Top 10 Green Pet Tips for Earth Day

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Dr Donna Spector

Help your pet tread more lightly on Mother Earth with a few easy changes!

  1. Scooping poop!  Use biodegradable bags to collect your dog’s waste.  Ordinary plastic bags can take decades to decompose in landfills.  If your bag meets biodegradability standards (ASTM D6400) they will decompose in just months.   Avoid clumping clay litter for cats.  Not only is the clay strip-mined (which is bad for our planet), there are usually several chemicals added to this type of litter which can be harmful for the cat and the environment.  There are several environmentally friendly alternatives such as litter made of plant sources or recycled newspaper. 
  2. Consider composting pet waste.  This is only an option for the very environmentally responsible family.  Animal waste contains nasty bacteria (and other pathogens) that can contaminate soil and anything you may grow there.  If you choose to compost, choose a commercially available product or bury an old garbage bin (far away from any food-growing area) to use as a pet waste composter.     
  3. Feed a natural or organic pet food for optimal health and well-being.  These foods provide nutrients which are minimally processed and preserved with natural substances.  They do not contain artificial colors or other harmful additives.  Organic pet foods also avoid the use of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically engineered ingredients. 
  4. Buy local.  Purchasing fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market not only helps support your local economy but you will also cut down on the amount of fossil fuel required to ship your pet’s food.   Besides, your pet will love this tasty addition of green to his life. 
  5. Protect wildlife.  Keep dogs on leash and cats indoors to help protect the native wildlife.  The State of the Birds survey describes cats as "important indicators of our nation’s environmental health" and lists cat predation as a serious threat to bird populations. 
  6. Limit the amount of "fish food" you give your pet.  Pets represent a threat to fish stocks worldwide.  The pet food industry uses approximately 10% of the global supply of forage fish according to a New York Times Op-ed piece.  Too much of certain fish may also pose an increased risk of mercury exposure for your pet.  Consider alternating between fish and other meat sources to keep your pet happy.
  7. Try recycled toys.  There are now many toys and bedding made from recycled materials or sustainable fibers to help lessen your pet’s carbon pawprint!  You can even try making toys out of old socks and rope and beds out of old blankets and towels.  This helps avoid taxing the environment and can help protect your dog from dangerous chemicals in plastic chew toys and bedding.   Also try recycled ID tags on for size!
  8. Water conservation.  Instead of leaving the spigot running during bath time, try a handheld attachment that turns on and off to decrease the amount of water used during bath time.  Use warm (not hot) water to save energy.  Select shampoos and grooming products that are phosphate-free and free from chemicals so the dirty bath water is as environmentally friendly as possible.
  9. Don’t turn up the heat…use a sweater.  To save energy during the winter months, use pet clothing to keep your pet toasty instead of turning up the thermostat.  Stay cool.  Instead of turning the air-conditioner on full blast in the hot summer months, consider chilled pet bed inserts to keep your pet comfortable.  Ice cubes are a nice cooling "treat" for dogs.
  10. Neuter your pet.  Pet overpopulation is a real problem—shelters are over-run and homeless pets are everywhere taxing environmental resources.  Only one in four dogs finds a permanent loving home.  When it comes time for your next pet, support adoption as part of a green lifestyle. 
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