Let’s face it, pets are family. And as responsible pet parents, it only makes sense that we do everything we can to help reduce their carbon “paw” print. The next time you’re faced with choices for your pet, rely on these tips to help you make the sustainable one:
1. Chow Down
Just like mass-market human food, much pet food is highly processed and less than nutritionally ideal. Make your own pet food or opt for certified-organic pet foods with all the nutrition information on the label. These products should meet FDA standards for meat grading and strict USDA standards (look for the green seal) that ensure no antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, or artificial preservatives are part of what’s being served up at meal time.
Depending on what they eat, your pet’s waste isn’t necessarily terrible for the Earth. But the way you choose to dispose of it can be. Grab a bunch of biodegradable waste-disposal bags for your dog so their poo bag isn’t sitting in a landfill for a century. For cats, stay away from clay clumping litters, as the clay is strip-mined and can contain potentially carcinogenic silica dust. Instead, go for biodegradable litters made from pine pellets or recycled newspaper.
The fibers in collars, scratching posts, toys, leashes and bedding are all areas to check twice when greening your pet’s lifestyle. Choose fibers like organic cotton and biodegradable hemp for collars, leashes and bedding. It’s worth doing the same for toys: many plastic ones can contain lead. You can even find habitats and scratching posts made from bamboo or recycled cardboard (www.marmaladepets.com).
How many times have you picked up a product at the store or vet only to find that you had to use gloves to apply it? Shampoo and flea treatments are often packed full of chemicals of concern. If it can’t touch our skin, it probably shouldn’t touch theirs. For a simple way to determine what you don’t want in your pet’s shampoo, consider what you wouldn’t want in yours. If you avoid 1,4-dioxane contamination, your pet should too. If you would never consider lathering up with phthalates and parabens, don’t do it to your pet either!
Flea treatment, though traditionally as chemically harsh as possible, can also be natural and sustainable. In fact, prevention can be the best solution. Bathe your pet regularly with natural cleaners. Vacuum your home at least once a week and dispose of the bag or its contents. Wash pet bedding in hot, soapy water at least once a week and use a fine-toothed comb on your pet.
In the United States, approximately 70,000 kittens and puppies are born every day. By adopting an animal from a rescue shelter, you can give a home to one of the 6 - 8 million dogs or cats that enter a shelter every year. Aside from the obvious benefits, adopting an animal can save shelters precious resources. What’s more, you can help control the pet population explosion by having your pet spayed or neutered.