Early last month the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition launched an update for its Pet Industry Sustainability Toolkit (yes, it’s called PIST). Touting a partner like Natural Capital Solutions, this toolkit, in theory, should offer some bold ways the industry could become sustainable – such as promoting small dog ownership (as they eat less) – but instead it offers remedial advice like how to reduce packaging waste, make buildings more efficient, and remove toxic chemicals from supply chains.
Meanwhile, less than two weeks later, hundreds of companies and entrepreneurs convened in Orlando for the 10th annual Global Pet Expo to sell more useless stuff to pet owners – everything from remote video camera treat dispensing systems (for the guilty pet owner who spends all day at the office) to designer pet clothes, toys, even burial caskets – helping to stoke the annual $55.7bn pet industry in the US.
As our pets increasingly adopt the consumer habits of their owners, it’s clear that no matter how “green” this industry becomes, it will never become sustainable. But even if we severely restrict what pet products can be sold, and even if we stop overfeeding our increasingly overweight pet populations – 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese in the US, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention – can pets be part of a sustainable future?