In a world full of filthy streams and polluted airways, concerned inhabitants are looking to change their ways to better the environment. The “green” movement is encouraging people to minimize their carbon footprints and recycle to eliminate excess waste. However, many don’t know that their pets can also contribute to the destruction of the environment. Now is the time to go “green” with your pet and lessen his impact on earth’s atmosphere.
“Today the typical pet owner is very busy and, although their pet is an important part of their life, they can only do so much, especially with the current economy,” says An Hoang, the founder and past President of the “Green Vets” student organization at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “It means you do what you can when you can.”
Fortunately, going “green” with your furry friend does not require altering your entire lifestyle. Even simple, easy changes can make a positive impact. “When leaving the store, instead of using a plastic bag to tote your pet’s purchased goods to the car, carry them in your hands or bring your own reusable bag,” suggests Hoang.
Many believe that in order to be eco-friendly, they must get rid of what they have and buy only organic products. Hoang disagrees. “Being ‘green’ doesn’t mean you have to BUY ‘green’. Just ACT environmentally friendly,” comments Hoang. “Instead of buying toys for your pet, try re-using household items.
Does your pet like to play tug of war? Rather than purchasing a new organic cotton rope toy at the store, try using a knotted old sheet or pillow case at home. The old ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ never gets old. This is a great way to reduce the impact of a pet on the environment and you don’t even have to spend a dime.”
However, if you need to purchase products from the store, it is necessary to know exactly what you are buying. “First of all, it is important to know that there is no federal regulation on words like ‘natural’ or ‘organic’” warns Hoang. “If people really want to know what they’re buying, they need to do their research.”
The Food and Drug Administration confirms the lack of regulation stating, “The term ‘natural’ is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition.” The FDA website continues to note that “there are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods (for humans or pets) at this time, but the United States Department of Agriculture is developing regulations dictating what types of pesticides, fertilizers and other substances can be used in organic farming.” But labeling is not the only thing “green” pet owners need to consider. Product packaging can also be misleading.
“Buying a product made of ‘recycled material’ is great for the environment, but if it’s enclosed in thick plastic wrapping that cannot be recycled, it can be just as damaging,” states Hoang. “Try looking for products wrapped in 100% recyclable paperboard.”
Many studies and statistics point to the environmental advantages of purchasing and using 100% recycled paperboard. According to The Alliance for Environmental Innovation, “Compared to 100% virgin board, paperboard with postconsumer recycled content uses less wood, energy and water, reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and air and water pollutants, and cuts the amount of trash sent to incinerators and landfills.”
Pet owners may find ordering eco-friendly products online an efficient alternative to spending hours in the store scrutinizing labels and ingredients. However, Hoang warns that purchasing from online vendors still requires careful consideration.
“Think about the amount of gas it takes to ship an item to your home,” cautions Hoang. “This will leave a carbon footprint on the environment, even when you are ordering organic supplies. Therefore, it could actually cause more harm than good.” In addition to substituting re-used items for toys and being aware of product packaging, basic care of your furry companion can also decrease the amount of damage to the environment.
“Picking up after your pets defecate can lessen the amount of fecal contamination and spread of fecal parasites to the wildlife,” notes Hoang. “Indoor/outdoor cats can be a leading cause of biodiversity in some areas, so keeping your cat indoors could be a positive change.” The process may seem tricky at first, but making simple changes and following a few general guidelines can greatly reduce the amount of environmental destruction caused by our pets.
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