Maybe you’re driving a Toyota Prius that gets 40 MPG. Or maybe you’ve got solar panels on your roof, compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home, and an organic garden in your backyard. But that doesn’t mean you should stop exploring more ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And for the rest of us, it isn’t too late to start either. There are plenty of things you can do as a pet owner to show your furry "little ones" that you care about the environment. After all, it’s their planet, too.
Reduce. It might seem obvious, but buying pet food and other pet products in bulk saves you extra trips to the store and avoids needless plastic packaging or cardboard boxes that end up in the local landfill anyway. Reducing shouldn’t end there, though. As Bob Barker always said, "Help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered." Every year millions of cats and dogs are euthanized around the world. This is the devastating reality, but it’s also avoidable. Having your pet spayed or neutered not only curbs its aggressiveness once it reaches maturity, it is the best way to avoid sending an unwanted puppy or kitten to the local shelter, many of which are never adopted.
Reuse. Why buy plastic toys (many of which are laden with chemicals) when you can find common household items for your pets to play with? If you’ve ever seen a cat with a ball of yarn, or a dog chase a stick, you know that it doesn’t take something with a $10 price tag to entertain an animal for hours.
Recycle. When shopping for your pet, look for items that use the most recycled materials. Many companies now offer products made from natural fibers, such as hemp or organic cotton, and some are even packaged in Earth-friendly materials like biodegradable cardboard or recycled paper (the higher the percentage of "post-consumer" materials, the better). Buying these products supports environmentally aware manufacturers, encouraging more companies to move towards sustainable packaging and natural pet products.
Get a "green" lawn. Most of us know that plants and trees are great for absorbing the nasty (and destructive) carbon dioxide churned out into the atmosphere every day by our cars and power plants. What you may not know is that there are plants and herbs that you can use for landscaping, many of which are pet-friendly and healthy for them to eat. Check out our Herb N’ Living article for more information.
Donate print newspapers. For sanitary reasons, animal rescues and wildlife rehabilitation centers use discarded newspapers to line their cages. This is both cheap and efficient. Contact the Humane Society, ASPCA, or SPCA International to see if there are any shelters of rehabilitation centers in your area in need of old newspapers. If nothing else, the puppies at the shelter get a chance to catch up on their Marmaduke.
Visit a dog park. As the population of dog owners has boomed, so have the number of dog parks in the United States (use the PetMD Finder to find dog parks in your area). Grab a Frisbee, a ball, a stick, and take your furry, four-legged friend for a nice afternoon in the park. It’s like a playground for them, except they can’t go on the swings.
Adopt a pet. This may be a strange way of looking at it, but adopting a dog or cat is the ultimate way to recycle. Not only will you get a loveable best friend that cares for you, but you save at least one animal from being euthanized. Find a reputable animal shelter in your area and save a life.
Image: TigerLily / via Flickr