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Greening Up Pet Ownership

Tips for reducing your pet's carbon pawprint

To close out a month of Earth Day celebrations, let's go to the dogs (and cats) and talk about ways to make pet ownership a little "greener."

Get a recycled pet: Consider pet adoption as your first choice. The West Orange Animal Welfare League's next adoption day is Saturday, May 7 from 11 am to 3 pm at the township's animal control facility at 311 Watchung Ave. Here's a Petfinder.com list of local animal shelters.

Be counted: Over 1,900 West Orange dogs sport a current license tag that shows they are properly registered as West Orange denizens, according to Theresa DeNova, West Orange's health officer. A current license ensures that dogs are up-to-state on state-required rabies vaccinations and can help get a lost pet home faster. Rabies is a fatal disease to humans, so preventing it is a very green choice.

Spay and neuter: Between three and four million homeless dogs and cats are euthanized each year, according to the ASPCA. Spaying and neutering is an essential part of controlling population numbers and reducing the strain on pet rescue and adoption resources.  

Manage the unmentionables: No one's favorite topic, but waste disposal is a mandatory responsibility for pet owners. Always pick up your dog's waste—it's the law. Dispose of it in your home garbage can whenever possible or in a municipal trash can as a second-best choice.

Never put pet waste down storm sewers, as that sends untreated waste into the water sources we use for swimming, fishing, and drinking water.

Bag it better: Reusing plastic grocery bags to dispose of pet waste is a thrifty choice. One step better on the plastics-reduction spectrum is to buy pet waste bags made without petroleum. I use BioBags that are made from corn starch. These bags break down completely into non-toxic components in the landfill and incinerators, unlike plastic bags.

Consider toys and treats: A quick glance at my dog's overflowing toy box makes it clear that I am doing my part to contribute to the nearly $50 billion spent each year on American pets, according to the American Pets Products Association.

While I'm a pushover for new dog toys, I try to think about the manufacturing, transportation, economic and social impacts of what I buy. Often, I can make things that are healthier, less expensive and just as fun (and eliminate safety concerns from dangerous or tainted products).

Homemade cat and dog treats are a fun, cheap project. A fascinating cat toy may be as close as the paper bag from the grocery store or a plastic bottle cap. My dog flips for empty cardboard tubes.

Note: Always check with your veterinarian about toys and treats that are right for your pet.

Reduce chemicals: The same guidelines that protect our kids and ourselves and apply to our pets as well. At 23 pounds and under a foot tall, my dog lives in close proximity to whatever is on the floor and in the grass. That's a good enough reason not to add toxic chemicals to the mix.

Respect our common spaces: Living "greener" is all about respecting our common shared environment. Simple courtesies include keeping your dog on a six-foot leash and under your control at all times. Keep your pet off your neighbors' property.

Think outside the (green) box: I asked my Facebook friends for their ideas on greening up pet ownership. Here are a few:

- water plants with nutrient-rich fish tank water
- add the rabbit's litter box droppings to the garden for a low-cost fertilizer
- let the dog lick the plate so you don't waste valuable dishwasher water
- gather shed fur after brushing and place it outside for birds to use in nest-making

Small opportunities are all around us every day to live a little greener. As members of the family, even the small choices we make for our pets play a part in creating a greener home and world.

May 1 FREE Organic Lawn Care Class & Demo Attend a free organic lawn care demonstration Sunday May 1 at 2 p.m. at a nearby Montclair front yard. See how you can create and maintain a beautiful lawn yourself without toxic chemicals. Sponsored by Safe Yards Montclair with Jose German, certified master gardener and founder of Green Harmony Now. Bring your questions! 

Please RSVP to info@safeyardsmontclair.org to receive event location. Please click here for an event flyer with more details.

Jennifer Larsen April 26, 2011 at 11:32 PM
I never thought of a rescue as a "recycled pet," but I'm all for it! So is my "recycled" cat. :)

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