Planet-Friendly Pet Lifestyles

You may spoil your best friend with expensive meats from time to time, but many people are now considering how much of an eco-pawprint our pets are adding to our environment. Following are a few ways owners can make good choices for their cats and dogs without the accompanying eco-guilt. 

Mealtime*

Eco-experts suggest when choosing pet food to put in your cart, look for ingredients that include secondary products, like animal bone meal or organ meat. Also look for plant-based ingredients or sustainably certified fish.

The reason for this is the ecological impact of food is based on the processing of human-grade meat (the stuff we eat)—which has a much greater ecological footprint than the by-products of that meat. A study at the University of Sydney showed the increasing trend in the “humanization” of pets and pet products reflects an increase in meat quality in pet food, which means we will eventually need unsustainable amounts of land and resources to raise enough meat products for ourselves and our pets.

There are many commercial pet foods based largely on by-products; animal and soybean meals or dried egg. Using these leftovers cuts down on waste, provides nutrient- and energy-rich products, and gives more value to the source animals’ lives. You might also see if your dog likes insect-based treats, available at most pet stores. Insects are eaten around the world, are a great source of protein for humans and pets, and are highly sustainable. 

Playtime

We already know that when it comes to the environment, the less plastic the better. Check labels that indicate post-process recyclable materials; e.g., recycled plastic bottles and rubber. You can also find many good options for chewing that are ultimately digestible and also non-toxic. Many companies now make toys from natural materials like hemp and rice husks; e.g., rope toys are a popular and eco-friendly playtime staple. Garden Fresh brand plushies are stuffed with 100 percent post-consumer, certified-safe recycled plastic bottles and colored with AZO-free dyes. HonestPetProducts.com has a full selection of hemp-based, planet-friendly toys as well. 

Taking Care of Business

You already know it’s rude not to clean up after your dog. Aside from the mess, rain may carry toxic pathogens in dog waste into streams. It contains nitrogen and phosphorus, which may contribute to slimy and potentially toxic algae. These elements also make it unsafe for home compost systems. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains killing those pathogens requires higher temperatures than typical household methods can achieve. 

As well, do not flush animal waste down the toilet. The NRDC says standard water treatment does not remove cryptosporidium, which causes illness in humans. The exception to this rule is an indoor-only cat that has tested negative for toxoplasmosis. On the plus side, Georgetown’s most recent water quality report (2018) showed zero positives for animal waste pathogens. 

Believe it or not, the best solution is to throw pet waste in the trash, from which it will end up in a landfill, away from water sources and food plants. To contain it, the Federal Trade Commission recommends researching companies that make “biodegradable” baggies. Despite what it might say on the box, many companies are not able to fully test the validity of their marketing claims. 

*Many veterinarians and pet owners prefer specific nutrition plans with varying amounts of meat and grains. This article focuses solely on eco-friendly options. Check with your veterinarian for your pet’s optimum diet. 

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