Planting trees increases the sustainability of pet food at a low cost
Responsibility for the environment does not necessarily require pet food companies or their suppliers to install expensive renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, which are resource-intensive to manufacture and transport. Planting trees can benefit environmental and economic sustainability while increasing the morale of pet food company employees at a much lower cost.
Renewable energies in the pet food industry
In the pet food industry archives, the first records of a solar-powered pet food system are from 2009. That year, Purina PetCare installed a solar panel array in a facility in Denver, Colorado, USA. This array provided only 1% of the plant’s energy requirements. Cardinal Laboratories has now converted its facility in Azusa, California, USA, to run entirely on solar energy later in 2009. Canidae began using wind power for its dog treat facility in Oklahoma, USA in 2009. Novus International received Platinum LEED certification from the US Green Building Council for its solar-paneled headquarters in St. Charles, Missouri, USA.
During the following decade, various dog, cat, and other pet food facilities installed solar and wind turbines or otherwise switched to renewable energy sources. While renewable energies are an important part of economic and environmental sustainability, installing solar panels or building a wind turbine can be more expensive than many pet food companies can afford. In addition, depending on the location, renewable power plants are not always practical and do little to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas already present in the atmosphere or to address other problems such as habitat loss.
On the other hand, all you need to plant trees is a shovel, a seedling, and some sweat. In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, trees are home to a wide variety of animals, plants, and microbes. Trees provide fruit, nuts and shade for people. By shading an animal feed system, trees reduce heating costs in summer and the strength of the wind in winter. With local food trends taking hold, there isn’t a much more local source of food than an apple or indigenous persimmon tree on the company’s own campus. Trees offer aesthetic benefits and increase morale. Trees create the opposite of the “broken window effect,” where a broken pane can reduce the perception of security and property value. A meta-analysis published in Ecological Economics reviewed the evidence that tree cover improves property value. For pet food companies, organizing people into tree-planting brigades creates a sense of camaraderie and a common goal that goes beyond profitability. Watching a seed that has been planted grow connects an employee with the facility they work in and fosters a sense of care and belonging to a physical space in a way that simple work there doesn’t.
Tree planting by dog, cat and other pet food companies and suppliers
A handful of pet food companies have started tree-planting campaigns, such as Rachael Ray Nutrish in 2009 when the company promised to plant a tree for every bag of pet food sold. However, the number of animal feed companies involved in reforestation appears to be small. Given the low cost and numerous benefits, tree planting appears to be a low hanging fruit to promote the sustainability of the pet food industry. Pet food manufacturers and suppliers could replace non-native grass with native trees and reduce facility maintenance costs. Similarly, encouraging staff to plant trees in their gardens could reduce mowing while providing food and shade, as outlined in the Arbor Day Foundation’s Backyard Woods project. Employees of pet food companies don’t even have to plant the trees themselves and could instead finance reforestation measures such as the organizations Trees for the Future or the Green Belt Movement.
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, UK in 2021, the leaders of 100 countries pledged to stop or reverse deforestation by 2030. Greenhouse gas pollution is receiving a lot of attention as a cause of climate change. However, the loss of forests contributes to climate change in many ways, from methane-producing termites that feed on scrap wood to increased surface warming and the lost uptake and storage of carbon by these felled trees.
At COP26, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said his Bezos Earth Fund would allocate $ 2 billion to restore ecosystems and develop agricultural systems that cause less habitat loss and environmental degradation. With Amazon’s profits going to the Amazon rainforest, pet food companies can find ways to restore ecosystems even if they don’t have billions to spare. Shovels and seeds are cheap.