Every choice you make on behalf of your pet has a direct impact on the environment. To be a responsible owner, the choices you make from eco-friendly grooming products to sustainable waste management all matter.
Imagine walking into the nearest Petsmart to buy Zipper a large pack of Orijen free-range bison. Zipper immediately goes to sniff the plastic bones in the back. As you crouch down to reward your special puppy, you find yourself pausing. You wouldn’t buy plastic cutlery for yourself so why are you getting him a plastic toy?
Researchers in New Zealand found that the average medium-sized dog has a carbon footprint roughly twice the size of an SUV driving 10,000 kilometres a year. Unfortunately, cats aren’t much better as their footprint is roughly equivalent to a small Volkswagen.
Guess you never imagined your beloved companions’ carbon pawprint would be so massive?
Thankfully, there are five ways to make Zipper’s life more eco-friendly and sustainable for his and the planet’s health.
1) Choose Earth-friendly Pet Products
When it comes to food we’re pretty good with being mindful of what we eat, but do you treat your pets the same way?
A vegetarian diet for your pet is more sustainable for our environment in the long run, and it seems to be better for their health as well. Pet food made from plant-based ingredients like peas, lentils, and chickpeas is strongly recommended because they eliminate the empty calories that come from additives flavorings.
It has been well documented that dogs maintaining their ideal body weight live 15% longer, and are less disease-prone (especially arthritis) than their overweight counterparts. Natural diets also contain higher levels of quality protein sources (since there are no fillers, inferior by-products or meals). Thus, they better address nutritional requirements and may help prevent disease.
What if your pet loves chicken, turkey or lamb? Well, you can feed him meat occasionally but try to stay away from beef whose carbon footprint far exceeds the other types.
Alternatively, you can make pet food! Though the process is a bit time-consuming and somewhat controversial, making pet treats can give you peace of mind. It’s because you know exactly what is going into their meal.
Furthermore, by storing the treats in a reusable and resealable container, you can skip the wasteful packaging that comes along with most commercially available pet treats.
One thing to remember: your pet’s health comes first. Homemade food or packaged treats may not be what’s best for Zipper, so make sure to consult your local veterinarian before making any changes in his diet.
2) Invest in Upcycled Chew Toys
Every year tons of plastic pet products end up in landfills. Plastic toys, bowls, beds, and polyester clothes can contain polyvinyl chloride. It is classified as a human carcinogen and one that poses danger to animal health. So next time you’re thinking of introducing a new toy for your pet to play with, look for toys made from sustainable or recycled materials.
You can easily make pet toys as well. Cats are easily entertained with paper towel rolls. A knotted old t-shirt can be a great doggy pull toy. If you have a rabbit, try crafting old toilet tubes into a ball and hiding bits of food inside. Watch as your bunny chases and rolls the little cardboard ball around to get at the treat inside (super adorable).
3) Groom with Non-Toxic Pet Products
Dog and cat shampoo was found to be contaminated with 48 out of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Using a non-toxic eco-friendly shampoo will not only protect your pet from harmful toxins and chemicals but also the earth from contaminated and polluted water tables.
Also, harsh chemicals within some shampoo can irritate skin and lead to itchiness and pain. Often this is due to a vast array of artificial colourings, fragrances, and thickening agents, which all have the potential to hurt your pet’s sensitive skin.
One more thing to take note of is your household cleaning products. While you can’t eliminate all of the toxic chemicals that your pet comes into contact with, product choice can make a big difference. Particularly when it comes to household cleaning. Check out this list of common ingredients that are harmful to your pet in our previous blog.
4) Dispose of Feces the Green Way
Cleaning up your pet’s waste is unpleasant, but it’s vital for a healthy ecosystem. Most pet excrement contains a plethora of bacteria that will leach into the ground and water table. Thereby contaminating our precious water sources and harming marine life.
So what’s the best way to dispose of the doody?
- Composting: There’s been a recent uproar over biodegradable waste bags being rather misleading with their labels. So, what you can do is build a compost bin for pet waste disposal. The fertilizer can then be used for decorative plants in your garden. Due to the bacteria in their feces I don’t recommend using it with and/or near edible plants.
- Flushing: Simply scoop up the feces and flush it down the toilet. You can transport it in a reusable container, or a washable bag. But if the thought of that makes you squeamish, there are flushable dog bags that break apart in water too. Be sure to check your municipal guidelines for more details.
- Don’t flush: Cat feces should never go down the toilet because they contain a parasite called toxoplasma. Toxoplasma can survive sewage treatment and cause serious health problems for humans. If it trickles down into rivers and oceans, more wildlife could be at risk of infection.
- Cat litter: Many cat litter formulas contain sodium bentonite clay. This clay is often sourced with unsustainable destructive strip-mining methods. Ideally, you should be using materials that can be composted in the garden such as sawdust, shredded paper, or even leaves.
5) Adopt. Don’t Shop.
If you want Zipper to have a friend, adopt!
According to the ASPCA, about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year in the US, which includes about 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats. By adopting one, you’re not only giving them a good home but helping to support the continuation of the shelter which allows them to take in more animals from inhospitable conditions.
Finding a pet from your local shelter is more sustainable than buying one from a pet store whose supply mainly comes from puppy mills. These mills are known for abhorrent practices such as leaving feces in kennels for long periods. Since basic animal care is frequently lacking in these facilities, it is common for dogs to become infected with many pathogens.
So why take a chance supporting these puppy mills when you could rescue a pet from a supportive and caring shelter instead?
A Quick Catnap
It will always be a balancing act. As long as you prioritize your pet’s safety while thoroughly researching the labels on eco-friendly products you’re sure to find a sustainable lifestyle suitable for Zipper and the planet.