What pet should I choose for a low-carbon lifestyle?

Pets can provide great solace and companionship, but they can also have a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint. The main reason for this is the huge volume of meat they can consume. When deciding on a pet, think about the pointers below…

  1. Choose pre-loved, rather than new. Pre-loved pets may be fed in a rescue or rehoming centre anyway, and so will already have their own carbon footprint. (The truth is that the rescue centre will very rarely have space, and so any pet that is rehomed just allows another pet not to be put down, so in reality, the carbon will not be reduced by rehoming, it will just save a pet from being put down.) 
  2. Choose a vegetarian, rather than a meat-eating animal. Rabbits are the perfect pets for being friendly, house-trainable but not too demanding on an owners’ time. Vegetarian pets can cost very little to look after. (Although I am biased, my pet rabbit is currently nuzzling his head under my foot as I am typing.) Gerbils, hamsters, rats and guinea pigs are potentials, or you could consider chickens, as they will provide you with eggs for the table with very low food miles and can be friendly.
  3. Consider their environmental impact. Cats will have lower carbon footprints than most dogs, but it can have a big impact on biodiversity by killing garden birds, amphibians and small mammals. Only choose a dog if you don’t have to drive it to go for a walk. My rabbit produces waste that can be added to the compost heap and is very good for the garden. They can also reduce how much you need to use a lawn mower.
  4. If you must have a dog, supplement meat dog food with some vegetarian foods to reduce its’ total meat consumption.
  5. Consider becoming a volunteer at your local rehoming centre before or instead of getting your own dog, as all those dogs need plenty of walks. If you can’t face going to the rehoming centre when it is pouring with rain and cold outside, then would you be wanting to do that with your own dog?
  6. Choose smaller breeds over larger dogs, to reduce the volume of meat required.
  7. If it is a choice between having children and having dogs, it is probably still better to go for the pet option.