A few easy steps to green your pet's habitsIn the quest to go green, you shop with reusable grocery bags, combine multiple errands into one trip, and choose environmentally products when you can. But there might be an area you're forgetting to "green" - we're talking about Fido here.
1. Groom Organic.
Many commercial grooming products are made with harsh chemicals that can irritate pets' skin. Fortunately, you can buy grooming products that are organic and even biodegradable. Check out brands such as Earthbath, Espree, Eco-Me or LuloDog. If you send your pet to a groomer, inquire about what products he carries. If they're not eco-friendly, ask if you can provide your own products or switch to a different groomer, says Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, a network of premier doggy day and overnight camps around the country.
2. Break out the "fine china."
Fido and Fluffy might not care about eating or drinking out of plastic bowls, but Mother Earth does. In 2010, the U.S. generated 31 million tons of plastic waste, of which only eight percent was recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead of plastic, use stainless steel bowls. "They'll last longer than plastic bowls, probably even outliving your pet," says Ganahl.
Related: 6 Health Risks of Having a Pet3. Upgrade the dinner menu.
When you're choosing food or treats for your pet, put sustainability at the top of your list. "Foods that are sustainable or organic are made with ingredients that put less strain on the environment and may even be better for your pet's digestive system," says Tyson Kilmer, dog training guru in Los Angeles and host of the show Natural Companions on Veria Living TV. Just do your research first to make sure the food you choose is suitable for your pet's needs.
4. Scoop a greener poop.
The 10 million tons of annual waste created by the 78 million dogs in this country could fill 267,500 18-wheelers. Lined up bumper to bumper, those trucks would stretch for 3,800 miles, according to DoodyCalls, a dog waste removal company. (And while cats generate waste, too, those stats aren't as readily available.) The more you can do to make waste more eco-friendly, the happier the planet will be.
First, quit using plastic bags, which can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill, to pick up your dog's waste. Instead, switch to biodegradable bags that may actually break down in the earth, says Kilmer. BioBag and Eco Dog Planet, for instance, make sustainable bags. If you're feeling ambitious, look into compostable waste solutions or outdoor flushable dog toilet systems. And, if you have cats, replace your clay-based litter (which is primarily made from clay that's mined and doesn't biodegrade) with one made from natural or renewable resources, such as Swheat Scoop or Feline Pine.
Related: Rules of Pet Etiquette5. Get your pet fixed.
Fans of The Price is Right probably remember former host Bob Barker's famous mantra: "Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered." Never do his words ring more true today when five to seven million animals enter shelters nationwide every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It's a win-win for your pet - who may be healthier because of it - and the earth. "Humanely reducing the pet population by spaying or neutering your pets helps reduce the stress pets place on the environment," says Ganahl.
6. Rescue your next pet.
Nothing against breeders, but with all of the pets entering shelters each year, why not adopt your next critter to help reduce the homeless pet population? One surprising fact: About 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred. Begin your search with petfinder.com, an online database of thousands of animals waiting for you to take them home.
Related: 10 Question to Ask Before Adopting a Pet
7. Put a lid on barking.
A barking dog is not only annoying, he's also contributing to noise pollution, which could degrade your health. Count hearing loss, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular problems, decreased productivity, and adverse social behavior among the negative health effects you could experience, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But can you really train a dog to bark less? You bet. "Training should start when the dog is young," says Kilmer. But first find out what's causing your dog to be so vocal. Is he looking for attention? Offering protection? Feeling out of balance? Work with a qualified trainer who can get to the root of the problem and offer solutions.
What are your eco-friendly pet tips? Let me know in the comments!
--by Karen Asp