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Carbon Pawprint: 9 ways to green your pet

Posted by Meg Stout on Dec 04, 2012
Tags: green tips

Pets do a lot for us—from making us giggle to lowering our blood pressure—and life wouldn’t be the same without them. Unfortunately, like people, they have a carbon footprint. According to some researchers, owning a medium-sized dog is comparable to driving a SUV for a year!

Though others question these calculations and the idea that a living creature can be compared to a luxury machine, one fact is undeniable. Pet food, toys, and waste have an effect.

Luckily, you can give your beast the best while keeping the environment in mind:

1. Opt for adoption

By adopting instead of buying from a pet store, you will save a life, avoid questionable breeding, and skip the eco effects of bringing another creature into the world. Each year, an estimated 6 million pets are stuck in shelters, and 3 million are euthanized in the U.S. Check your local humane society for dogs, cats, and smaller animals. Have a specific dog in mind? There are breed-specific rescue organizations too.

2. Spay and neuter

Since animal overpopulation has large environmental (and ethical) repercussions, ensure your pet doesn’t bring others into the world by spaying or neutering him or her. There are many outreach programs that offer this service for a low cost.

3. Be careful with exotics

While some unusual pets may have a lower carbon footprint than a dog or cat, there are other concerns. Some exotic pets are taken—or even poached—from their natural habitat. In addition, non-native species that are released by their owners can wreck ecological havoc. For instance, Burmese pythons, which can grow to 19 feet, are currently invading the Everglades. When purchasing an exotic, make sure you can handle its special needs and know where it came from.

4. Keep your cat indoors

According to a recent study, cat may kill upwards of 4 million native creatures per year. Keeping them inside is safer for the cat and local wildlife. In addition, cat feces can harm sea life and sometimes humans, so be sure to scoop carefully and never flush. Worried about kitty boredom? Tips for keeping your indoor cat happy.

5. Be choosy about food

If finances allow, opting for organic pet food helps reduce pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals in the environment. Selecting small animals as protein sources—like poultry rather than beef—in prepared food can also cut carbon emissions. Some folks even buy local pet food or prepare their own.

6. Get creative

With a little imagination, you can save money and avoid trips to the pet store. Can that pair of jeans become a cushy bed? Can you craft pet toys from safe recycled materials? The possibilities are endless—but be sure to supervise your pet. Homemade toys might not be safe for power chewers.

7. Avoid toxic flea and tick remedies

Finding hitchhikers on your pet is gross, but so are pesticides, which can harm your loved ones even when applied correctly. Don’t use a strong chemical when a natural remedy will do. In areas where products may be needed (such as the Lyme disease-prone Northeast), check NRDC’s GreenPaws Directory to see how various brands stack up.

8. Scoop that doo

Stop the spread of parasites and nutrient-loading in lakes and streams by picking up after your pooch. Bonus points for using biodegradable bags!

9. Donate unwanted stuff

Fido won’t touch that new toy? Contact your local animal rescue or humane society. Items like blankets, treats, and even office supplies are often eagerly accepted. Maybe the bed that your pampered pooch won’t use would be just the thing for a rescue pup.


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Posts: 6
DO flush, in most cases
Reply #1 on : Tue December 04, 2012, 20:17:55
Your point about Toxoplasmosis infection is well taken, but marine mammals get sick precisely because the organisms wash into the sea WITHOUT going through water treatment plants: from outdoor cats in their own backyards, from storm drains, or, farther afield, from landfills. Shore dwellers whose sewage goes through treatment might identify flushing as the least toxic option. Septic tank holders will need to do further research.