Last year, our Green Pet Care 101 article offered tips on eco-friendly pet care, including household cleaning, green treats and recycling. With the long-awaited arrival of warmer weather and Earth Day just around the corner, now is the perfect time to again share our appreciation for the natural world and the beauty, sustenance and fun it offers us and our pets.
Four ways to be a green pet care owner
1. Spay and neuter. Just like humans, each individual pet has an environmental impact in terms of the resources that go into its food and care. And with anywhere from 144-176 million cats and dogs in the United States, the impact of all of those pets adds up. You’ll greatly reduce your pet’s footprint by having him or her spayed or neutered–not to mention reducing the number of unwanted pets that enter shelters, which is around 7.6 million each year.
2. Green your pet’s diet. Consider what’s in that can you’re spooning into Fluffy’s or Spot’s dish. Many commercial pet foods are laden with fillers, preservatives, and chemicals such as BPA, with potentially negative consequences not only for your pet’s health, but for the environment as well. And even as global fish stocks plummet, a surprising amount of wild-caught fish goes into making pet food. One 2008 study estimates that 2.5 million tons of fish is made into cat food each year.
A first step that you can take towards feeding your pets more sustainably is to study the ingredients labels of their food, avoiding those that are full of hard-to-pronounce chemicals. Research pet food companies to learn more about where they source their ingredients. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, consider making homemade food for your cat or dog, ensuring that you know exactly what’s on your pet’s plate. If you do change your pet’s diet, transition them slowly to the new food, and discuss the change with your veterinarian to be certain your pet’s nutritional bases are covered.
3. Eco-friendly potty time. Cleaning up after your pet is a fact of life for all pet owners, but you may be surprised by some of the environmentally friendly options for disposal of your pet’s waste.
- Composting food scraps is one thing, but composting your pet’s waste? Yes, it is possible! While pet waste should never be used on food gardens, as it contains harmful bacteria, you can build a system for composting your pet’s waste to keep it out of the landfill.
- If composting your pet’s waste is simply too much for you, one Columbus business, Green Scoop will do it for you, transforming the waste into renewable energy. You can read more about Green Scoop in this company profile on the Ohio Animal Companion site.
- For your feline friends, beware of clumping cat litter. It contains sodium bentonite, an expanding clay element that can not only wreak havoc on your cat’s lungs and digestive system, but has also been strip mined at great cost to the environment. Many standard kitty litters also contain silica dust, which is bad for both human and cat health. Fortunately, numerous eco-friendly alternatives exist, including litter made from recycled newspaper, wheat, wood shavings and more.
4. Get moving. With our fast-paced, often hectic lives, it can be tempting to de-stress by plunking down and tuning out in front of the TV or computer. While the carbon footprint of your television may be the furthest thing from your mind as you try to relax, the environmental impact of all of our electronic devices adds up fast, from the energy and materials needed to manufacture and power them to their impact on the waste stream.
Your cat or dog doesn’t care about any of that, but they certainly wish you would get up off of the couch and play with them! Instead of zoning out to funny cat videos online, don’t forget that you have a kitty of your own who would love to chase a toy or get a good brushing. And your dog would gleefully join you on long walk or romp at the park, as you reap the benefits of physical activity and time spent in nature. Being outdoors is particularly helpful for kids, so make your walk in the park a family affair.
Remember, you don’t have to tackle all of these steps at once! Do what you can, given your budget and time constraints, knowing that each small step that you take will add up in the long run. Being green is more of a process than a destination, and whatever positive changes you can make will have a lasting impact, not only for you and your pets today, but for future generations of both pets and people around the world. – Meredith Southard
An animal lover since she could shriek the word “doggie,” Meredith Southard has written for national and statewide publications on topics such as wildlife rehabilitation and rescue, conservation dogs, and the animals of Ohio’s wetlands. On warm spring nights she can be found traipsing around vernal pools with a flashlight, looking for salamanders and frogs.