Curb Your Pet

Going green in all aspects of your life is more than just driving less, buying local and recycling.  We often experience health benefits when we change the products we use or the ways we bring these products or solutions into our lives.  Our pets can benefit as well.  Since they often live in the same environments as we do (same house or yard) they are also affected by the decisions we make about cleaning products for the home and body, and the quality of water and food we provide.
 
So as you become a green pet owner, consider the positive effects this will have on the health and longevity of your pet’s life!  Many of the ways to be a green pet owner are the same ways you treat your health and body.  Pick ONE area to change each month and before you know it, Fluffy will be just as green as you!
 
1. Food – Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk will reduce trips to the store and cuts down on gas consumption. But some pet foods may not be the healthiest options for your furry family member. Buying organic pet food is an option, but often the cost is too high.  In this case, what’s even better? Making your own pet food.
 
Even Better: Make your own pet food. Many vets advocate a raw food diet for domestic animals claiming it’s healthier for the animals.  Just be sure you provide all the nutrients your     pet needs. While ratios of protein, vegetable, and carbohydrate in homemade pet food recipes tend to vary, generally the rule for a good balance is 40% proteins, 30% vegetables, and 30% carbohydrates.  Once you have found the right balance and consulted with your vet to ensure that the nutrients your pet is receiving are adequate, you can mix up a couple of batches a week and store them appropriately.  Many pet owners who make their pets’ food at home report astonishing improvements in the health and vitality of their animals, after even a short period of time on home-cooked food.  Here are some books on the topic.
 
2. Pet waste – Use biodegradable doggie bags and kitty litter.  Flushing it down the toilet may be an option, but then we are only contributing to the use of water to get rid of waste.  Tossing it in a landfill in a plastic bag means it stays in the bag until the bag decomposes and that can be years. 
 
Consider purchasing products that decompose and break down along with the waste.  Many bags on the market are now made from corn products, yet sturdy enough to use.   The park in my neighborhood has a dispenser with biodegradable pet mitts for picking up the dog poop. BioBags are made from corn and are compostable, so you can feel good about using them while out walking the dog in your neighborhood.  You can even bring this home and toss it in your pet waste composter.
 
For the cat in your life replace the clay litter (which is bad for cats’ health and doesn’t compost or breakdown) with kitty litter made out of recycled newspaper or corn. I use Feline Pine which has a scent of fresh pine and lasts a long time.  You can scoop the solid waste out and just scatter the wet litter around in the pan until you need to change it. You can find these products in your local health food store and online.
 
Even Better: Make a pet waste composter.  By composting the waste right in your yard, you are eliminating it from going to a landfill or getting into a waste water treatment plant.  Plus if done correctly, you can use the humus created from the compost to fertilize your ornament plants and bushes.  Instead of buying a pet waste composter and contributing further to the production of more products and the resulting carbon footprint, consider making your own!
 
Or maybe you live in a place where you rent and do not want to dig into the ground. In that case, you can purchase one already made for you!  The Doggie Dooley is a special waste container designed to prevent health dangers and minimize odor. It’s a great way to make your yard more beautiful while also protecting your shoes from dog poop. You need a separate waste composter because animal droppings often contain harmful bacteria, such as e coli, salmonella, and giardias. In a compost pile, these pathogenic bacteria will mix with helpful bacteria and they can disrupt the composting cycle. Find the Doggie Dooley here.
 
My next post will cover issues of pet cleaning and health.
 
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Doreen Pollack owns Down 2 Earth Gardens, a garden consulting business in Phoenix, AZ. She is also a Permaculture practioner, author, speaker and educator.
 
Puppy image by justmakeit via Flickr