By Lisa A. Beach
Providing a loving home for a pet means giving them everything they need to be happy and comfortable. But you may be wondering how can pet parents take care of animals in a way that’s both in their best interest and good for the planet? In other words, how can pet owners go green?
For starters, harness your overconsumption, says Stephanie Feldstein, author of “The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World” and the director of the Population and Sustainability program at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Feldstein points out that pets’ needs are pretty basic. They want a safe, warm place to sleep and nutritious food to eat. They want to play. And they want your love and attention.
“Thinking about what your pets really need to make them happy rather than what makes you happy would go a long way toward reducing your environmental footprint,” says Feldstein.
Going green by being mindful of your pet’s well-being, sustainable pet business practices, and the health of Mother Earth can prove to be a tall order. But following a few simple go-green strategies can make a big difference in reducing your pet’s “carbon paw-print.”
Six Ways to Go Green as a Pet Parent
1. Adopt From Your Local Shelter
An easy, totally green solution starts with where you get your pet in the first place. Instead of buying pedigree breeds from owners, give homes to shelter animals who are waiting for new pet owners. It’s the ultimate way to recycle!
2. Buy Eco-Friendly Pet Food and Supplies
Just like when you buy organic fruits and vegetables, buying organic dog food or organic cat food can be more eco-friendly because no synthetic fertilizers, irradiation or genetic engineering are used.
“Organic [pet food] can be more expensive and not as accessible,” notes Feldstein. “Dogs are omnivores, so it’s easier for pet owners to meet their needs. Cats are carnivores, so it’s a bit harder.” If you do want to change your pet’s diet, check with your veterinarian first to determine a healthy and safe diet that meets their nutritional needs.
Many pet companies are offering greener alternatives for pet parents. For unique, eco-friendly pet bedding, look into Molly Mutts. These “stuff sacks” and duvet covers arrive ready for you to pack with old towels, pillows and other soft materials. By upcycling your old clothing, towels and sheets, you keep them out of the landfill. You are also eliminating the extra energy and carbon that’s usually used to create dog bed stuffing, as well as reducing carbon emissions from shipping.
3. Donate Pet Supplies Your Pet No Longer Uses
If your dog has outgrown his bed, or your cat no longer plays with her cat toys, consider donating these items to your local shelter rather than throwing them in the trash. But Feldstein still cautions, “Don’t use your donations as an excuse to overconsume.”
4. Dispose of Pet Waste in More Earth-Friendly Ways
It’s a dirty little secret, but there are greener ways to get rid of dog poop and eco-friendly cat litter disposal options. You can also use a backyard compost system specifically made for animal waste, such as Doggie Dooley. It comes with specially formulated tablets that combine bacteria and enzymes to break down organic waste.
When you’re not at home, use newspaper, paper bags or a dog pooper scooper for a more eco-friendly way to pick up poop. If you must use plastic bags, repurpose those that are already in your home, such as bread bags.
Keep in mind that “Pet waste can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients in local waters,” says Tricia Lynn with the Office of Public Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s why you should always pick up after your pet.
Lynn says that “Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local waterbodies.” Check out a few of the EPA's pet waste tips.
For cats, try using eco-friendly cat litter options made of corn, wheat and other renewable resources. “Clay litter causes incredible environmental devastation,” explains Feldstein.
If you do try to transition to a new litter, you should always do this slowly, with a mixture of the current type of litter and the new litter, to avoid causing your cat to go outside the litter box. Cats are extremely sensitive to these changes, and you might find that you’ll have to stick with whichever litter works for your particular kitty.
5. Spay or Neuter Your Pets
Believe it or not, spaying and neutering is another way to go green. Not only does it prevent new litters from contributing to pet overpopulation, but it reduces the amount of pet waste left by roaming animals, which is a serious environmental hazard.
It’s up to pet parents to have their pets spayed or neutered, because as Feldstein points out, “We can’t teach our pets sex education!”
6. Upcycle Materials to Make Your Own Pet Toys
Cats are easily amused by new objects to play with, whether it’s a crinkled-up piece of paper or a ball of aluminum foil they can bat around. Got a few sturdy cardboard boxes left over from product packaging? Build a structure for your cat to run through and jump on.
For dogs, you can use boxes to play a sort of hide-and-go-seek or a sniff for hidden treasures game. Hide dog toys in boxes, and for an extra reward, hide some dog treats inside of a toy that you can stuff with treats, or one that dispenses treats.
Looking for additional ideas for going green? Check out the EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle website.
Image via Best dog photo/Shutterstock.com
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