Living La Vida Verde
Perhaps you shop at your local farmer’s market, drive a Prius
or like me, dig through trash for eggshells your beloved other refuses to throw in the yard waste container. You’re hip to low-VOC
paint, shun synthetic carpeting and recycle with a passion akin to religious fervor. However, you’re not the only one with a carbon footprint; dogs have four, and traipsing down the garden path to responsible, eco-friendly living means evolving our canine consciousness when it comes to Planet Pooch.
Domesticated creatures that they are, we must purchase for our pets. As a result, they have a bigger environmental impact than say, snow leopards, which require nothing from us, other than not to become extinct. Therefore, your canine-related choices can result in a cleaner, greener world without going to extremes, as even the smallest changes have long-lasting benefits. “Sustainable living does not mean making drastic changes in your life. Simply considering where things come from and where they go when we’re finished with them can be a big step towards living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle,” says Christine Maller
, of Portland’s Green Dog Pet Supply
A Primer for the Planet
Seattle spends about $23 million each year to send 900 million pounds of garbage to an Oregon landfill and a percentage of that, in addition to poop (a whole other story), comes from your dog. Perhaps we should start practicing a little more zero tolerance when it comes to trash. Think of the following primers as your guide to closing the loop and contributing less garbage, some taking decades to decompose and releasing methane gas all along the way.
Reducing starts with pre-cycling says Maller
; decrease waste before you buy and give preference to products that use recycled packaging or avoid excess packaging. Secondly, buy things that last. Choose durable items over disposable ones or that you can repair rather than discard and donate what you no longer need to another dog. Finally, just buy less. I mean, how much cha cha does your dog really need? Even with one simple, smart purchase, you can make a difference for the planet, not to mention your wallet.
Buy locally or as close to home as possible, which is better for the environment and homegrown economics. Buying locally involves less shipping, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Mitchell Berg of Bow Wow Meow
, an upscale pet boutique in San Francisco carries locally made environmentally friendly products and makes a conscious effort to seek them out. “We’re always looking for smart, creative people who are utilizing resources and doing something good for the planet. Plus, it gives us an opportunity to present items you won’t find in big box stores.”
Dogs are always chewing on something and you should know what they have in their mouth. Chances are, their favorite rubber chewy comes with PVC; better known as polyvinyl chloride, a highly toxic chemical with the added benefit of releasing carcinogenic dioxins into the air during production.
From Bend, Oregon comes Ruff Wear’s Gourdo
, which could be the Holy Grail of dog toys, as it seems to be capable of almost everything, including dental maintenance. Made from natural latex rubber, a renewable and sustainable source, they fetch, float, hide treats and massage gums. What more could a good dog and a healthy planet want?
plush toys are simply irresistible. The 100% certified organic cotton is used for the fabric and stuffing is grown without pesticides. Non-organic cotton growers use many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market. Colored with organic dyes that contain extracts from plants and minerals and removable squeakers allow for machine washing.
Your dog will enjoy a “new leash on life” from Seattle-based Krebs Recycle
, which takes ropes no longer used by climbing gyms and guide services thereby creating a second life for materials. Owner and ex-climber Pete Krebs takes “retired” ropes and turns them into super beefy, comfy leashes which is another great eco-example featuring a locally owned company, offering a practical product and re-using materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Your dog may be inspired to new heights by having leashware
that’s climbed top peaks such as Everest and K2.
What’s grown pesticide/herbicide free, hypoallergenic, 100% biodegradable and has “no illicit use?” Why hemp, of course and you’ll find hemp products galore at Earthdog
. Your dog can cozy up in one of their hemp blankets, a perfect marriage of colorful hemp canvas and sumptuous recycled fleece. In addition, the company rescues and fosters strays from their local humane society and works to find suitable, loving homes for them.
When it comes to beds, we say paws up to Bozeman, Montana’s West Paw Design
for turning 25 tons of recycled plastic bottles into sweet dreams. Bumper Beds
feature organic cotton covers, filled with the super-soft results of turning plastic into snooze-inducing stuffing.
Green Mr. Clean
Architect Matthew Coates, based on Bainbridge Island, who specializes in sustainable design and green building practices uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products both at home (which he shares with his family and Great Dane, Henri) and the office. “In the end, it’s not only good for us and the environment, it’s good for Henri.”
Cleaning green is another component of keeping things eco-friendly for Fido. Why buy your dog a nontoxic toy when you clean your house with chemicals? When it comes to wiping down Henri, Coates uses Earthbath
, all natural grooming wipes with tea tree oil and lavender. “It’s like giving him a bath without the soap and water,” he says.
The Politics of Poop
Houston, we have a problem. In fact, Houston really does have a problem. According to a recent survey of the 15 largest U.S
. cities by Merial
Ltd., maker of Heartgard
, Houston has the worst poop-scooping habits. Don’t get smug, Seattle, because you’re fifth worst and San Francisco gets the gold star as the best of the bunch.
According to Brett Stav
, Planning & Development Specialist for Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle pets generate about 7600 tons of waste a year, or 5% of the residential garbage. Even though the city has done studies on pet waste composting, Stav
says the City Council is holding off on enacting a program, at least for a few years.
San Francisco, however, is ahead of the pack. Norcal
Waste, the company that collects most of the city’s garbage is currently in talks with city leaders concerning a pet waste diversion project that would create energy from dog droppings. Norcal’s
communication director Robert Reed says it will involve methane digesters that use bugs and microorganisms to consume the matter and eventually create electricity for homes. “Norcal
wants to move forward on this, and we are currently in an exploratory and planning phase. We’re going to solve this thing, but we have to take the time and do it right,” says Reed.
Meanwhile, waste that sits on the ground dissolves, then flows untreated into the closest watershed, and the consequences of not scooping have enormous repercussions for environmental and public health. According to EPA studies, nonhuman waste represents a significant source of bacterial contamination in urban watersheds, and current genetic studies conclude that most of the fecal coli form bacteria found in urban storm water is of nonhuman origin.
So what’s a responsible dog owner do? First, do no harm, and clean up after your dog. If you bag it, use biodegradable bags or hire a professional scooper like Northwest-based Pooper Trooper
, and throw it only in the trash an, not the yard waste.
From Coates’ perspective, sustainable living is being conscious when it comes to what we leave behind. “We have to ensure that we give back more than we take, so that what is left behind enhances rather than erodes.”
In the end, it’s one small step for dog and one giant leap for the planet.
Shop for green pet products at the CityDog Shop