Tree planting boosts pet food sustainability at low-cost

Environmental responsibility does not necessarily require pet food companies or their suppliers to install expensive renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, which require numerous resources for production and transportation. Planting trees can benefit environmental and economic sustainability, while boosting the morale of pet food company employees, at a much lower price.

Renewable energy in the pet food industry

In the archives of the pet food industry, the first record of a pet food facility using solar energy dates back to 2009. That year, Purina PetCare installed a solar panel array at a facility in Denver, Colorado, USA. This group provided only 1% of the power needs of the plant. Meanwhile, Cardinal Laboratories converted their facility in Azusa, California, USA to fully solar powered later in 2009. Canidae first started using wind energy in 2009 for a dog therapy facility in Oklahoma, USA. Novus International has been awarded LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council for its solar-paneled headquarters in St. Charles, Missouri, USA.

Over the next decade, many pet, cat, and dog food facilities installed solar and wind power plants or otherwise converted to renewable energy sources. While renewable energy is an important part of economic and environmental sustainability, installing solar panels or raising wind turbines can be more expensive than many pet food companies can afford. Furthermore, renewable energy plants are not always viable options, depending on the location, and do little to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere or address other problems such as habitat loss.

On the other hand, planting trees only requires a shovel, saplings and some sweat. Besides absorbing carbon dioxide, trees provide homes for a wide variety of animals, plants, and microbes. For people, trees provide fruit, nuts, and shade. By shading a pet food facility, trees reduce heating costs in the summer and less wind strength in the winter. As local food trends spread, there is no more local food source than the local apple or persimmon tree on the company’s campus. Trees provide aesthetic benefits and lift spirits. Trees create the opposite of the ‘broken window effect’, through which a broken part can reduce perceptions of safety and property value. A meta-analysis published in Ecological Economics reviewed the evidence that tree cover improves property values. For the pet food industry, organizing employees into tree planting brigades builds a sense of companionship and a common purpose beyond profitability. Watching the seed one has planted grow connects the employee to the facility in which they work and encourages a sense of nurturing and belonging to a physical space in a way that they simply do not.

Tree planting for dogs and cats and other pet food companies and suppliers

A few pet food companies have launched 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 pet food companies involved in afforestation efforts appears to be low. Given the low cost and many benefits, tree planting appears to be a low-cost reward for enhancing the sustainability of the pet food industry. Pet food producers and suppliers can replace non-native grass with native trees and reduce facility maintenance costs. Likewise, encouraging employees to plant trees in their yards can reduce mowing while providing food and shade, as shown in the Arbor Day Foundation’s Backyard Woods project. Pet food company employees don’t even have to plant trees themselves and can instead fund reforestation efforts, such as Trees for the Future or the Greenbelt Movement.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, leaders of 100 countries pledged to halt or reverse deforestation by 2030. Greenhouse gas pollution is receiving significant attention as a cause of climate change. However, forest loss contributes to climate change in many ways, from methane-producing termites feeding on scrap wood to increased surface heating, along with the loss and storage of carbon by those felled trees.

At COP26, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said his Bezos Earth Fund will allocate $2 billion to restore ecosystems and develop agricultural systems that reduce habitat loss and environmental degradation. As Amazon profits go to the Amazon rainforest, pet food companies may also find ways to restore ecosystems, even if they don’t have billions to spend. Scoops and seeds are cheap.


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