According to American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA) estimates, in 2007 pet owners spent $16.1 billion on pet food—39 percent of total pet expenses. Although there are several important eco-considerations to take into account when living with an animal companion, what they eat and how they eliminate waste are the two most detrimental.
Non-natural or non-organic brands of cat and dog food contain factory farm-raised meat as well as byproducts like organs, eyes, and bones. Factory farms adversely affect the environment in many ways: manure and fertilizer runoff pollutes water systems; antibiotics and growth hormones given to livestock are introduced into natural ecosystems; and the natural digestion of cows, sheep, and pigs contributes methane (in no small quantities!) to the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas that's 21 times more potent in terms of heat-trapping than carbon dioxide.
And what goes in must come out. Dog waste contains bacteria and other contaminants that can run off into local waterways and diminish water quality. This waste further contributes to climate change (as it decomposes, it produces greenhouse gases). Worse, most dog-walkers pick up the poop in non-biodegradable plastic bags that not only rely on the petroleum industry for production, they add to landfill waste and essentially preserve the excrement for hundreds of years to come.
Felines aren't free of feces challenges, either. More than 2 million tons of kitty litter is dumped in landfills each year, the equivalent weight of five Empire State Buildings. Clay-based litter is usually made of bentonite or attapulgite/montmorillonite, which is mined in unsustainable ways and is known to contain silica.
- BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole): A chemical preservative found in butter, cereals, and beer, among other foods, to prevent fats from becoming rancid.
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene): A chemical preservative used to prevent oxidation of foods, allowing them to keep their color, odor, and taste longer.
- ethoxyquin: A pesticide and food preservative that is used in small doses to preserve spices for human consumption, but is allowed in much larger doses for livestock feed and dog food.
- silica: Silica, found in common minerals like quartz, sand, and agate, is naturally occurring, ubiquitous, and chemically unreactive in the environment.