Green Guide For Pet OwnersPublished November 15, 2011
You may have mastered eco practices for people, but have you adopted a planet-friendly approach when it comes to raising your pet?
While that furry little friend of yours may look sweet and innocent, the reality is that she has a significant impact on the earth. Since Darla can only eat what you feed her, go to the bathroom where you point her, and play with what you give her, it's up to you to keep your pet's routine green.
"We only have one planet and we all have to live here," says Carol Frischmann, author of Pets and the Planet: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Pet Care. "You can't do the ultimate environmentally conscious thing all the time, but if you know what to change in your pet's every day life in order to make a difference, you can work on that aspect right now and maybe later you'll have time to do a bit more."
At the end of the day, a few small steps really are all it takes to make a big difference. Here are the top four times to tackle:
1. Dinner Time
Eco Effect: While kibble and bits may all look the same, buying individually packaged food items can increase waste levels and in turn harm the environment.
Ways to Go Green: When it comes time to decide on dinner, you can buy food items in bulk so that less packaging is used. By buying items that have less packaging, waste levels are kept down to an absolute minimum, and the amount of waste that physically goes to landfills is reduced. To preserve the food you've just bought in bulk, you can empty the kibble from the packaging and store it in durable and reusable Tupperware containers. By using these recyclable materials, you are doing your part to help the environment.
When you're actually getting ready to serve dinner, you can be even more eco-friendly by using a durable steel bowl. By using a bowl that you can reuse again and again, you are once more cutting down on the materials and waste produced by your pet's dinner.
2. Potty Time
Eco Effect: Pet waste that's not removed from the yard or sidewalks can contaminate our water supply.
Ways to Go Green: If you have a small dog, the best green practice is to flush its waste down the toilet. But don't try this with your kitty! "Cats carry toxoplasmosis, a parasite that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children as well as for marine mammals," says Frischmann.
If flushing is out of the question, pick up after your pet! Simply putting pet waste into the trash is a step in the right direction. If you have to put it in a bag, opt for a compostable or biodegradable style, like BioBags or PoopBags, over paper or plastic.
Unfortunately, it's not safe to compost feces yourself at home (the temperature doesn't get hot enough so you run the risk of spreading disease), which means these bags and your pet's waste will still end up in a landfill. But according to Frischmann, it's still worth the effort. "Each time we choose to buy something that is of a high environmental standard, it supports the market and shows manufacturers there is an appetite for these types of products."
3. Play Time
Eco Effect: Plastic playthings inevitably end up in landfills next to unnecessary clam shell packaging and single-use water bottles.
Ways to Go Green: When choosing toys for your new puppy or kitten, investigate to find out what it's made of. Companies like Planet Dog and Harry Barker make toys (and collars and leashes!) that are recyclable or made from recycled materials or natural textiles.
It's also important to consider the durability of the toy. If your teething puppy is going to chew it to shreds in a day or two, it's not worth buying, even if it is eco-friendly.
"If you find you have some quality toys that your pet just doesn't like, you can swap," says Frischmann.
Trade toys with friends or dog park playmates or log on to freecycle.org to swap with strangers. If you're the crafty type you can try making toys too. Old socks can easily become catnip pouches or fetch toys. Don't forget to invest in a green bed for when your puppy or kitten tires out from playing either. PoochPlanet and West Paw Design have styles that are organic or made from recycled materials.
4. Clean up time
Eco Effect: Questionable chemical cleaners not only pollute the earth when they're rinsed down the drain, thrown in the trash, and sprayed into in the air, but they can also easily get into your pet's mouth or on his skin.
Ways to Go Green: When cleaning up hair, drool, dirt, and all the other wonders pets leave behind, try the chemical-free approach first. Dust and vacuum regularly so the carpet and furniture stays in good condition and doesn't need to be replaced or professionally cleaned as often. Try using a vacuum that's specially made for pet hair, like the Bissell's Pet Hair Eraser Vacuum.
Frischmann also recommends using a steam cleaner, like the Shark Steam Pocket Multi-Purpose Portable Steamer, which uses only water to eliminate even the most encrusted dirt. If you need to use a product to clean, make sure it's a natural, plant-based surfactant, like PawSafe cleaners, especially if you're spraying it on the floor where your puppy or kitten lays and likely licks.