Despite what Kermit the Frog said, it’s actually easy being green–here are 10 things you can do to make the world a better place for animals (and people too!):
1. Adopt from a shelter
Adopting an animal from a shelter is one of the best ways to make sure you are reusing a valuable resource, according to Sarah Belgard from Recycled Pets Rescue in Encino, California. “Our society is one that seems to believe that everything is disposable,” she says. “With pets, sadly, this is due mostly to a lack of long-term commitment.” When you adopt a pet from a shelter instead of a breeder, you minimize pet reproduction, ensuring fewer animals enter shelters and risk euthanasia in the future.
2. Spay or neuter your pet
Once you adopt a pet, it is important to spay or neuter him to reduce the chance of his offspring ending up on the streets or back at the shelter. According to the Humane Society of the United States, spaying and neutering help communities by reducing the amount of money spent on controlling unwanted animals in addition to lowering the risk of dog bites and attacks from stray animals. It also helps dogs, cats, and rabbits live longer, healthier lives by reducing the risk for ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, and prostate disease.
3. Make better food choices
Organic is the word du jour and it applies to our pet food as well. Seeking out organic food is not only a healthy option for our furry friends, it’s also good for our environment. According to the USDA, organic farming emphasizes the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. That means no pesticides, no fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, no bioengineering, no antibiotics, and no growth hormones.
4. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
It doesn’t take a trip to the grocery store to know that there is a glut of cleaning products on the market. While all brands like to brag with catchphrases like, “Kills 99 percent of the bacteria,” and “Cuts the grease,” etc, it’s important to know that products can be effective but also harmful to people, pets, and the environment. To turn your utility closet into a friend of the environment, seek out eco-friendly alternatives to disinfectants and chlorine bleach products, and use household products such as baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and natural essential oils. These products are eco-friendly and they won’t harm humans or pets.
5. Go green in the litter box
A litter box is a home essential. While most shoppers will reach for traditional fare—old-fashioned clay, pastel-colored clumping, and coarse sand—there are a number of litter choices that are not only efficient at fighting odor, but have also proven to be beneficial for the environment. Litters made from natural materials such as pine sawdust and shavings, recycled newspaper, corn cobs, peanut shells, wheat, hardwood cedar chips, and even processed orange peels are not only 100 percent biodegradable, but are often longer-lasting and better at blocking odors than their traditional counterparts, according to the ASPCA’s Cat Care Pick of the Litter report. For people using biodegradable fare, it is recommended that the use of litter for composting purposes be done after scooping and should only be used for non-vegetable plant life.
6. Use biodegradable poop bags
While most responsible pet guardians rely on grocery bags and other plastic doody receptacles for Fido’s fecal matter, there are other more eco-friendly options to consider. Biodegradable poop bags are sold at most pet stores around the country and provide walkers with an easy way to scoop the poop while also being green-friendly. Traditional plastic bags can take more than 100 years to break down, ultimately creating a mummified poop relic. According to Rick Nava, co-owner of Doody Calls, a professional pet-waste removal service based in San Mateo, California, flushing the dog waste is still the best and safest way of disposal. Biodegradable bags allow the droppings to fertilize, spreading nutrients into Mother Earth’s core; however, it only truly works if it’s disposed in special compost piles rather than traditional contained landfills.
7. Buy eco-friendly toys
Pet toys are often made of materials like rubber and plastic, which aren’t necessarily eco-friendly. But there a number of companies that specialize in pet products made from recycled materials. Katie’s Bumpers, for example, uses pre-consumer recycled materials to create an array of pet toys. “It’s the right thing to do and customers love it,” says founder Jill Nazimek who runs the company with her husband Greg. Other eco-friendly options include items made of natural materials such as rope pull toys and plush chew toys made of natural fibers.
8. Grow your own catnip
Catnip is a natural herbal mood enhancer and like anything else—better delivered fresh. Growing your own catnip saves money, avoids our landfills from more packaging waste, and above all will provide your cat with 100 percent natural nip that is safe, and free of all pesticides and other chemical additives. Growing the plants is as easy as growing wild mint and can provide enough nip to keep your cat euphoric for years.
9. Compost your pet’s poop
Composting pet waste can be a bit tricky—that’s because harmful bacteria and pathogens such as parasitic worms can spread disease. “As a general rule, we urge folks to exercise caution when composting with pet waste,” says Doug McKalip of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. He also adds that at-home composters should watch out for vermin. However, McKalip points to Alaska as an example of one state that has had success in reducing pet-waste volume through composting. For tips on backyard composting, visit NRCS.USDA.gov.
10. Plant a tree in honor of your pet
A tree can serve as a permanent, growing memorial to your favorite furry companion, while also adding to the landscape, providing a suitable home or shelter for wildlife, and benefiting the environment. There are nationwide companies, such as TreeGivers, which will plant a tree for you and provide a certificate of planting, sympathy letter, and handwritten message card. TreeGivers uses public lands in all 50 states and Canada, and plants trees appropriate for each climate. You may also opt to plant a tree or shrub on your own property to memorialize your loved one. According to Peternity.com, willow trees represent the beginning of spring, palm trees signify eternity, and fruit trees symbolize life and renewal.
Selected by Laura Drucker, TAILS Editor