You can use eco-friendly initiatives to go green in nearly every aspect of your life, including the house you live in, the cars you drive and the food you eat — but what about the pets you love? From teaching responsibility to providing unconditional companionship, furry friends can certainly change your life for the better, but can they also change the environment for the worse?
Just like people, animals multiply, require food and shelter, produce waste, and use a variety of accessories such as toys and bedding that require a manufacturing process — all of which contribute to shaping and defining their carbon paw print. But just as we have the ability to make more sustainable choices within our own activities and lifestyles, there are more eco-friendly approaches when it comes to pet ownership as well. Check out the top five options for getting a green pet.
One way a potential pet owner can take the eco-friendly route is by opting for a “recycled” pet of sorts through shelter adoption. These organizations have plenty of pets of various ages and breeds to choose from. In fact, up to 8 million dogs and cats — including many purebreds — enter animal shelters every year, according to the Human Society of the United States (HSUS). However, many potential owners still decide to buy their pets from pet stores or directly from breeders, which only adds to the problem of pet overpopulation by creating a demand for additional pets that need homes. As a result, animal shelters put down nearly 4 million animals a year, because the number of potential pets far outweighs the number of actual adoptions. Pet overpopulation can create serious issues for the environment, including increased waste production, as well as the need for additional farming space to provide enough food to feed those extra mouths. Adopting a shelter pet and having it spayed or neutered may, in a small way, help with combating this problem.
If you’re a proud cat owner, making the decision to keep your kitty indoors can do a lot to help keep the environment in balance. First, wildlife such as birds, squirrels and butterflies will thank you for saving their lives. Outdoor cats love to hunt, not out of a necessity for food but because they’re instinctually compelled to do so. According to the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, these pets’ annual kill counts are in the hundreds of millions — one recent study estimates that domestic rural cats kill 39 million birds in Wisconsin alone. This can cause profound damage to the ecosystem, including the extinction of certain bird species, which has led to the development of programs such as Cats Indoors!, a program created by the American Bird Conservancy and promoted by the Audubon Society. Cat feces are also an environmental foe, because they contain parasites, such as toxoplasma gondii, that can wreak havoc on local water sources and the health of other outdoor creatures. Keep it green by keeping kitty inside.
Double Duty Pets
Getting a pet that provides an additional benefit beyond companionship and love can also be a green choice. For example, one of the latest trends in eco-friendly pet ownership — even in urban areas — is keeping and raising chickens, which lay eggs that owners can keep for personal use. Some may find these birds less cuddly and pet-like than cats or dogs, but many who’ve raised them say that chickens can be trained to come when called and sometimes enjoy petting and lap-holding. Of course, anyone considering chicken ownership should make sure they’re able to provide proper living conditions for the animals, which includes allowing them the ability to move around and spread their wings, along with providing accommodations for adequate food, water and shelter. Also, many cities have regulations about how — or even if — you can keep chickens at your house, so it’s a good idea to find out what the rules are in your area before bringing home any hens. If chicks are out of the question, you still have dual-purpose pet options: Some other animals, such as rabbits, also can prove to be more than just a cuddly sidekick, since their droppings can be used in compost piles.
For dog lovers — especially those that live in tight quarters — opting for a smaller breed will not only help your personal space feel, well, more spacious, it will keep things in check from an environmental perspective as well. In their 2009 book “Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living,” Dr. Robert and professor Brenda Vale maintained that even a medium-size dog eats up to 360 pounds of food per year and has an environmental impact greater than that of an SUV driven 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles) a year. In general, smaller dogs, such as Yorkshire terriers or chihuahuas, eat less than, say, Labrador retrievers, St. Bernards or German shepherds. This means less food that needs to be produced and packaged, and less waste that’s created as a result. Of course, this is not to say you should totally rule out medium or large breeds, but if your living space is already small, sticking with a small pet might be the greenest way to go.
When people play around with the idea of a getting a pet, dogs and cats are often the first types of animals that come to mind. But there are other choices out there, and some of them are much more eco-friendly. For example, hamsters, birds, snakes and fish typically require minimal food and produce less waste. They also generally need only a minimal number of toys and very little bedding or other accessories. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend billions of dollars each year on their pet supplies — many of which, toys in particular, are made from plastic. Their production can take its toll on the environment, so getting a pet that needs less may help you start out on a greener foot.
If you do decide to get a low-maintenance pet, however, proceed with caution. It’s possible to accidentally stray into exotic pet territory, which includes certain types of frogs and lizards, among other creatures. These exotic pets often need very specialized (and costly) habitats to mimic their natural environments as closely as possible. Not only could you end up spending more time and money than you initially bargained for, you may find that you’re actually hurting the environment by using special filters and chemicals needed to maintain your pet’s tank.
Ultimately, though, being eco-conscious while choosing a pet can be a rewarding process. You’ll take strides — big or small — toward improving the planet’s overall well-being while finding a pet you can love for years to come.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/top-5-greenest-pets.html?page=7#ixzz14fhCubUo