It may be a tiny holiday in the grand scheme of a packed year of days to celebrate, but April 22nd is Earth Day, something we can all get behind – no matter where we reside on planet earth. The internet will quickly fill with genius and helpful ways to go eco-friendly in your day to day life in a variety of ways and means, but we wanted to focus on one particular part of your life that could likely use a little eco-magic – that’s right, dog lovers. It’s time to reduce your carbon paw-print. We’ve rounded up some simple and tried-and-true methods for greenifying your life as pet parent, and while none of us can expect perfection or overnight change, taking a few small steps in the right direction can have a huge effect in the overall. We hope you’ll consider giving some of these tricks a go!
- Reduce or replace your paper towel use. Most of us are guilty of using copious amounts of paper towels in our day to day life, and especially grab them for help cleaning up after our pets. But those rolls of paper, however endlessly useful, are no bueno for the environment. Consider using regular towels or rags instead of paper towels to clean up after your pet. If you just can’t break the paper towel cycle, consider using reusable personal hand towels that are machine-washable.
- Ditch the dumpster. Many items that your pet no longer uses or has grown out of might still be able to be put to use at a shelter. Call your local shelter to see if they need any of the items (old beds, blankets, towels, collars, etc.), or organize a swap with friends and neighbors.
- Choose poop bags wisely. Instead of using plastic bags to pick up after your dog or clean the litter box, use biodegradable bags. They typically break down in about 1 month as opposed to an estimated 1,500 years for a plastic bag in a landfill. Cat litter is also available in all-natural and biodegradable forms, and you can even consider making your own pet waste compost container.
- Ditch the extra paper. If you are still mailing checks to your favorite animal charity, switch to online or telephone donations or automatic direct debiting from a bank account (and go paperless on statements).
- Check the labels. Do your existing products use eco-friendly materials and packaging? Check the labels to see what is inside the product and if the bottle or container is recyclable or made of biodegradable materials. Stuck with plastic? Recycle after use. Purchasing eco-friendly pet products is a simple change, but it can really help lower the environmental impact of your pets. Dog owners, for example, can find many different varieties of shampoo on the market that use natural or sustainably-sourced ingredients. For cat owners, kitty litter can be an environmental concern as it often does not biodegrade. Thankfully there are litter products available made from biodegradable or recycled materials. You can also reduce the chemicals in your home by making your own cleaners and deodorizers. Instead of spraying over a pet smell, you might already have everything you need right in your pantry.
- No more plastic bottles, evvvvvver! This is one of the most simple and important moves we humans can make. If you use plastic bottles for your pet’s water or for taking water with you when you go out, install a filter on your tap and use a permanent, washable bottle instead of plastic.
- Bring reusable bags to your local pet store. We all remember to do it at the grocery store, but those same reusable totes will work well on your next trip to the vet or pet store. When heading out with your pet, grab one to to carry things back home with you.
- Make your own food and treats, when possible. Many animals can live on perfectly healthy diets with meals made at home. Consult your veterinarian for advice. Homemade treats are another way to use ingredients you already have while saving a trip to the store and reducing packaging waste. Otherwise, yet another way to decrease the environmental impact of our pets is to choose pet food from companies with a commitment to the planet. At TerraCycle, they have partnered with pet food brands Open Farm and Wellness TruFood to open free recycling programs for pet food bag waste, allowing anyone to send in their pet food bags for recycling. Family pets are able to have their favorite sustainably produced food, while packaging waste is diverted from the landfill.
- Think about storage. Use a washable and reusable container to store food and treats instead of a plastic bag.
- Ditch the paper plates. If you feed your pet food, treats or scraps by placing a paper plate on the floor, switch to a plate you can wash to reduce the paper waste. Designate or buy a plate that everyone knows is for the pet. Wash it separately by hand before storing it away from regular dishes.
- Reduce driving. Do you drive to a dog park just to walk around? Look for closer parks or nature trails, or arrange walks or play dates with friends and neighbors with their pets.
- Wanna get really wild? Compost! Pet waste can be a particularly hazardous pollutant – especially to nearby water sources– and dogs alone are responsible for 10 million tons of it every year. But believe it or not, your pet’s waste can be used as an effective ingredient for compost. There are plenty of tutorials online to help start a compost pile with pet waste. Keep in mind that dog waste compost is not recommended for plants and crops meant for human consumption.
- Choose your toys wisely. Playtime can also be eco-friendly with the right products. For the cat owners, this list of eco-friendly toys boasts a wide range of fun things to keep your cat occupied. You will find everything from dye-free toys made with organic materials, to toys created with recycled or upcycled materials. To ensure old toys don’t end up in the trash, be sure to donate or upcycle them instead. You can always make your own toys as well! Cats love balls of aluminum foil, hair ties, and paper towel rolls, while dogs will always be happy with an old ball from the garage.
- Spay and neuter your pets. The exact number of strays in the United States may never be pinpointed, but the ASPCA estimates that there are over 70 million stray cats alone. Spaying or neutering your pets is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent further overpopulation. When strays – especially cats – multiply, they can severely disrupt the surrounding ecosystem. Feral cats are even listed on the Invasive Species Specialist Group’s list of worst invasive species on earth, and it is believed that they are responsible for over one billion animal deaths each year.
- Lastly – and most importantly – adopt don’t shop. Please, please, adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue instead of buying. This has a cascading effect: Puppy mills will have reduced demand, fewer animals will be bred for profit, and much-needed available space will open up in shelters — where literally millions of pets are being euthanized each year in the U.S. simply because there isn’t enough room for them all.
So, earth loving dog parents, what would you add to our list? And what measures have you already been taking in your day to day pet life to keep things kosher with the planet? We’d love to hear more of your tips and findings in the comments below!