Pets Can Be Green Too
We all love our furry friends, but did you ever stop to think about their carbon pawprint? I'm excited to share some of the things we do in the crunchy house to minimize their impact on the environment.
First, adopt pets from rescue shelters instead of buying them from pet stores (supplied by puppy mills) or backyard breeders. Also, make sure to get our pets spayed or neutered. Pets are incredibly overpopulated and not only does this cause thousands of innocent animals to be put to sleep daily. Over 4 million adoptable dogs and cats (one every 8 seconds) are put down every year due to shortage of homes.
We have a rabbit, Trixie, in our house, and I bet if you have a small animal, you never thought twice about their carbon pawprint, did ya? Any of the small herbivore pets have poop that can be composted. Since they don't eat meat, their poop is ideal in the compost and actually really helps it along. You just have to make sure that you use a litter that is okay to throw in the compost as well. For our rabbit, we use Yesterdays News which is basically just recycled newspaper turned into litter pellets.
Image: Jenny The Crunchy Wife
So if you have a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, gerbil, or even horses (not small, but an herbivore), when it comes time to clean out the cage/litter box, just pour the whole thing in your regular compost, give it a mix and you're good.
Or, if your local waste collection lets your put compost in your yard waste bin, then you can stick it in there. Just imagine how much you're saving from being sent off to the landfill. We also buy our rabbit food in the largest bag possible, then store it in an air-tight container in order to minimize on packaging waste. If you buy in bulk, even better.
Cats and Dogs
Unfortunately, because dogs and cats are carnivores, we can't really compost their feces along with our regular compost. We can, however, create their own special compost in our yard. A lot of people are starting what is called 'In-ground Pet waste composting'. In a nutshell, you dig a BIG hole in the ground, stick a bin in the hole (with the bottom cut out) and start dumping all of the pet waste into the hole. Over time, it will turn into compost. There's a lot more that goes along with it, so if this is something that interests you, please see this guide with step-by-step instructions.
If you don't want to Do-It-Yourself, you can buy these poo converters ready made resulting in a quicker, easier installation process for you. Just do a quick google search and you'll find loads of suppliers. This compost can then be used on ornamentals, but not on food crops like fruits and veggies. You can add cat waste to this compost too. As far as litter goes, the good news is that there are many eco-friendly options available on the market now. Instead of buying clay-based litter which is made from 1.5 million tons of stripped-clay, annually, look for something made from sustainable materials that won't deplete the planet's resources so rapidly. We use THIS biodegradable (made from corn...no harsh chemicals on kitty's feet,yay!) cat litter. We LOVE it and so does our kitty. The only thing I don't like about this litter is that it's got a semi-strong fragrance to it, but it goes away over time. For us, it has worked out better than any of the alternatives because our kitty loves it.
Some other options include Feline Pine, World's Best Cat Litter, Yesterdays News and Swheat Scoop. I suggest experimenting with each of these to see what your cat prefers. You'll figure it out quickly because if he/she doesn't like it, they'll start using other areas of the house to eliminate. These litters are all biodegradable and safe for your pet.
If you're not ready to take the plunge into composting your pet's waste, you can flush it! Check with your local waste water management plant to make sure that this is allowed where you live. I contacted mine and they assured me that this was a great way of getting rid of the waste, however, they said not to flush cat waste because of the litter, even if you use biodegradable litter.
You can also purchase biodegradable poop bags, but I don't think they're a very good option. While they are great in theory, once you pile them with all of the other tons and tons of trash that make up a landfill, no Oxygen can get to the bag to start the decomposition process, and it will never truly decompose. I like to think it's a better option than using regular bags just in case it ends up somewhere that it will decompose, but in the end it most likely isn't doing much for the environment.
I'm not sure if I've mentioned this yet, but TCH and I are pescatarians (we don't eat meat, but we do eat fish and dairy) both for animal rights reasons as well as environmental reasons. Even though we choose to pass on meat, we would never make our pets live this lifestyle with us. Dogs and cats are meat eaters and they truly NEED meat in their diets.
What they don't need, however, are all of the added fillers and chemicals added to most conventional kibble on the market today. Take a look at the food that you are feeding your pets and just see what the ingredients are. Can you even pronounce some of them? If not, I suggest considering switching them to a different diet. When you're feeding them food with a million ingredients, not only are you pumping chemicals into your pet, but you're also feeding them tons of fillers that they just don't need.
To find a good, high quality food, go to www.dogfoodanalysis.com and check out the 4, 5, and 6 star rated dog foods. These will be great for your pet as well as the environment. Look for foods that were made in the USA to minimize travel time, and if possible, look for foods made in your state.
Also, look for foods made without soy and other Big Ag products. Always try to buy in large packages in order to reduce on waste. Remember to recycle the bags that your dog food comes in. I know the site is called dog food analysis, but most of the companies that make great dog food also make cat food, so as long as you stick with a company rated 4-6 stars for your feline friends too, you're good. To read a little more about the crap that goes into most kibble and why you should choose a higher quality brand, click HERE.
The great thing about feeding your pet a higher quality food is that not only will they be healthier, they'll also eat less and in a result, they'll poop less! This is because their body is getting more of what it really needs (meat!) and less of what it doesn't need (grains, fat and other fillers), so they use it more efficiently and have less waste to remove.
Now, if you want to be really brave, you can try what we do in the crunchy house: feed raw. To feed a raw diet, you give your cats and dogs raw meat and bones. Both dogs and cats are carnivores and if they were to live in the wild, they would hunt and eat raw meat. A few of the benefits to this type of feeding include: less poop that you never have to scoop, fewer yard stains from urine, lower water consumption (they hardly need any since there is so much in the raw diet..this is a great environmental benefit too!), less gas, whiter teeth, fresher breath, and better health!
Before switching our pets over to a raw diet, our boxer had diarrhea pretty much daily. Her stomach was so sensitive to even the 6 star rated foods on dogfoodanalysis.com! After about $1000 in vet bills, I discovered the raw diet and haven't looked back. She now poops once a day, and it is solid 99.99% of the time. You have no idea how exciting that alone was for us! In addition, the poop that comes out turns white within hours and eventually turns into powder if you leave it there. Since switching to raw, we haven't had to scoop poop once! If you don't like the idea of having poop sit in your yard for even a day or two, then you might want to install one of the in-ground composters mentioned above.
Now, our little poodle mix boy is a picky eater. When on kibble, we really had to work to get him to eat...on raw he gobbles his food up. Our cat also loves eating raw too! Another great thing about the raw diet is that if you can afford it, you can feed all organic, free range, local meat which really minimizes your impact on the environment. The animals weren't treated with hormones, their food wasn't filled with pesticides, and by getting it locally you cut down on gas emissions from travel.
Please, don't jump into a raw diet overnight, this is something that takes a great deal of research since your pets need a specific proportion of meat, bones, and organs. If a raw diet is something of interest to you, feel free to e-mail me with questions (thecrunchywife at gmail dot com) or visit these sites: http://www.rawlearning.com/rawfaq.html http://rawfeddogs.net/FAQs http://rawfedcats.org/practicalguide.htm http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/rawfeeding/
Toxic chemicals from toys, beds, and the environment
There are very few standards that limit chemical contamination in pet food, pet toys and other products for our companion animals and as a result, there are so many toxic chemicals that go into creating these products. PVC, Phthalates, and BPA, just to name a few. Many of us are being more conscious about eliminating these chemicals from the toys that our children play with, so why not our pets as well?
They harm the environment in production and they harm our pets when they play with them. Shop for nontoxic pet products next time you're in the market and your pet will thank you! EWG (oh how I love the environmental working group) did a study about this subject and reported some pretty scary results. They found that our dogs and cats are exposed to an even higher number of toxic chemicals than humans. This is because they walk around all day on their paws.
Outside, our pets walk around picking up chemicals from the grass, street, etc and inside, they pick up chemicals from the dust in our house, cleaning products, and floor coverings. Not only do they absorb many of these chemicals through the pads on their feet, but they also ingest them when they lick their paws.
A few ways we can reduce this is by eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers in our yard, installing nontoxic floor coverings, purchasing safe pet bedding, changing over to eco-friendly cleaning products, and buying locally when possible. Buying locally means that there is less fuel needed for the item to reach your house which is a HUGE benefit for our earth. To read more about EWG's study, click HERE.
A great way to make an even greener impact is to first look for products made from recycled materials. This way, you're truly not wasting anything, and you'll save material from going into landfills. Otherwise, focus on purchasing products free of toxic chemicals such as PVC, Phthalates and BPA. Check out these great eco-friendly pet supply resources: Urban Leash and Pet Great Green Pet Green Pets
Now, how about making your own treats for your pet made from all-natural, organic ingredients?
Organic Peanut Butter Carob Treats For Dogs Makes 48 muffins
- 2 cups organic brown rice flour
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup vegan carob chips
- 1 Tb organic peanut butter
- 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/2 tsp organic vanilla
- 1 organic egg
Fill a pot with an inch of water. Heat on high. In a bowl, combinecarob chips, peanut butter, and water. Place the bowl on top of the potso the steam and heat melt the carob chips (a double boiler). Whiskoccasionally for a minute or two until the carob chips are completelymelted. Remove the bowl (careful, it’s hot), and whisk in the brownrice flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Once combined, whisk in an egg.Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and fill the mini muffin tin cups 3/4 ofthe way to the top. Bake for 12 minutes for the soft version, whichlasts about a week (perfect for pooch parties). For a crunchy versionthat lasts three to four months, place the mini muffins on a cookiesheet and bake an additional three to four hours at 200 degrees. *Recipe taken from HERE
Organic Cat Treats
- 1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup non-fat, powdered milk
- 1/2 cup cooked and chopped organic chicken
- 1 tbs. vegetable oil
- 1 organic egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbs. chopped, fresh organic catnip (optional)
Gather the ingredients and preheat your oven to 350-degrees. Ensure you have plenty of counter space to work on. Combine the flour, milk and chicken in a large bowl and mash and mixthem together. Add the water, oil, beaten egg and catnip (if using).Stir well until a sticky dough forms. Form the dough into small, dime-sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.Flatten the balls into discs with your hand or a spoon. You can adjustthe size of the treats based on your cat's size and needs. Bake the organic treats for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven andflip each one so they brown on both sides. Bake for an additional 10minutes or until they turn a golden brown color. Cool the treats to room temperature and store in an airtight container or bag for future use. *Recipe taken from HERE.
I hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to leave questions and concerns in the comments below, or shoot me an e-mail at jenny(at)thecrunchywife(dot)com.