Life cycle assessment of pets – Luna and Rocky as climate killers – Knowledge


Dogs and cats also have an ecological footprint. Vegetarian dog food is therefore always in demand.

An average dog weighing 15 kilograms is responsible for CO2 emissions of 630 kilograms per year. Matthias Finkbeiner, professor at the Technical University of Berlin and specialist in life cycle assessments, would not have thought that it would be so much. “If you consider that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we as individuals should only emit around 2 tons of CO2 per year, then with these 600 kilograms almost a third has already been used up.”

2000 liters of fertilizer per dog life

Finkbeiner has one comprehensive life cycle assessment of the dogs created. The main source of environmental pollution comes from the meat that the animals eat. There are also smaller items such as the car ride to the walk or the Robidog bags with contents that have to be burned.

About a ton of faeces comes together in a dog’s life and 2000 liters of urine end up in the grass. This is becoming a problem for urban gardeners trying to maintain ecologically valuable dry grassland in parks or along streets, because the urine acts as fertilizer and rare plants are disappearing, and with them the rare insects.

About as harmful as plastic packaging

Finkbeiner is not alone in his calculations. Niels Jungbluth, who runs his own life cycle assessment office in Switzerland, is able to draw on the numbers his research largely confirm.

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He also calculated the environmental impact of an average cat. There are 400 kilograms of CO2 emissions per year. Here, too, meat consumption is the decisive point.

“Calculated for the whole of Switzerland, the environmental impact of our almost 2.3 million dogs and cats today accounts for a good one percent,” says Jungbluth. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s about as much as we cause with all the plastic packaging waste.

Tips for more eco-friendly pets

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The two scientists Matthias Finkbeiner and Niels Jungbluth have some tips on how to reduce the environmental impact of cats and dogs:

  • Do not overfeed animals
  • Feed dogs vegetarian
  • Get smaller dogs
  • Only one cat per family instead of two or three.

Peas and apples for the dog

Cats cannot be fed vegetarian. Dogs, on the other hand, do. A new niche is opening up for environmentally conscious pet owners: there are mixtures of sweet lupins, peas, algae and apples – or animal feed made from insects.


Carrots instead of sausage: Dogs can also eat without meat.

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This reduces the environmental impact of dogs, says Finkbeiner, especially if people refrain from feeding their pets filets, salmon or duck liver. Finkbeiner expects the ecological balance to be halved with vegetarian food. The corresponding study is still ongoing.

No pets allowed

The sober ecological balance view of our pets naturally ignores the fact that the animals are good for us. They have been shown to reduce human stress and can provide comfort in times of social isolation.

None of the researchers want to ban pets. And yet it is right to think about their environmental impact, says Matthias Finkbeiner. “If someone goes to a Fridays for Future demonstration and calls for the elimination of short-haul flights, but has a 50-kilo Doberman with them, then the person should realize that there is a bit of a double standard.”

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