Who would have guessed that behind those big, doughy eyes and that fluffy, wagging tail your cat or dog produced twice as much pollution as your car? How could that be? You've never seen the dog leave the shower running, pour motor-oil down the storm drain, or watch the Glenn Beck Show--and the worst thing the cat has done is scratch the guy who was installing the solar panels. Does that even count? Well, before you roll up that newspaper or head out to the garage to start petting the car, the reasons why may surprise you.According to a report published by two New Zealand scientists in the journal New Scientist, the answer lies in the amount of surface area it requires to produce their food. The scientists, Robert and Brenda Vale, note that a medium-sized dog consumes about 164 pounds of meat and 95 pounds of grain in a year. The impact on the environment it takes to produce the meat and grain corresponds to an area of 0.84 hectares.
On the other hand, a 4x4 vehicle that travels 10,000 kilometers a year has an ecological footprint of 0.41 hectares, two times less than the dog! Plus, this figure factors in the energy required to produce and power the vehicle.
While the results are surprising, Roland Sarda-Esteve, an engineer at the Laboratory Science of Climate and the Environment, puts it simply:
When you have an animal or an object, there is necessarily a price and a carbon footprint.
Some pet advocates have argued that the scientists are painting a false picture. Huttin Reha, president of the 30 Million Friends Foundation, counters that the report shows science "has clearly had fun with numbers, because you can say what you want." She worries that such studies might lead some to "impose rules that limit the size of pets."
It is certainly surprising to learn that pets cause twice as much pollution as cars, but instead of being a reflection on dogs or cats, it's really indicative of us. Perhaps we as their human owners are the ones culpable for our consumer lifestyles so disconnected from the environment that's suppose to sustain it.