Americans own more pets than anyone else in the world, with over 163 million dogs and cats in the US. Feeding these pets results in up to 30% of the total environmental impact of meat consumption, which is why some environmentalists recommend choosing pets that have less of an environmental impact. But it's possible to maintain a sustainable lifestyle as a dog owner — the pet food industry is evolving, and there are many ways to feed your pet sustainable and healthy food and treats.

Find alternative protein sources

The environmental impact of pets is undeniable, which is why it’s important that we start thinking out of the box and look for other sources of protein, such as algae, plants, and even consider insects. Now, the idea of feeding your pet insects may make your skin crawl, but the protein levels in insects are comparable to beef and milk. No wonder insects are just a normal part of people’s diets in other parts of the world!

Look for eco-friendly packaging

Just because you’re a pet owner doesn’t mean you can’t go low- or zero-waste. As American pet lovers become more conscious about how sustainable their lifestyle is, it’s now easier than ever to discover sustainable pet brands. For example, many subscription companies now commit to sending out doggy treats in packaging that uses recyclable, sustainable, and eco-friendly materials. If possible, buy products with packaging that meets Forest Steward Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards.

Reduce your carbon footprint by buying local

Buying locally can reduce your pets’ carbon footprint of food by up to 10%. But how exactly do you buy local for your pets? It may seem like a daunting task, but thankfully, more brands today are transparent about where they source their ingredients. If you can’t find any locally sourced pet treats in the store, you can go straight the source: buy ingredients from your local farmer’s market and make sustainable treats yourself! Which brings us to our next item…

DIY your sustainable treats

Making sustainable treats at home is a great way to reduce your waste and ensure that you’re giving your pet the very best stuff. Whipping up treats at home with ingredients you either buy in bulk or already have in your pantry requires a little more effort, but it’s worth it. Making your own treats not only gives you control over what goes in your pet's food, but also costs less in the long run, depending on your ingredients. Because what’s sustainable for you depends on where you live, look up homemade dog treat recipes and see which ingredients are most accessible to you.

Finding sustainable treats for your pup may feel inconvenient at first, but give it some time and patience and you’ll soon find something that works for you and your pet. Remember that if you’re unsure about certain ingredients, make sure to check with your dog’s vet. Once you and your pet adjust to more eco-friendly habits, you can enjoy your pup’s company guilt-free, and that’s totally worth the extra effort.