One of the most common movements nowadays is to “go green” by living as naturally as possible, and having as little impact on the environment as possible. Although seemingly a “trend”, this phenomenon is caused by the growing alarm for our planet’s well-being due to our considerably large carbon footprint we have been leaving for the last few decades. In addition to the ozone damage that we’ve done, we have polluted our groundwater, littered our oceans, and other natural atrocities – killing and harming many wildlife as well as people in the process. If you are a pet owner, then it could seem difficult to be on the “green train,” but it actually takes very little effort and money! Here are a few ways to cut down on the impact that you are leaving on our natural world, so that our children will have a habitable place to live:
1. Buy Eco-Friendly Products – This is probably the simplest thing that you can do, and it isn’t as expensive as you’d think. There are many items you can buy that when thrown away after use, will break down naturally in the environment and not pollute the environment. One of the most-used items is the doggy doodoo bag, which is almost always made out of plastic, which doesn’t break down in nature. An average plastic bag takes about 10-20 years to decompose in the environment, which obviously not quick enough to fight the rampant plastic bag use and subsequent trash created by their proliferation. While they are 100% recyclable, unfortunately many people are too lazy to deposit them into the proper receptacle, and the bulk of them end up in garbage cans, landfills, or just flying around in nature. Instead, just buy biodegradable poop bags, and you’ll be cutting down on waste already! Other all-natural items you can buy are collars made out of hemp, dog beds made out of hemp or organic cotton, dog bowls made of bamboo, and more! You’d be surprised how many eco-friendly items are out there waiting for you to use them, and how affordable they actually are (spoiler alert: I found bamboo dog bowls at the dollar store)… Here is a handy chart that details how long things take to decompose in nature.
2. Use Natural Shampoos and Cleaning Products – You should be using the most natural shampoo for your pet possible, free of unnecessary toxins and additives. This is not only for your pet’s well-being so that you can avoid skin, ear, and eye irritants, but also for the environment’s health as well. If your shampoo has a bunch of harmful chemicals in it, when it washes down the sink, it goes right into the water supply and pollutes pretty much everything it touches. The same thing goes for any kind of cleaning product that you use when your pet has an accident (or several accidents). The sad thing is, that MOST (if not all) mainstream, commercial (aka the most advertised) shampoos and cleaning products are loaded with toxic material that isn’t good to use for animals, humans, OR the environment. Many times these companies use a little bit of ~natural extract~ from fruits and plants to mix in with all of the poisonous stuff in order to give the appearance that they are natural, which isn’t cool at all. Here’s a very helpful page to check out so you can make sure your shampoo isn’t toxic to your animal and here is a list of eco-friendly cleaners that you can try out as well! ALSO, here is a page with some recipes to make homemade, natural pet cleaners and stain removers.
3. Feed Your Pet Organic/Natural or Homemade Pet Food and Treats– One of the big things in our health-conscious world right now is the movement to eat organic/pesticide-free/natural food – so why shouldn’t your pet join you in this as well? Similar to mainstream and commercial shampoos/cleaning products, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most well-known and heavily advertised pet foods are mostly fillers that have no nutritional value, with a bit of meat (or sometimes even just meat flavoring) added to it. Fillers can be anything from cellulose (plant matter that just comes out as fiber), sub-par meat products including “crude protein” (ground up shelter animals, roadkill, and discarded farm animal parts, etc.), or just questionable materials in general, covered up with sugar and salt (which are both NOT good for animals) and flavoring. The treat situation isn’t much better, with many treats containing less than sub-par ingredients for your dog. A great way to tell if your dog treats are healthy is if they are “human grade” aka fit for human consumption. Here’s a pretty interesting page with several accounts written by doctors, factory workers, and pet food professionals about the environmental impact of supporting mainstream food companies. How can you avoid this? Make your own, homemade pet food and pet treats with organic/natural, healthy ingredients that you approve – you also won’t be contributing to packaging waste! There are plenty of recipes online, but here’s a page with some cat food recipes and here’s one for DIY dog foods and treats!
4. Buy Pet Supplies in Bulk if Possible – There are many items that you *KNOW* you are going to have to have on hand at all times. So, might as well buy a LOT of it at a time in order to save money – and also use less packaging simultaneously! These items that I am referring to are pet foods, litters, treats, bedding, cleaning products, and more! You can buy almost everything in bulk, so why not do it and save yourself some cash down the road? It may seem like “A LOT” at the time (because it’s in bulk, duh) but you will be saving more money annually, and have very little packaging waste as a result! What a great win-win situation for everyone!
5. Always Think Before Trashing – If you have used pet items that you think are garbage-worthy, really think before you trash them. Especially things that are not going to break down in nature like old cages/crates, worn and dirty pet collars/tags, food bowls/dishes, old towels and washcloths, any kind of pet clothing, and UNUSED PET MEDICATION/SUPPLEMENTS. Many times, people just simply throw their items away because they are too lazy to donate them or find someone who wants them. Before you throw away ANY pet items, think to yourself if you can either a) donate these items to a local rescue (especially the medication which most rescues will gladly accept) or animal shelter, b) recycle them somehow/upcycle your items in order to make something new and useful or c) if you can bring them to some kind of other disposal location where they will be discarded of safely with no effect to the environment. You know that phrase, “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure?” Well, it’s true! You’d be surprised what people list for free on local Craigslist sites or Facebook groups!
6. Adopt Pets and Spay/Neuter Your Pet – If you rescue your pet rather from buying from a breeder or pet store, you are relieving the shelter/rescue from one more animal that they have to use resources for. You will be taking the burden off of them, and those resources they were going to use will go to an animal that needs more time in the shelter. Because of the constant underfunding of animal shelters across the country, there are “never enough resources” to support all of the homeless animals that they house. This unfortunately results in mass euthanasia of thousands of animals every DAY (which then end up as “crude protein” in commercial dog foods, remember?) which is nothing short of a travesty. In addition, by spaying or neutering your pet, you are saving literal tons of resources that would have been used in the future to feed and take care of all the offspring your pet would have parented. There are already SO MANY PETS in NEED OF HOMES, and those pets already don’t have enough resources (which isn’t even their fault), so why would you want to contribute to this problem? Not to mention, all of the feral cats and homeless dogs running around that are creating more feral/homeless pet colonies, and pooping everywhere. Dog poop is terrible for the environment and also for other dogs! Here is a great page that illustrates how harmful dog waste is to our health.
Basically just think to yourself whenever you buy, use, or discard a pet-related item (or any other item for that matter): What are the environmental and health implications that this product has? If it is all-natural, compostable, and/or the best possible option, then you’re doing a great job! If it is something toxic, artificial, sketchy, and/or potentially damaging to the environment – re-think your course of action. In most cases, home remedies are the best route to go, and if you are willing to pay a little bit more, the eco-friendly versions of pet necessities are great too. Here is a great infographic that goes into more depth about how to be a “green” pet owner, thanks to UltimateHomeLife.com!