When it comes to living a more sustainable lifestyle, we may not always think of our pets. But our caring for our animal companions can leave a carbon paw print all its own, which is why it’s important to consider our pet care purchases and habits if we’re truly going to make an effort to go green for a healthier world.
Get started today with these four easy steps, and you and your pet pals will be green in no time!
1. Don’t toss that poop bag in the trash.
Number Two: everyone does it, including your pets. In fact, according to the Canadian-based company Earth Rated, up to a trillion plastic bags are deposited into landfills each year—and they can take hundreds of years to break down. That’s why companies like Earth Rated, Bio Bag, Flush Puppies and Flush Doggy make corn-based, compostable and biodegradable waste bags, which help the environment in a couple of ways: since they are not made from plastic, they are not petroleum based and are made from renewable resources (such as corn).
But here’s where misinformation often comes into play: if you take that greener poop bag and simply toss it in the trash, that bag is still going to end up in a landfill, where it will likely never break down. Surprised? Here’s why: according to the David Suzuki Foundation, the conditions in most landfills actually prevent organic material from decomposing. Furthermore, pet waste in landfills can lead to water contamination and methane gas production, which is why many landfills have a “no-feces” policy.
So what to do with poo? The easiest solution is to purchase flushable, biodegradable bags, such as the ones found at flushdoggy.com and flushpuppies.com. These bags can simply be flushed down the toilet, making disposable easy and keeping waste and bags out of our landfills. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency states on their website that “flushing pet waste is the best disposal method.” Just to be safe, it’s best to check with your municipality to ensure that your sewage system can indeed accommodate biodegradable waste bags. (For kitties, pair these bags with biodegradable, flushable cat litter.)
Another great option is to purchase compostable waste bags and start a compost pile for ornamental (not edible) plants, ensuring that it is separated from other compost areas. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, with proper set-up, “composting yields rich soil and safely returns the poop to the earth”. Popular home composting methods include digging a covered compost pit and using dog poop compost bins, available at many pet supply stores and garden centers.
2. Opt for recycled and eco-friendly pet supplies and organic foods.
So much of the products we purchase for ourselves as well as our pets take a toll on our environment. While upcycling and reusing items can go a long way, but when you do need to purchase new items, try to look for products that our kinder to our planet. Whether it’s a new dog chew toy or a snuggly new pet bed, many pet supplies are now created from recycled plastic, bike tubing and more. Likewise, opting for organic and/or chemical-free pet shampoos, conditioners and other grooming products are gentler on both your pet and the planet.
Meanwhile, a high-quality, certified organic pet food features meats obtained in a sustainable, humane way as well as offering your pet truly wholesome, uncompromised nutrition free of fillers, artificial flavors and preservatives and other unwanted ingredients.
3. Help protect wildlife by keeping your pet indoors.
Letting your pet run loose outdoors at home, on the beach or along a nature trail can not only pose a risk to your pet, but to a number of wildlife species. Cats are natural born predators and, according to The Nature Conservancy, are one of the greatest threats to wild birds, second only to habitat destruction. Keeping your kitty indoors is not only safer for your cat, but prevents him from stalking birds, rabbits, chipmunks and other native species. If left unsupervised outdoors, many dogs will kill possums and other animals well. Make an effort to keep your pets indoors, and when you do have your pooch out for a walk for playtime, supervise her within a fenced area or on leash.
4. Don’t litter! Spay or neuter your pet.
Okay, so spaying or neutering your pet may not reduce carbon emissions or keep garbage out of landfills, but it will prevent unwanted litters—puppies, kittens and bunnies that often wind up in shelters or on the street. And remember, adopting a homeless pet rather than buying from breeders or pet stores saves two lives: the pet you adopt, and the pet who can now take his place at that shelter or rescue group. Practice compassionate “recycling” by giving a homeless pet a second chance at life, and he’ll repay you with an unconditional love and loyalty like no other!
Jesse Tishkoff is the owner of Pawsitive Steps PDX and the proud parent of a giant rescue cat.