Your Pets Can Live Sustainably Too!

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 8.10.53 AMYour Pets Can Live Sustainably Too! (Week #23)

“Dogs have owners, cats have staff.” – Anonymous

Kidding aside, we, as pet lovers and owners, are responsible to make sustainable choices for them. As we make significant changes in our own lives to decrease our footprint and heal the planet, it is essential to make changes for our pets as well. After all, some of our pets use more resources than humans in other global regions. And as National Animal Rights Day was celebrated across the USA this last week, here’s the scoop!

A sustainable pet is one that minimizes their environmental impact by minimizing consumption; and they also perform a service to the community or produce a product. That could be eggs, milk, meat, fertile compost and/or companionship.

A sustainable pet has few specialized food requirements, which can be supplied locally, and does not require a huge amount of water or electricity for survival.

Summer is a great time to re-examine how to help your pets live sustainably.

The WHY and WHAT:

Did you know that according to the Humane Society, there are approximately 83.3 million pet dogs and 95.6 million pet cats? The average dog creates about 274 pounds of waste a year, (21.4 billion pounds), the average cat 118 pounds of waste (8 billion pounds of cat litter and 10.2 billion pounds of waste). That totals 39.6 billion pounds of dog/cat pet waste in the USA alone.

Pet waste contains bacteria, E. Coli, Parvo, tapeworm, other viruses, and nutrients that can run off into local waterways and diminish water quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 2 days worth of dog waste from about 100 dogs would contribute enough pollution to close a beach, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it. Some people advocate flushing pet waste, but this uses a lot of water and concerns have been expressed about the potential spread of zoonotic diseases; especially if you live near the ocean, as it may contain the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii, which was linked to sea otter deaths in California.

Composting animal waste safely can help minimize these adverse environmental effects.

The HOW:

Ten ways to keep pets environmentally friendly and live a more sustainable pet lifestyle:

1. Keep cats indoors. Cat experts say that indoor cats can be happy if provided with an enriched environment. Consider outdoor cat or dog enclosures for safe excursions.

2. Compost your pet’s waste so that it will not go into a landfill or contaminate our water resources through run-off (See links below for DIY – do it yourself- or purchase). Use biodegradable cat litter.

3. Don’t walk dogs in ecologically sensitive areas, particularly those with ground-nesting birds, open streams or family beaches.

4. Seek pet products made from environmentally friendly materials and less packaging when purchasing food bowls, carriers, toys, etc.

5. Have pets spayed and neutered to prevent overpopulation.

6. Use natural, non-toxic flea control methods.

7. Consider a pet that can also provide sustainable food for your family.

8. Prevent pets from eating raw meat or seafood or fish (where parasites often reside), as well as keeping pet waste, waste-handling tools separate from other tools.

9. Animals and humans have been powering machines with their energy for centuries. Create a way that you and your pet could generate an energy resource of your own. (Conversion bikes/wheels, you both jog for exercise while supplying energy to your home?)

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10. Socialize your pets, let them interact with others.

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Communicate your favorite sustainable pet tips and tricks by commenting here or on our Facebook page!

The Deep Dive:

USDA, NRCS Composting Dog Waste Guide (pdf)

Clear Choices, Clean Water Pet Waste Information (pdf)

Analysis of different kinds of Cat Litter

A Practical Guide to PetCare

2011-2015 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, pet spending financial data, trends, etc.

Powered by Pooches, article in San Francisco Chronicle about utilizing pet waste as an energy resource

Tumbleweed Pet Poo Converter from people

Doggie Dooley Composter

Professor Thomas’ document on animal power production

Kitty powered humidifier

DIY Cat powered auto-feeder

2014 TEDX talk about sustainable healthcare for pets

Dog powered scooters

Poo Poo Power, the future of energy?

For the kids, here’s some of Simon’s cat powered machines (Animations):

1 minute quiche, a cat-powered quiche making machine

Enriched environment for rescue cats (1 minute video)

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