As a lifelong cat owner/devotee and a recent student of sustainable business, I have become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of pet ownership. In 2009 I read an article hosted by New Scientist which left me with feelings of guilt that caused me to hang my head in shame. I was shocked to read that my early onset “cat-lady” syndrome and my resultant (somewhat obsessive) relationship with my feline companion was contributing to the degradation of the environment at rates equal to SUV ownership.
I began to feel pangs of panicky guilt every time I popped the lid off a can of individual serving size kitty dinner. I skulked down the aisle of Whole Foods with a bag of “flushable” kitty litter, knowing full well (but at a loss for a better alternative) that flushing my feline’s feces might cause a sea otter to become sick with bacteria often found in cat excrement.
I did feel some satisfaction when I purchased fully recycled cat scratchers that could later be composted safely. However the smug was wiped off my face when I read that domestic cats are responsible for the extinction of many entire species of birds. My cat is an avid huntress, and many a feather has fluttered through her fangs. I may even have offered proud encouragement on occasion, impressed with her ability to soar casually into the air as if catching a frisbee.
Needless to say, I was conflicted, concerned and confused. How could I be pursuing a career dedicated to creating a sustainable future and at the same time be not only harboring, but enabling this furry little environmental disaster?! What ensued was the beginning of an ongoing quest for the secret to sustainable pet ownership. And a quest if has been. There isn’t one easy answer, but the truth is that there is a growing market for sustainable pet products. If we shop carefully, we can provide biodegradable litter, environmentally friendly toys and other products for our pets. I have since started using these products, and feel at least somewhat comforted. But I know that the journey has just begun.
This blog is intended not only document my own experience but to invite collaborative participation from pet owners everywhere. In my upcoming posts I will be delving more deeply into some relevant issues, such as questioning the lack of sustainable food options, discussing exactly what “sustainable” means in the world of pets, and brainstorming ways to encourage positive trends. In the meantime, I invite you to share your thoughts, opinions and any resources you discover through your own efforts. Until next time!