On many occasions in my articles I have mentioned the significance small-scale steps and decisions can have on the environment. Your pet is a classic case and point example of such a step! Many eco-minded pet-owners who are trying to make changes in their own life to be friendlier to the environment often forget to consider how changes in the life of their furry companion can also help out.
Pet products–from litter to bath products to food–can certainly impact the environment in a negative manner.
Consider the following points, summarized from an insightful and informative article by Christie Keith, the contributing editor for Universal Press Syndicate’s Pet Connection and past director of the Pet Care Forum on America Online:
- Clay based cat litter is not biodegradable. On the contrary, it is in it’s last stage of decomposition. According to Keith, around 2 million tons of cat litter is sent to landfills each year in America. While this number is not comparable to the human contribution, there is clearly a lot of cat waste that adds up quickly as it sits in its non-biodegradable state year after year.
- Dog waste is of course biodegradable on its own. Disposing of it, however, is usually not. Most people pick up their dog’s business with a non-biodegradeable plastic bag. As Keith so eloquently puts it, this means the degradable waste is sealed inside a non-degradable bag that will spend something close to eternity in the landfill…joining the couple million tons of similarly-enshrouded cat litter. On a side note you can easily purchase bio-degradable bags/boxes for your poop scooping errands online and in many stores.
- Owners that leave behind their pet’s waste in parks, empty lots, on the streets and even in gardens will run off into storm drains and waterways, potentially contaminating them with bacterial waste that can cause human and wildlife diseases.
- Flushing cat litter can also be dangerous to humans and wildlife. Most cat litter contains an organism called toxoplasma gondii, which is not killed by modern waste treatment. So if water containing this parasite enters the ocean, it sickens and kills sea otter populations. This can also cause disease in humans, specifically individuals who have a weaker immune system and in pregnant women.
These points about the environmental impact of pets are only concerning what comes out of your pet. To further expand on the notion, I now turn to briefly consider what goes into your pet, what is used on them (bathing, collars, etc.) and what they play with.
Packaging of products for pets, like in any commercial industry, is usually a problem. Bright coloured plastic packages or even recyclable paper if the ink is not so environmentally-friendly (usually the case) might look like a fun product for your pet, but aren’t so fun for the environment and tend to add to the pollution and landfill problem. The less packaging you can find, and the more organic it is, the better. You can see examples of biodegradable packaging in The Honest Kitchen’s products.
Ingredients found in these products are a whole other issue on their own, both to the health of your pet and to the environment. As any environmentalist will tell you, meat is one of the most carbon-intense products you can buy. However it’s hard (and unfair, and probably unhealthy) to force a naturally carnivorous animal like a dog or cat to be a vegetarian. What you CAN do is try and buy products that use meat that is raised locally, humanely, and sustainably–just as you might do for yourself if you are so inclined. This will not only be good for the environment, but also for your pet. As noted by Lucy Postins, President of The Honest Kitchen Inc., which was one of the companies interviewed for this article:
Many pet owners are led to believe that various health problems like chronic itchy skin, ear infections and GI upset in their pets are something they have to live with and resign themselves to a lifetime of prescription steroids, antibiotics and other medications when in fact a simple change in diet – either better quality food, elimination of excess grains, by-products and chemicals – can result in these problems clearing up completely.
In other words, not only can you make a difference to the environment by buying food from holistic pet food companies that sell organic and natural pet food, but you can also make a difference to your pet’s health. The Honest Kitchen is an independent company that produces a line of all natural, human-grade dehydrated foods for dogs and cats, free of hormones, antibiotics and GMOs coupled with certified organic ingredients. Check out The Green Rocket’s interview with them here for valuable information on your pet’s nutrition.
Pet collars, toys, shampoos and the like can also make a difference to your pet and the environment if they are made from natural ingredients. Components such as hemp are naturally hypoallergenic, in turn making them great for your pet’s skin. The same is true of natural ingredients in shampoos, which also helps you avoid more toxic chemical ingredients found in conventional pet bathing products such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, cocomide DEA, cocomide MEA, TEA lauryl sulfate and propylene glycol. Furthermore, many natural ingredients in pet bathing products can provide a natural flea and tick repellent that, according to the resident canine tester of our other interviewee Paw Luxury, works wonders. Paw Luxury is an online wholesaler company that sells products that are all natural, organic, holistic, sustainable, biodegradable, fair trade, and Made in the USA. The above information on shampoos and collars, as well as more on toxic materials in pet toys, can be found in our interview with them here.
Whether or not you care about the environment (although this is our hope here at TGR), if you own a pet, it is likely you care about that pet. As described above, providing good nutrition and using natural products can greatly benefit your pet. So on that note, being interested in your pet’s health can easily help you take those small steps that will make a big difference to the environment.
Please take some time to check out the two interviews done below for more information, or as a source of inspiration for you to do your own research! Also please note that neither of these companies are endorsing us for mentioning their products–these are genuine examples of what The Green Rocket supports in an eco-friendly company.
Creative Commons Attribution: “dog dreams“, Flickr, bobmarley753