Pet Food’s Impact On The Environment And Tips To Be More Sustainable

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that pets are, and always will be, a tremendous source of comfort for humans. And while dogs and cats make only positive impacts on our hearts, this isn’t necessarily true for their impact on the environment.

Dog sitting by food pouches

Most people don’t think twice about what they feed their pet -- but with 67% of households owning a dog or cat, the combined impact of feeding them makes a tremendous impression on the environment. In fact, a 2017 study showed that pets diets alone make up 25% of the environmental impacts from animal production -- use of land, water, fossil fuels, etc. 

That’s why it’s our responsibility as pet owners to make more Earth-friendly decisions regarding what we feed our furry friends. Here are a few different steps we can all take: 

Four ways that pet owners can start practicing sustainability regarding their pet products:

Make dog food at home or invest in foods that are sustainably-made.

The most sustainable way to feed your pet is to make their food at home using ingredients that are most likely already in the kitchen. Of course, dogs need certain vitamins, protein levels, etc., so you should speak with your vet before transitioning to a home-cooked diet to ensure your pet is getting the nutrients they need. 

Not ready to make the plunge into becoming your dog’s personal chef? No worries, the next best thing is to invest in pet food that follows sustainability initiatives, like Portland Pet Food Company. Before purchasing your dog’s next food brand, do some digging -- Is the manufacturer sourcing local ingredients? Are any of the ingredients upcycled or eco-friendly, such as using cuts of meat that humans won’t eat? Is the company a member of any sustainability programs? 

Doing this research will take some time, and investing in sustainable pet food companies may cost more than your average bag of kibble, but it'll be worth it for your dog and the Earth’s wellbeing! In fact, after making the switch from processed foods to fresh foods, you will notice that your dog has smaller, less frequent poops -- leading to less poop bags being used, less accidental water contamination, and less environmental impacts!

Research and support other pet-focused companies making efforts in sustainability.

Investing in a sustainable pet food company isn’t the only step in living an eco-friendly pet lifestyle -- there’s all sorts of companies you can and should support! With a little digging, you can find a sustainable version of everything you need for your pet. Here are some of our favorites! 

Recycle your pet food packaging. 

This may seem like an obvious one, but most pet owners overlook checking whether their pet food packaging is recyclable before purchasing. In fact, a 2017 study showed that only 2% of pet owners chose their pet food for sustainability reasons. And oftentimes, unfortunately, it can’t be recycled due to the materials coated on the bag. Before purchasing your pet’s next pet food, do a quick search on the brand’s website or packaging for information on recycling. 

If recycling curbside isn’t an option, many companies offer a free service that you can sign up for. For example, at Portland Pet Food Company, our packaging isn’t made with materials that can be tossed in the recycling bin at home, but we offer

Recycle pet food packaging

a recycling program with TerraCycle that is free, easy to do, and turns used retort pouches into plastic lumber. Learn about Portland Pet Food Company’s recycling program here.

Ensure you don’t overfeed! 

In 2019, 51% of dogs seen at Banfield Pet Hospital were considered overweight -- that’s potentially a lot of extra food being fed! By ensuring your pet stays at a healthy weight, you’re saving resources, helping the environment, and keeping your pet happy! For more information on pet weight, check out our blog on dog weight myths. 

How pet food manufacturers can start practicing better sustainability: 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few things that pet food manufacturers, like Portland Pet Food Company, should be doing to help the environment -- in addition to all of the things mentioned above as pet owners. 

Source ingredients sustainably, such as repurposing ingredients or sourcing locally. 

Using sustainable ingredients does not mean that the ingredients won’t be as high of  quality, a common misconception. At Portland Pet Food Company, we’re always looking for new ways that we can source sustainable ingredients, but here are a few of the ways we’re doing so already: 

  • Repurposing spent grain from local breweries, which often ends up in landfill, in our line of brew biscuits. In 2020, we upcycled more than 6,000 pounds! 

  • Using human-grade cuts of meat that would be thrown away for cosmetic reasons -- similar to what companies like Imperfect Produce do. The meat in our products is the same quality you’d find in the meat aisle at the grocery store, but it’s appearance kept it from the shelves. 

There are many ways that pet food manufacturers can use sustainable ingredients, it just takes some creativity, time, and commitment. 

Invest in Earth-friendly and/or recyclable packaging.

Historically, pet food packaging has been bad for the environment due to the materials used -- in fact, some studies suggest that nearly 95% of pet food packaging isn’t recyclable. We think it’s time that pet food manufacturers step up to change that! Whether researching and investing in curbside recycling-appropriate packaging or offering a program to consumers to recycle in other ways, pet food manufacturers should be constantly trying new ways to make their products better for the environment.

Join groups making an effort to better the environment.

The best way to make change is together, which is why it’s crucial for pet food manufacturers to invest their time and resources in groups like the Pet Sustainability Coalition.

Your pet deserves the best, and so does the Earth! The next time you’re purchasing your dog or cat’s pet food, take the time to look at the packaging to ensure you’re investing in a brand that works to do good. Together, we can make a difference and continue loving our pets for many, many years to come! 


At Portland Pet Food Company, our meals and treats are human-grade and made sustainably with ingredients sourced in the USA. Available in stores across the country,  just use our store locator to find a location near you! Alternatively, subscribe to our dog meal subscription service and order what you need on YOUR schedule. No hassle about it!