Green Living: Pets

Pets are big business here in the United States - according to the Humane Society there were over 77 million owned dogs and over 93 million owned cats, and people spent over $40 billion on them (and other pets) in 2009 alone, on things from food to waste disposal, from medical care to toys and bedding. So, how do you make sure that your pet spending is the best it can be and help your pet to live a greener life?

First, of course, is to obtain your pets in the most sustainable way - adopt them. Buying a puppy from a puppy mill is definitely bad, especially compared to taking in a dog (or cat, or whatever your choice of pet may be) who is already in the world and in need of your help. There are a number of methods of pet adoption, including local shelters (like All Dogs' Heaven here in Lakewood) and online sites like

Once you have a pet, you'll have to feed it. Ideally, you'll be able to get organic or natural food, as many commercial dog foods contain pesticides, unecessary fillers, antibiotics, byproducts, and artificial preservatives. These foods are generally more expensive, but will be better for your pet and the earth. You can also make your own food (consult your vet for nutrition guidelines). And, when you're feeding your pet, use a sustainable dish (steel, ceramic, etc.) rather than plastic, which may contain phthalates.

Pet waste is another big concern. Conventional cat litter is generaly made of clay that has been strip-mined and gives off carcinogenic silica dust when your cat uses it. Consider an alternative, like newspaper, corn cob, straw pellet, or pine sawdust products. For dogs, tons of waste ends up in plastic bags in landfills. The most likely alternative is a biodegradable bag (one type, from, offers free samples, with $2 shipping), which can be flushed or will at least biodegrade easier in a landfill.

When playing with your pet, remember that the toys you buy will spend a great deal of time in your pet's mouth, so it is important to avoid toxic ingredients. There are many options here, from cotton, wool, or hemp to natural rubber. If your pet needs a bed, there are many stylish choices of dog duvets available at The site offers washable covers and bags that you stuff with old blankets, towels, or clothes, then wash whenever the time comes. And, last but not least, be careful what you use to wash your pet. Look for natural and biodegradable ingredients, and, as with all purchases, be sure to buy the largest size that is practical for you to reduce packaging waste.

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 8:31 AM, 02.24.2010