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Shrinking Your Pet's Carbon "Paw Print"

With more than 78 million dogs, 86 million cats and 212 million “other” pets in the US, it’s no surprise that our animal companions create their own carbon "paw print." Or rather, we create it for them – through the animal waste we don’t pick up, through the plastic toys that fester in landfills, through chemically harsh pet shampoos and – STOP! It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?

But minimizing our pets’ damage to the environment doesn’t have to be so daunting. There are a few simple steps you can take today that aren’t only better for the Earth but can make a difference in the health and happiness of your pet, too.

1. Practice your three Rs The green mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” applies to pet products, too, with the end goal of preventing more waste from ending up in landfills. Start by minimizing what you need and reusing what you can. Think (and google) “homemade pet toys.”

When buying new items, look for some of these terms: recycled material, recyclable, 100% biodegradable, compostable, post-industrial recycled plastic.

Or, shop for brands that do the work for you. Sold at select Whole Foods Markets, Planet Dog’s Recycle “bones” and balls are made from Orbee-Tuff material, which means they last longer than your typical plastic toys, creating less waste and less of a burden on your wallet in the long run.

Best of all, these non-toxic, recyclable toys are made in the US and are easy to clean, with 2% of every purchase going toward non-profit canine service programs nationwide.

2. Be all about “organic” Pesticides aren’t limited to people products – they’re found in our pets’ products, toys and food, too. Choosing items with “organic” on the label can greatly reduce the amount of toxic and persistent pesticides that go into the environment (as well as on to your and your pet’s bodies).

Our stores offer a variety of organic pet products, including organic cotton collars and Good Buddy’s handmade, dye-free plush toys. I also love Simply Fido organic plush toys, which come in a variety of cute critters. For an easy, eco-friendly bathing solution, the non-profit environmental organization Zero Waste America recommends adding 1 teaspoon of oat flour (look for organic), which you can find in our stores, to your pet’s bath water.

3. Scoop that poop Let’s talk poop. Leaving your dog’s waste to break down into the earth may seem “natural,” but it’s not smart. Rainwater can take your dog’s poop into streams and rivers, posing a threat to both public health and water quality. Composting your pet’s waste at home can also pose health risks. Bottom line:

It’s always better to scoop that poop.

If you can get past the “ick” factor, flushing your dog (not cat!) poop ensures bacteria will get killed at the wastewater treatment plant. Cat poop, however, contains a parasite that may survive the treatment process and contaminate waterways. Speaking of cats, there are some interesting, and effective, alternatives to traditional clay litter.

World’s Best Cat Litter is made from whole-kernel corn and controls odors naturally. It's available at select Whole Foods Market stores. There's also a litter made of all-natural recycled pine pellets that's similar. Since our product selection varies from store to store, I suggest checking with your local Whole Foods Market to see if they have the products you’re interested in or if they can offer other recommendations.

How do you show love for both your pets and the planet?

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Danie says …

@ Mej Jenkins, be careful when using animal waste as a fertilizer. Animals may have parasites unbeknownst to you that you may be transferring to your garden. Pet and human waste is not recommended for compost or fertilizer.

Lisa says …

we've been feeding our dog lots of fruits and vegetables (organic) when he needed to lose weight. The result, we use less dog food, and his coat is shiny! He loves broccoli, carrots, green beans (all cooked) which we add to use breakfast and lunch. For a treat, apples and bananas. He loves it. Also, we no longer use commerica;l dog shapoos. I bought him a handmade soap that uses citronella and has all palnt based ingredients. He smells great!

Jane says …

I'd have his bloodwork checked. So many kitties (when they get older) seem to get kidney disease. (I had two kitties live into their upper teens and they both had KD) It was very hard to keep/put weight on them...as for the type of food, it's going to depend on if they have kidney disease or not. (you don't want to give them any food that is going to make the kidneys work harder and decrease their effectiveness any sooner) Best of luck to you and your kitty.

Erika says …

What would you recommend...I have a 20 yr old cat. He doesn't look old. What food should I feed him? He could use to gain some weight. :)

kathy green says …

the pine pellet cat litter we sell is great - recylced, and biodegradeble. what's even better is that after my cat 'christens' it i spread it around the outside edge of my garden to repel mice, rats and rabbits! it really works! we live out in the country and i've tried everything to keep out the locals, but this trick has them fooled into thinking there are lots of CATS guarding these precious vegetables!! three years now and no critters!

Angela says …

I hope that using Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile soap is safe for using on pets because this is what I have been using for my pets instead of using all of those chemical-ridden pet shampoos.

Mej Jenkins says …

The way I show love to my pets and the planet is by feeding my two cats and a dog fresh, organic foods - the same foods my family eats, and when I scoop their poop, I throw the manure in the soil in which I plant my trees, flowers, and other foliage! If it is worked several inches down into the soil, their is no lingering odor.

S Carter says …

Reply to Erika - I'd like to know what you feed your cat! If he/she is 20 yrs old, you must be doing something right! Why do you want to change your cat's food? At that age, does not seem like a good idea to me! I am not a vet, but my favorite vet said, "if you find something [cat food] that works, stick with it."

vivian says …

Please stop spreading fear and misinformation. Cats must ingest infected prey or raw meat to get the toxoplasmosis parasite. Indoor cats that do not hunt and are not fed raw meat are not likely to be infected. In the U.S., humans are much more likely to be infected by eating raw meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables. You can read more at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine website: http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/health_resources/brochure_toxo.cfm