Attention All Pet Lovers!
Over 71 million households across America own at least one pet, and even in this economy, pet owners are still spending big bucks on them. Americans will drop an estimated $45.4 billion on their pets this year compared to the $43.2 billion spent in 2008, according to the American Pets Products Association National Pet Owners Survey. From food to toys and even clothes, owners will buy pretty much anything for their pets. And why wouldn’t they? Most pet lovers consider pets a part of their family, some even consider them children. They bring joy and unconditional love into our lives, so spending hundreds to thousands of dollars a year on our priceless friends is a sacrifice we are willing to make. Many of us aren’t afraid to point out similarities between ourselves and our pets, so as you are heading down the Green road, why don’t you take your pet along for the ride?
Green Tips for Pets
To keep your pets healthy and happy while helping the environment, follow these simple green tips:
· Dinnertime– According to the FDA,more than 100 brands of pet food were voluntarily recalled in 2007 due to reports that there were toxins in wheat gluten (an ingredient in pet food) from China. After this nationwide recall, many pet owners doubted the quality of commercial pet food and sought other options. Fortunately for pet owners, there are many pet food choices that can be found in your local pet store or in your kitchen.
1. Buy food free from by-products, meals, and artificial preservatives. Natural and certified organic pet food are choices that more and more pet owners are moving toward. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), organic pet food, the fastest growing non-food organic category, grew almost 36.7% in recent years. Certified organic pet foods are free of pesticides, artificial ingredients, unnecessary fillers, sewage, antibiotics, by-products and meal while helping the environment at the same time.See this chart for differences between commercial, natural, and organic pet food.
2. Make your own pet food. Homemade pet food, if done correctly, is another option to keep your pet healthy and safe. But before you begin cooking, make sure to consult your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s dietary needs. A combination of meat, vegetables, eggs, and starch (pasta, rice, oatmeal) provides dogs with a balanced diet full of the necessary vitamins and nutrients. A combination of meat, eggs, and vitamins is a balanced diet for your carnivorous cat.
3. Buy non-toxic pet bowls. Certain plastic bowls can emit toxins like BPA and phthalates into your pet’s food and water supply. According to SCGH’s “The Rubber Ducky Chemical” article, studies in humans and rats revealed that exposure to certain phthalates can increase the risk of cancer. Choose bowls made from ceramic, stainless steel, porcelain, or even sugarcane that are safer than plastic.
- Playtime – It’s no surprise that pets love to play with toys. Toys spend a majority of their time in your pet’s mouth, so be careful when choosing a toy.
The FDA warns owners to beware of toys that could potentially be choking hazards. Always buy toys that are appropriately-sized and durable for your pet breed. A mini tennis ball suited for a Yorkshire Terrier is not meant for a Golden Retriever to play with.
Avoid buying colorful plastic toys. If a child’s toy is not safe from high levels of lead, why would your pet’s plastic toy be any safer? A study conducted by researchers for ConsumerAffairs.com found high levels of lead and other toxins including phthalates in some pet toys made in China.
Buy eco-friendly pet toys. Look for toys made from sustainable, recycled, organic, or natural materials that are non-toxic for your pets. The Earth will thank you for reducing your pet’s carbon “pawprint”.
· Clean up after your pet– After your pet goes to the bathroom, what do you do?
Don’t throw away your dog’s waste in plastic bags that do not biodegrade and pile up in landfills. Be green by sending your dog’s waste down the septic system. If you don’t want to handle the waste, buy water-soluble or biodegradable bags that are safe to flush down the toilet. Another green option when dealing with waste is to compost it with your own store-bought or homemade dog waste composter. However, if you choose this option, make sure you compost a good distance away from storm drains and plants to prevent toxins from seeping into your water supply.
Unlike dog waste, cat waste should not be flushed down the toilet. Researchers at the University of Glamorgan, located in the U.K, found cat feces to host a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that when flushed down the toilet seeps into water sources and oceans where they infect marine life such as dolphins, sea otters, and whales. Also, when choosing kitty litter avoid clumping clay litter. Clay kitty litter is usually made from strip-mined clay which involves heavy machinery stripping away the top layer of the Earth to collect clay below. Another problem with clay litter is the presence of sodium bentonite.According to Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA), sodium bentonite, a clay chemical known for its absorbing power,can expand in your cat’s body if ingested. Choose kitty litter made from natural ingredients like pine shavings, sawdust, plant or straw pellets, ground corn cobs, and even recycled newspaper which are reasonably priced at your local grocery or pet store. You can also compost your kitty litter with or without a biodegradable bag which will prevent harmful bacteria from seeping into water sources and landfills. Before you compost your cat’s waste, make sure you use kitty litter that is compost-friendly which can be determined by reading the label or by using natural products like pine shavings.
· Create a healthy environment for your pets– Most pets can’t tell you to vacuum everyday, to stop cooking with non-stick pans or to stop using harmful cleaning sprays in the house. Their environment is what you make for them.
In 2008, the Environmental Working Group released a study conducted by scientists that found pets to have higher levels of toxins in their bodies than humans. They found 48 different toxins in pets, including chemicals released from non-stick pans and metal, phthalates from plastic bowls and toys, and toxins from fire retardants in bedding, furniture, house dust, and food. The same study found that dogs have a higher risk of getting cancer, cats can now get thyroid disease, and behavioral and reproductive problems can occur from the increased level of toxins in their bodies.
By green cleaning your house regularly, washing your pet’s bedding and dishes, following the advice in this article, and ultimately creating a green home environment Sierra Club Green Home would be proud of, you and your pet will be healthier and happier.
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