Sustainable pet products, including their ingredients, packaging and processing, help protect the environment over their whole life cycle, from raw ingredients to final disposal.

Whether food or supplies, pet products impact the environment and economic and social welfare. Consumers, especially Millennials, are more aware of how their product selections add to their ecological footprint. As a result, sustainable products and socially responsible companies are trending.

Pet parents are seeking products that offer:

  • Locally sourced, organic ingredients
  • Food ingredient sourced from animals that were ethically treated
  • Plant-based and other ingredients that are replenishable
  • Biodegradable or truly recyclable packaging
  • Production processes that preserve natural resources and move toward zero waste

Many pet food companies are responding to the interest in sustainability. Some are just exploring how to incorporate sustainable practices, while others have jumped in and branded themselves as sustainable.

There is no single standard for a pet product being labeled sustainable. Certifications and evaluations for products being organic or eco-friendly are available but come at a cost and require an ongoing commitment.

Sustainable Ingredients

What makes an ingredient sustainable? For some pet food companies, sustainability includes:

  • Humane animal welfare practices
  • Protecting water supplies and limiting water use
  • Protecting farmer, rancher and producer livelihoods
  • Ensuring the preservation of natural resources
  • Working to preserve biodiversity

More consumers are interested in the ingredients in their pets’ food and the origin of those ingredients. That’s why more pet food manufacturers promote that their products are made in the USA and that they utilize local farmers and animal processors who are engaged with sustainability and animal ethics. It is more than a trend, so expect a growing number of companies to use sustainably managed and renewable ingredients and embrace credible recycling, reuse and composting.

Sustainable & Recyclable Packaging

Eliminating package waste is a big part of the sustainability push. The challenge for recyclable or compostable pet food packaging is that it must ensure product safety, freshness and shelf stability. The demand for less plastic and more bio-based materials has resulted in some pet foods packaged in more eco-friendly pouches. Green polyethylene, a bio-based plastic using sugarcane, and aluminum-based packaging also are being used.

While aluminum can go into most community recycling bins, the pouches and degradable plastics must be disposed of through special programs. Some pet food retailers are adding recycling bins for packaging that can’t be handled by municipal recycling. Also, check TerraCycle for pet food packaging recycling programs.

Sustainable Supply Chains

Pet product manufacturers are working toward enhanced efficiencies for transportation, shipping, processing and production that support a more sustainable supply chain. For some, sustainability starts with the use of local/regional products to reduce transportation costs, energy consumption and emissions. Reducing packing materials (plastic wrapping, cardboard inserts) is another way to achieve waste reduction.

Sustainable Business Practices

You can’t miss the news about the planet’s waste management issues. From plastic in the oceans to overflowing landfills, the problem is significant. As awareness grows, individuals and companies are making changes to reduce their consumption and waste.  Zero waste to landfills is a real goal for some pet food manufacturers. For retailers, their impact can start with reusable bags instead of plastic bags and email receipts instead of paper receipts.

Some simple ideas to preserve natural resources include:

  • Install solar power or purchase solar-generated power
  • Switch to LED lights
  • Operate fuel-efficient vehicles
  • Reduce paper usage and use recycled paper and envelopes
  • Reduce water usage
  • Recycle packing and office materials

The Pet Sustainability Coalition offers webinars, assessments and a toolkit that support sustainable business practices for both manufacturers and retailers.

Pet product manufacturers are looking to a better future by incorporating or exploring sustainable ingredients, packaging, processing and business practices. They are taking steps, big and small, to develop products that are economically viable and socially and environmentally reliable.

For pet retailers, the benefit of emphasizing and merchandising sustainable products can advance their brand as eco-friendly, while capturing sales from customers who are willing to pay more to improve the planet.