be excused?  Nah…but as pet owners we should be the ones taking responsibility for their impact upon the environment along with their general care.  Does this mean that you need to atone for them by planting a tree in Kenya to offset that bag of Tidy Cat scoopable litter that you just bought?  Perhaps…

Would I?  Hell no.  I’ll probably just sit here on my ass, armed with a squirt bottle so I can shoot the vermin when they eat the houseplants.  Every little bit helps and the survival of my prized philodendron is my contribution.

Although some might consider my pets to be a self-indulgent luxury, they are my family…my children.  I would never dream of pointing my finger at a mother or father and then have the unmitigated gall to suggest that they replace junior with a chicken simply because his diaper output makes him less than an ecological gem.  However, should my six cats and dog cause anyone excessive worry please feel free to put them on my account.  I have no problem with planting an entire forest to justify their existence.

Never mind offsetting my entire carbon footprint...but this should cover at least one toe, right?
Never mind offsetting my entire carbon footprint...but this should cover at least one toe, right?

Polls Are Fun!

Which statement best describes your attitude toward global warming?

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    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Seeker - LOL! I hadn't considered the actual ramifications of a pet chicken. Thanks for the giggle!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Wonderful hub!LOL! I couldn't believe what I was reading about those nutters in New Zealand - have they ever seen a chicken assisting a blind person or a deaf person? Can chickens smell out drugs or bombs? (I like their eggs though). Besides all that there is no way I would walk through my local countryside with a red-headed rooster on a leash!! People around here know me as the crazy nurse anyway and I have no intention of adding to this, no matter how truthful, by playing frisbee with a chicken.

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Arizona, USA

      nell79 - It does seem rather unfair to be picking on the furries doesn't it? :) Thank you for your comment!

    • nell79 profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Funny!!! I had no idea people were actually talking about pets' carbon footprints too! Seriously? I love your take on it though :) Well done!

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Thank you Christoph & er :) I am flattered by both of your comments!

    • Christopher Floyd profile image

      Christopher Floyd 

      8 years ago from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

      "...doggy paroxysms of delight." Nice.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      8 years ago from St. Louis

      Still funny on a second reading! Gonna link to this one!

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      I'll consider it a date then (as long as the missus doesn't mind!) :)

    • rmr profile image


      8 years ago from Livonia, MI

      LOL! Call me what you like. I have no secrets, they're too hard to keep!

      As for growing into productive adults, I'm looking at my kids' grades and wondering about that. For the moment, the thing they produce the most of is high blood pressure lol.

      Next time you're in Michigan, stop by. I only live a few blocks from the Humane Society shelter. We'll make a day of it!

      Rob/rmr/B.T./HubNugget Hank/?

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      How can I possibly call you rmr when I see that picture and I think something else???? But okay...rmr...(snorts and giggles)...

      Well duh! Teenagers vs cats (now there's a hub). You get the same attitude but less expense with the furry beasts. Of course, teenagers do eventually grow up into productive adults (usually)...while cats will always be cats. I suppose if you are thinking long-term investment, then perhaps teenagers aren't that bad.

      Still I'm all for a trip to the humane society! :))

    • rmr profile image


      8 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Well, I'm late to the party. After reviewing your chart and crunching some numbers, I think I need to take my teenagers to the Humane Society to make room for more cats. The kids produce far more waste, more noxious emissions and require much more upkeep than the cat. Also, the cat is usually tying up the bathroom for 10 minutes, tops.

      Another great read!

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Michifus -

      I'm now up to 7...but the dog is living elsewhere (she's now a companion to an elderly cancer patient...a very noble job indeed!). Tolerance...hah! You just have to be able to not wince when something gets broken. (i.e. Everything valuable is placed out of reach).

      Only one? You need at least one more! :)

    • michifus profile image


      8 years ago

      Good hub, very enjoyable read indeed. Just seen the results of the vote and I find it a little worrying that 33% of people who have read this hub think that our actions are not impacting on the planet. Just a speck in the great scheme of things we may well be, however too insignificant to matter on our little planet? sadly I wish this were the case.

      As for having six cats - wow. I have one(half Siamese, half something else)The thought of having six of those ballbreakers is just too much for me to even contemplate!

      You are obviously a cat whisperer or a much more tolerant person than I am!

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Damn, De bring up some very good points to ponder. Perhaps we need to re-think what really killed off the dinosaurs? I know what cabbage does to my digestive I can only imagine the methane emission caused by an herbivorous lizard consuming some prehistoric version of the vegetable. Talk about greenhouse gases...pew! Definitely one hell of a carbon footprint there. Just another reason why they wouldn't make a very good pet I suppose.

      Thanks for dropping in :)

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Robert and Brenda must have done their home work and one should show some Christian charity by considering their points, instead of dismissing them in such a cavalier way. Besides, think of all those trees cut down in the prime of life just to print their book so that Robert and Brenda could store them in their garage. Except the copies their mom and dad bought of course.

      I would be interested to know Robert and Brenda’s thoughts on the proportional carbon footprint of a Bruhathkayosaurus (44 m or 144 ft). promotional of course to a dog (60 cm or 2ft). You see Robert (and Brenda), there were millions of these suckers at one time, because T-Rex, though a fearless predator of the time, was not as stupid as people like Robert (and Brenda) might take them to be. A T-Rex might be tough and brave, but knows what’s good for it and trying to take a bite out of a 144 ft Bruhathkayosaurus does not fall into this category.

      So, the carbon footprint of a Bruhathkayosaurus was, by conservative estimates, the size of Alaska. Multiply that by several million and… But Robert and Brenda are smart enough to write a book so they are smart enough to work this out…

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA


      Hugs to you lady! :)

    • gwendymom profile image


      8 years ago from Oklahoma

      Glad I stopped by and read this. very funny stuff, as always.

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      2Pat - I always wondered how to tell the two of you apart! Just Kidding!!!! :) I can't believe I missed so many comments, evidently my gmail wasn't notifying me and I will have to have a word with it. Sorry I didn't comment back earlier!

      Misty - I didn't know that being a vegetarian could kill a cat. An occasional french fry is permissable though, right? :) *hugs to you special lady*

      callme: I'm so very glad you enjoyed it!

    • callmefoxxy profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent hub, and very funny. LOL.

      callmefoxxy, my pen is a mighty sword!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Fabulous Spryte, just thought I would check in and see what you had been up to lately, and sure enough you didn't disappoint. By the way, it would never work if you tried to turn your cat vegan anyway, it would die. Cats cannot be vegetarian, long explanation, but info readily available on the Internet.

      Loved the comparison chart too, and the idea of your delightful dog wagging his tail at every word you said to him.

      Fab stuff :)

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Fun hub, with a serious undertone.

      Pat (who is mean) would like to give her neighbours a copy of that book 'time to eat the dog' but that's because they let theirs bark a lot on Saturday mornings.

      We both have cats and agree they do have carbon pawprints. But theirs are much smaller than ours...

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Chris: Thank you! I've noticed that the dog is definitely more prone to off-gassing than the cats...especially in the belching department. My husband explained that it was because her esophagus was lower than her butthole. LOL! I'm not sure if that's the case...but she eats; she burps. Definitely not a very lady-like dog at all.

      The chart did give me a bit of difficulty with its limited choices (all geared toward human beings) but Khan once again came to my aid and gave me the least offensive (to him) answer. The very idea that he would wear or buy second hand anything (if he could buy things) was enough to make the poor thing shudder. Still, he rationalized that since I usually procure the things he uses, technically they could be considered hand-me-downs. He's so wise!

      Merry Christmas!! Love ya!

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      8 years ago from St. Louis

      I loved the comparison chart. In the case of dogs, there is the excessive release of carbon dioxide and methane from flatus. The air was often polluted in my home as I recall, but I still face this problem with my ex. Ha, ha! It's true.

      Very funny! Hey...Have a great Christmas!

    • spryte profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      JanieK - Thank you :) I figure a lot of furry kid lovin' people will feel the same way!

      FitnessProDee: That's pretty much what sparked this tirade...that article.'s a case of overwhelming ego that a person or persons would even suggest that one animal is more worthy than another to share our lives and the environment.

      I totally respect the vegan lifestyle, but it doesn't appeal to me. I don't think I could ever demand my pets live a lifestyle that I couldn't myself...however, I do feed them all natural, organic food, free of dyes and hormones, which while more expensive (of course) seems to be healthier for them.

      Beyond that, I've done my part taking in strays and adopting homeless critters, spaying & neutering and keeping them indoors. I'd like to claim that I've done this for some greater cause...but it's simply done for their benefit and mine.

      Thank you both for reading and commenting :)

    • FitnessProDee profile image

      Dana Gore 

      8 years ago

      Thank-you for posting this story. I had read the article about this subject the other day and it disturbed me. I'm figuring the authors of this book haven't felt the love and companionship of owning a pet in their lives.

      I personally can't imagine a world where our animals don't exist. I doubt many people can.

      A solution to one of the problems, if this really is a big problem, would be to see if animals can live a healthy life off of more vegetarian products. Since the meat production leaves such a huge carbon footprint (and I learned about this from a documentary called "Eating"), we all, pets included, can reduce the damage by consuming less animal products.

      Animals came from nature and they belong here. Period.

    • janiek13 profile image

      Mary Krenz 

      8 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

      Very funny! I feel the same way. I would never replace my pet because of something like that.


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