What’s Green, Fuzzy and 4-Legged?
Even those who tread as lightly on the planet as possible might have a fuzzy companion with a heavy step. People in the U.S. spend more than $20 billion a year on pet food for our 164 million pets, resulting in 10.6 million tons of doggie doo and 1.3 million tons of cat scat. We also buy $8 billion (yes, billion!) in dog and cat medications, including flea and tick products. So: what’s a clean-air-and-water-loving pet owner to do?
Here’s our round-up of the most current advice for those who would like their fuzzy friends to have a light step too:
Diets for good meat-eaters:
The same rules for humans also apply to pets: eating meat means a whole lot of water and energy use, as well as global warming pollution. Some meat (like lamb) uses more resources to grow than others (like chicken). Dogs are omnivores, so they can adapt pretty easily to a low- or no-meat diet. But cats are carnivores, so it takes care to ensure they get the right nutrients (see more about that from Scientific American).
Cleaning products for floor dwellers
Just like toddlers, cats and dogs are likely to pick up a lot of toxics from household dust (see more about pets and toxics). So cleaning is important—and less-toxic products are the best. Green cleaning with four simple ingredients should do most jobs. Using a microfiber towel to wipe your dog’s paws after a walk is also a good idea. For commercial formulas, look for products that carry the “Safer Choice” label from U.S. EPA. And while you’re at it, check out the adorable video of U.S. EPA’s Gina McCarthy and her little dog.
Safer flea & tick control
In 2009, the U.S. FDA noticed that both people and pets were getting sick from spot-on flea and tick treatments. They issued new rules to make sure instructions and labels were clear. But it’s up to you to use them with caution. See NRDC’s Green Paws guide to safer choices.
Deal with the doo
One thing is certain: Leaving pet waste on the ground is unwise. It will only end up un-treated in our rivers and streams. Why is that bad?
• Decaying pet waste sucks up the oxygen that fish need.
• Pet waste carries bacteria and parasites into our clean rivers.
• Nutrients in pet waste encourage algae to grow—including toxic algae.
• Swimming, fishing and boating in dog doo is yucky.
What doesn’t work:
- Flushing: Some folks advise flushing dog waste. But Portland experts say it’s not a great idea. Flushing cat waste is certainly a bad idea: parasites particular to cats aren’t destroyed in waste treatment and can infect wildlife.
- Pet waste digester: These tiny septic systems are cool. But won’t work in clay soil and will cause harm where there are high water tables.
- Composting: Our household compost seldom gets hot enough to kill germs, and waste is not allowed in city compost.
What does work:
- Bag-and-trash: Plain old (recycled) plastic bags into the plain old trash are your best bet for disposing doggy doo. By enclosing the waste, you’ll keep it from being released from landfills into air or water.
- Litter: Newspaper or other recycled material is better than clay. Mining two million tons of clay each year in the U.S. leaves a huge hole in the ground.
- Service: Green Pet Compost Company in Portland will pick up your waste and take it to a commercial composter.
- Wow! For the super-eco, try a composting toilet for your family and pets!