When you think of ways to go green, don’t forget about the pets in your family. They are, after all, part of the household, and the little actions can add up. Your pets may not care whether they lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle, but it can benefit them and the world around them in ways great and small. Read on for some simple ways your pets can go green.Buckets of grass

Lawn care. If your pets spend a lot of time in the backyard, it’s important to ensure their safety by steering clear of chemical lawn treatments. A recent study showed that dogs exposed to common herbicides are at greater risk of bladder cancer—and they can transfer these chemicals to their owners. Chemical lawn treatments have also been shown to damage the natural world around them by contaminating drinking water and poisoning birds, fish and bees. Do your pet and the environment a favor and try organic lawn care instead.

Home cleaning. Just as it’s important to avoid harsh chemicals outside of the house, don’t expose your pets to irritating or even toxic chemicals inside. Common household products such as bleach, drain cleaners and oven cleaners can severely harm your companion animals if inhaled or ingested. And remember that pets may ingest more chemicals from their surroundings than you do, as they lick these substances off of their fur during grooming. Fortunately, there are many pet-safe cleaning products on the market, as well as numerous natural alternatives to common cleaners.

Recycle. When your hungry kitty or pup goes through several cans of food a day, those empty cans quickly add up. Take advantage of recycling services in your area to keep your pet’s food cans, kitty litter containers, toy packaging and more out of the landfill.

Grow green treats for your pets. Humans aren’t the only ones who appreciate tasty harvests from the garden. Your kitty will appreciate fresh catnip and cat grass, while your dog will relish a range of freshly picked treats, including sweet potatoes, carrots, berries and more.  (Be careful, though, to keep your fuzzy gourmands away from common plants that are toxic to pets.)

Reuse. If you’ve ever bought an expensive toy for your cats, only to have them stalk, chase and play with a plastic milk jug ring instead, you know that pets can have tons of fun with unassuming, everyday objects. Why buy cat tunnels for your kitties when an empty cardboard box will serve as the perfect staging area for an ambush? Why buy a pricey toy for your pup when an old towel will suffice for tug-of-war? Just remember to keep safety first, supervising your pet’s playtime and keeping them away from anything they might choke on or ingest.

Bathroom duty. Cleaning up after your pet doesn’t have to take a toll on the environment. Standard plastic baggies—the kind you get at the grocery store checkout—may be free and convenient when it comes time to clean up pet waste, but they create a litany of problems for the environment: they clog waterways, harm wildlife and take hundreds of years to degrade. Try taking reusable bags when you go shopping, and buy biodegradable pet waste baggies for your pet instead.

Opt to adopt. Overpopulation isn’t limited to humans. In the US, approximately 2.7 million healthy pets  are euthanized each year. You can help to reduce this tragic number by adopting your pet rather than buying from a breeder. Adopting is usually much less expensive than buying, and many mixed-breed pets have fewer health problems than purebred. Plus, you’ll have the joy of knowing that you saved your pet’s life! – 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.

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