Pet food for thought
From food to feces, there are several ways to reduce your furry friend’s carbon paw print
Before purchasing Fido’s favorite bag of kibble, do you look at the list of ingredients? And when that food comes back out the other end—at home or on the trail—where does it go?
Just as there are many questions humans ask themselves in an effort make more environmentally sustainable choices, there are many facets of our pets’ lives—from their nutrition to management of their waste—that can be re-examined and revamped in order to be more eco-friendly pet owners.
Lori Wells, store manager at TrailBlazer Pet Supply in Chico (752 Mangrove Ave.), takes green pet ownership seriously. That’s why she makes sure to keep a variety of eco-conscious pet supplies on hand at all times. Healthy, sustainable food options include natural, raw or organic products, she says, and they also contain no preservatives, chemicals, hormones, pesticides or antibiotics. Wells recommends brands like Orijen, Steve’s Real Food and Lotus Natural Foods for Pets. Varieties such as those from The Honest Kitchen also contain ingredients from animals raised in humane, sustainable ways, such as free-range chickens and ranch-raised cows.
“I don’t want to put hormones and antibiotics into my pet. I would never do that to me,” Wells said. “So I like to offer certain people in our community, who might be like-minded, an opportunity to buy food that they feel good about to feed their pet as well.”
Green pet owners also can choose to supplement their pet’s diet by mixing in fresh and natural raw foods. Wells said she likes to supplement the food she buys for her lab mix, Izzy, with her own cooking, using locally grown ingredients.
“It becomes more sustainable when you can purchase closer to home instead of purchasing from companies that have to drive all the way from Canada or have to drive all the way across the United States,” Wells said. “So it’s an ability to give your pet environmentally conscious, no sprays, no additives, high-quality fruits and veggies at a lower price as well as kind of decreasing your footprint when it comes to your purchasing power as a consumer.”
Though it is fine to collect your dog or cat’s waste and dump it in the trash—because, after all, you are cleaning up after them—if you’re using a nonbiodegradable plastic bag, this can create a long-lasting problem when it arrives at the local landfill.
Steve Rodowick, recycling coordinator at the Neal Road Recycling and Waste Facility in Paradise, says the best option for omnivorous pet waste disposal is to put waste in biodegradable bags and throw them in the trash.
“[Biodegradable and nonbiodegradable bags] both eventually end up in the landfill,” Rodowick said. “However, the biodegradable bag will break down in a matter of months, as opposed to the standard plastic bag that would take decades or longer, depending on the conditions ….”
Parks often have bags placed at trailheads for the disposal of pet waste, but Wells warns that not all free bags are biodegradable. Pet owners should read the labels when buying bags for doggy doo doo and avoid anything with PVC and seek out brands certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, like BioBag or Flush Puppies, which are actually flushable. However, while flushing dog waste is OK, flushing cat poop is not. It introduces harmful parasites into waterways that can infect marine mammals, especially sea otters, with toxoplasmosis.
Pet poop also can be composted for non-edible crops. But if it is to be anywhere near edibles, the waste needs to come from a purely vegetarian pet. Omnivore feces harbors harmful bacteria that can make humans sick if ingesting crops that come into contact with the compost.
“There are times where you can use [waste] as a soil amendment, but it depends on your soil and where you want the [waste] to end up,” Rodowick added. “If the cat is on a strictly green-based diet, then that’s not a problem. But if it’s a meat eater, then it should always be trashed.”
There are also sustainable options for litters. Eco blog Treehugger advises that, “Cat owners should avoid clumping clay litter at all costs. Not only is clay strip-mined (bad for the planet), but the clay sediment is also permeated with carcinogenic silica dust that can coat little kitty lungs (bad for the cat).”
Eco-Shell Inc., based in Corning, specializes in products made from walnut shells—including bedding/cage-liner for lizards and birds and Blue Buffalo Naturally Fresh cat litter. “Our products we produce are from natural, biodegradable walnut shell and are free of chemicals and toxins, including harmful airborne dust,” said Helen Cantrell, director of marketing and sales for Eco-Shell. “This creates a healthy home for both the pets and the household.”
Sustainable practices in pet nutrition and waste disposal are just two areas of green pet care. Pet owners can also get a little greener with recycled toys and collars and sustainable cleaning products, shampoos and training pads.
No matter how you choose to reduce your pets’ carbon paw print, these sustainable choices not only help improve the quality of the planet, but the quality of life of some of our best friends.