Friday, September 10, 2010

5 Ways to Go Green with Your Pets

We've all been told many ways we can green our homes and businesses. But what about our pets? You'll be glad to know that there are some simple ways to make their existence eco-friendly as well. From reducing your pet's carbon pawprint to making your home and yard a safe place for your pets to play, here are five ways to make an environmental difference.

1) Adopt your pet from an animal shelter or rescue group. ASPCA Executive VP Stephen Zawistowski estimates that nearly 12 million dogs and cats are brought to New York City animal shelters each year and about a third are euthanized because there are not enough homes available. By adopting, you will be shopping locally--you're getting a pet that was born in your neighborhood and will stay there.

2) Spay or neuter your pet. If your pet hasn't already been spayed (females) or neutered (males) when you get them, make sure you have this done as soon as safely possible. Spaying and neutering help to reduce the number of unwanted pets and helps prevent many diseases common to "intact" animals. According to pet author Karen Lee Stevens, your pet will be healthier and require less trips to the vet, therefore decreasing the number of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere from your car.

3) Use natural cleaning and grooming products. Common cleansers like Lysol and bleach are toxic to pets, can cause digestive upset, mouth irritation and even liver damage. Fortunately, there are natural, inexpensive cleaning options right in your own cabinet. Some of the best include distilled vinegar, baking soda and lemons, both for scrubbing and for getting rid of odors. And rather than using pet shampoos that contain chemicals like propylene glycol, opt for herbal products derived from plant-based and other natural sources. Don't forget your paper towel usage counts, too. Sally Deen, of Dog Fancy magazine tells us to try to cut down on your use, and find recycled paper towels to get the job done.

4) Use eco-friendly pet products. From cat litter to collars, there are plenty of choices for the green-friendly pet owner. Your typical cat litter is clay-based, which comes from strip-mining the ground and wreaking havoc on the environment. Instead, try litters made of corn, wood pulp and pine. Toys are easy--walk into any pet supply store these days and you are likely to find a selection of pet entertainment options made of organic or recycled materials. Better yet, save money and the Earth by offering up an old sock, cardboard box or newspaper as a toy for your pet. You can find bedding made of recycled fibers, organic food and collars. You might even consider moving your pet to a part-time vegetarian diet to cut down on the energy required to raise and produce edible meats.

5) Stay chemical-free outside the house. Even if you switch the products you're using on your floors and counters, the lawn is likely to be teeming with pesticides that are harmful to both your pet and the environment. Garden centers have caught onto the fact that people don't want to ingest toxic chemicals, and they certainly don't want their children or pets to, either. Therefore, they have developed and begun offering outdoor products made of all-natural ingredients and educating home owners about organic techniques for producing a thriving yard or garden. Visit your local garden center for some expert tips on this "growing" practice.

With a little effort and some ingenuity, you can make a safer, more natural life for your pets...and tread a little bit more lightly on our one and only planet Earth.

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