In the current economic climate, its been a bit rough for those that want to go green on a budget. Not everyone can...Read the rest of this article
Even pets leave prints on the environment
by Bryce Wolfe on August 22, 2010
Sure, those little French bulldogs look cute, but purebred breeds frequently face crippling joint disorders, breathing difficulties, skin problems and other hereditary diseases. Most French bulldogs require caesarean section simply to give birth due to their disproportionate body structure. One of the most humane and environmentally-friendly decisions you can make as a prospective pet owner is to adopt from a shelter rather than encourage breeding for fad or profit's sake.
Adopting from a shelter reduces feral populations, discourages puppy mills and prevents the deaths of unwanted animals who either cannot find a home or do not meet health or breed standards. Spaying and neutering also reduces overpopulation and lowers the risk of testicular, ovarian or uterine cancer in many animals.
While pets have a positive impact on human lives, they do come with their own carbon pawprints. Like people, dogs and cats in particular consume increasingly processed goods. It takes about 200 gallons of water to make a dollar’s worth of pet food in the United States, according to a National Geographic series on the global water crisis, which costs less water than producing grain but still adds to the drain on freshwater supplies. In the grand scheme of things, the pollution that comes with owning pets is only a drop in the bucket. However, there are ways you can both enjoy your dog or cat's companionship and minimize their impact on the planet. It's easier than ever, as the pet care industry increasingly counts natural litters, organic foods and biodegradable poop bags among their products.
Lifestyle changes can make a difference. Whenever possible, don't drive in order to walk. If an owner drives 10 miles to a dog park once a week in a car with average fuel economy, he or she will generate about 500 lbs of additional CO2 in one year. Also, owners should avoid walking through ecologically sensitive areas, where their dogs might disturb the native wildlife. Cat owners should likewise keep their felines indoors. Not only do indoor cats live longer, healthier lives, they don't have the chance to prey on endangered birds and small mammals.
Litter boxes, toys, scoopers and other items can be made from recycled, durable or biodegradable materials to cut down on landfill waste. When it comes to kitty litter, avoid purchasing the clumping type made from clay. The clay comes from strip-mining, which damages the environment, the silica dust can coat your cat's lungs and the ingredient bentonite is actually used in grouting and sealants. Alternatives to clay include wheat, pine and sawdust. Litter in general is difficult to recycle, and the toxoplasmosis parasite found in cat waste renders it unusable for composting, but some enterprising owners have suggested using litter to repair holes in asphalt or kill off weeds like poison ivy.
If you have patience, you might potty train your pet and eliminate the need for litter and poop bags altogether. And if you're into the culinary arts, you can make your own pet food using all-natural, sustainably grown or raised ingredients. Animals with allergies will appreciate the effort even more.
Some hardcore environmentalists view pets as extravagances. Even goldfish require gallons of water. Though a lot of resources are spent on animals with no other purpose than to make us happy, this may be reason enough for many. Studies have shown that pets ease stress, lower blood pressure, alleviate depression and improve the quality of life for people of all ages. For those who would like a companion with a greater purpose than petting, animals like hens can offset their ecological impact by providing fresh eggs, fertilizer and pest control in gardens, as well as a friendly nature.
Whatever the species, an animal companion is a commitment and should never be bought on a passing whim. No matter how cute they are.