Seattle is called the Emerald City for a reason. We have a lot of green space in town, have more than more than 6,000 acres of parks within the city limits, and are surrounded by sparkling waters and lush, green forests. There is a lot of nature and beauty to appreciate and be thankful for here.
It’s because of this natural beauty that surrounds us, and how active outdoors Seattleites are, that reducing our impact on the earth, and generally “being green”, are frequently on our minds. Seattle is pretty progressive as far as “green options” go. As a City resident, recycling and composting our food is required and utility credits for things like using fluorescent light bulbs or solar panels are commonly available.
People in Seattle are pretty conscious about how their own actions affect the environment. However, they often don’t think about the impact that their pet may be having on the environment.
The impact a person or thing has on the earth is called a carbon footprint – the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, thing, etc. In the case of pets, this includes the carbon emitted by the creation of the products they use, the transportation of those products from where they are made to your home, the resources needed to grow the meat and vegetables their food is made of, and their waste. When this impact is made by a pet, it’s commonly called a “carbon pawprint”.
A 2009 study by New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington concluded that pet dogs have carbon pawprints double that of a typical SUV. According to figures from the the Seattle Animal Shelter, there were about 153,000 dogs in Seattle in 2011. There are more dogs than children that the city if you can believe that (in contrast, there were 107,178 children in 2011)! That many dogs can have a huge impact on our environment if we’re not careful.
So given that a lot of people in Seattle are environmentally minded dog owners, what can they do to help their pets go green?
1) Scoop the Poop
You can imagine the tons of waste produced by 153,000 dogs pooping at least once a day. Contrary to what some people believe, dog poop is not “natural” – at least not in the quantity produced in an urban environment that has more pavement than grass. Pet waste contains bacteria that can wash into waterways when it rains, resulting in closed swimming beaches, and can make people sick. Always remember to carry poop bags with you and scoop the poop… even if no one is watching.
If you’re not convinced you need to scoop your dog’s poop, check out this catchy little tune:
2) Take Public Transportation to the Dog Park
Leashed dogs, and smaller dogs inside a carrier, can ride on the King Country Metro bus system. How cool is that? Taking public transportation, instead of driving, not only reduces carbon emissions but can also reduce the stress of being stuck in our notoriously horrid Seattle traffic. Dogs are not allowed to occupy seats on the bus – they must remain either on the floor or sit on their owners lap – and owners must pay a fare for their dog (unless it’s a small dog that can remain on their owner’s lap) but we’re pretty fortunate to have this option. It’s easy to find bus directions to a local dog park, or any destination in King County for that matter, using the King County Metro Trip Planner.
Bonus points if you also use the bus to take your dog to the groomer or to doggy daycare.
3) Shop Locally Made
There are a lot of farmer’s markets in Seattle. Buying what your pet needs – beds, leashes, treats, etc. – from local artisans reduces carbon emissions produced when shipping products from the factory to your local store or home. It also eliminates the need for shipping/packing material.
Not all farmer’s markets are open all year round or are dog friendly but the Ballard Farmer’s Market is one that is both. Dogs are also allowed at the Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets which include the U-District, Capitol Hill, West Seattle, Columbia City, Lake City, Phinney and Magnolia farmer’s markets. If you plan to bring your dog to the farmer’s market with you, and it’s not a market I listed here, be sure to check their pet policy. Also, dogs must be on a short leash, you must pick up after your pet, be considerate of other shoppers, respectful of vendors and food products, and to follow common sense rules about good behavior.
If you can’t find what you need at a farmer’s market, the next best thing is buying from small, local, independent pet stores or a local Seattle pet store chain. Our favorite is All the Best Pet Care (also where I get the anesthesia-free teeth cleaning done for Chester).
Bonus points if you take the bus any of these places! 🙂
4) Go Digital With Your Pet’s ID
If you buy a traditional, old-school engraved ID tag for your pet you will have to throw it out and get a new one every time you move or get a new phone number. So you don’t waste the metal materials, and there is are no carbon emissions produced getting the new tag to you, get one that you can use over and over again. A digital ID tag, like one from PetHub.com that has a QR code (and the number for a staffed, 24-hour emergency lost pet hotline) on the back, links to an online profile you can update every time your contact information changes.
Bonus points here because PetHub is a local Seattle company… so you are shopping local.
Donate gently used pet supplies like toys, bowls, blankets, coats, etc. to a shelter or rescue to reduce the need for new materials and help keep stuff out of landfills. Also, be sure to recycle the packaging of what you do buy and choose products that are made with recycled materials when you can.
Bonus points if you are choosy about what you buy and don’t buy more than your pet needs in the first place.
6) Don’t Overfeed Your Pet
The production of meat, and beef in particular, takes a large toll on the environment because of the resources it takes to produce that meat. In addition to potentially making your pet fat and hurting their health, feeding your pet more than recommended (check the package for feeding recommendations) uses more “protein-producing resources” than are needed.
Bonus points if you feed your dog raw food. Frozen, prepared raw meals are easy and, since the ingredients are less processed, it uses less energy to make. Bonus, bonus points if you buy your raw food from a local Seattle company like Darwin’s Natural Pet Products or the Natural Pet Pantry.
7) Tread Gently on the Trails
People and dogs can have a huge impact on the the natural environment, especially when a lot of popular Seattle parks and trails see 100s of human and canine visitors a day. When you are hiking a local trail, or otherwise spending time in nature, with your pup be sure fido is following the dog version of Leave No Trace principles designed to keep nature wild.
Bonus points if you choose to minimize the human and canine impact by hiking a less crowded trail like like one of these 6 “Unknown” Dog Friendly Trails Near Seattle.
Doing the right thing for the environment feels good and it will ensure that Seattle stays the beautiful “Emerald City” that it is. I know not every suggestion here may be practical for your lifestyle. Remember though, it’s not about doing everything right, it’s about doing one or two simple things right. If everyone makes even one small change, together it could have a big impact.