Feature

10 Ways To Reduce Your Pet's Eco Paw Print

We’ve put our noses to the ground to discover some clever ways to reduce the carbon paw, claw or hoof print of our beloved pets.

Over 131,525 pets were surrendered last year alone to the RSPCA. So if you’re planning on getting a pet cat or dog, choose one from a rescue organisation.

According "Time to Eat the Dog?" The real guide to sustainable living, by Robert and Brenda Vale, the environmental cost of pet ownership is significant. The authors claim keeping a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact as driving 10,000 km a year in a Landcruiser.

Invest in eco-friendly kitty litter that can be mulched into your garden beds. Just be careful not to use the compost on edible gardens, as all animal waste should be considered to harbour pathogens and parasites.

If Fido simply must have designer duds, try making your own with a bit of recycled bling, ribbons and a top or jumper. Retro is cool!

Using locally made products that reduce carbon miles is just as important for your pet as it is for you. As we’re sure our readers already do wherever possible, try to source eco-friendly products by looking for dependable labels – and watch out for green washing!

Rotate your pet’s toys so they don’t get bored, you’ll need fewer play toys and save on packaging.

While on your walkies with Fido, be sure to pick up your poo so it doesn’t end up in sewers where it can pollute the water in our rivers, streams and beaches – any repurposed paper or a biodegradable cornstarch bag will do.

We love them, but please keep them in at night.

Buy pet food in bulk or make your own. Animal naturopath Susan Scott says the ideal pet diet replicates the foods they would have eaten in the wild. “They wouldn’t have eaten crunchy biscuits in a packet,” she says. “For dogs I’d recommend pulped fresh raw seasonal vegetables and raw meat, and for cats – raw white meat.”

Ensure your pet is de-sexed and micro-chipped.

In Australia, animal shelters are stretched to breaking point. In many cases, there’s not enough room left to swing a cat in, let alone house puppies and other unwanted pets.

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Ever wondered just how much the collective pitter-patter of our pets’ paws effects the planet? After all, Australia is a nation of pet lovers, with more than 33 million pets countrywide.

Pet owners collectively spend a whopping $8 billion each year on pet products.

While ensuring pets are de-sexed and micro-chipped is a great start, there’s more pet owners can do. As a responsible pet owner, every decision you make on buying pet products depletes natural resources and can potentially harm the environment. And according to controversial new book Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living, by Robert and Brenda Vale, the environmental cost is significant. The authors claim keeping a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact as driving 10,000 km a year in a Landcruiser.

1. Preloved pets
In Australia, animal shelters are stretched to breaking point. In many cases, there’s not enough room left to swing a cat in, let alone house puppies and other unwanted pets. Over 131,525 pets were surrendered last year alone to the RSPCA. So if you’re planning on getting a pet cat or dog, choose one from a rescue organisation.

2. Choose your pet wisely
According to Carol Frishmann Author of Pets and the Planet: A practical guide to sustainable pet care, choosing exotic pets raises ethical and environmental issues. They deplete wild populations and encourage wild animal traders. Many exotic birds, fish and snakes are in a high demand as pets, but the trade of many species is banned in Australia, as they may harbour diseases such as rabies, skin diseases, or even bird flu. Some exotic pets are allowed, but you’ll need a permit, so check www.environment.gov.au for information before setting your heart on a particular species. It’s also important to have a licence if you want to keep Australian native animals, as they require unique care, but these rules vary from state to state.

If you want an unusual pet, we suggest getting chooks or ducks instead – with proper care, they can live comfortably in urban backyards, and they’ll turn your kitchen scraps into eggs! Goats and rabbits will also happily consume your vegie scraps and make droppings rich in nitrogen and phosphorus that are perfect for adding to compost.

3. A tight leash
Unleashed pets wreak havoc on our ecosystems – degrading waterways and killing wild animals. Domestic cats alone are thought to kill 3.8 million native Australian animals each year, so always have a bell on your cat just in case it gets out of the house when you’re not around. And if you let Fluffy out at night thinking she won’t hunt, think again. Researchers from the University of Georgia tracked 55 cats with specially fitted kitty cams for seven to 10 days over a year and discovered almost half were hunters, and 28 per cent ate their prey.

4. Scoop the poop
While on your walkies with Fido, be sure to pick up your poo so it doesn’t end up in sewers where it can pollute the water in our rivers, streams and beaches – any repurposed paper or a biodegradable cornstarch bag will do.

You might perhaps like to invest in a pet poo composter to dispose of you’re pet’s droppings thoughtfully. Worms can digest your pet’s manure and turn it into rich organic castings for your ornamental gardens. For your feline or pet mice, invest in eco-friendly kitty litter that can be mulched into your garden beds. Just be careful not to use the compost on edible gardens, as all animal waste should be considered to harbour pathogens and parasites. Regular readers of Green Lifestyle magazine would have seen a profile of Poo Power! based in Melbourne, who harness methane from dog poo to power the park’s lights – check out www.poopower.com.au for more info.

5. DIY or recycled pet products
Recycled blankets, old electric blankets (with cords removed) and discarded jumpers make warm cosy bedding. Make pet toys using knotted rope or thick fabric scraps tied together. Try recycled cardboard boxes for cat cubbies, and recycled PVC pipe for play tunnels. Rotate your pet’s toys so they don’t get bored, you’ll need fewer play toys and save on packaging.

If you are very crafty, you can even recycle your pooch’s fur and whip up a guaranteed one-of-a kind jumper or scarf. The book Knitting with Dog Hair by Kendall Crolius and Anne Black Montgomery has some unique ideas to recycle pet’s fur.

And if Fido simply must have designer duds, try making your own with a bit of recycled bling, ribbons and a top or jumper. Retro is cool!

6. Beware of green washing
Using locally made products that reduce carbon miles is just as important for your pet as it is for you. As we’re sure our readers already do wherever possible, try to source eco-friendly products by looking for dependable labels – and watch out for green washing. Look beyond the words like earth-friendly or icons with ‘green’ looking emblems or logos. Are the eco claims of a product clear and free from unrelated hype? Check the product is third party certified to ISO (International Standards Organisation) standards, or another reputable group such as Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA, www.geca.org.au). GECA-certified pet products include Herbon pet shampoo (www.herbon.com.au) and Healtheclean Odour and Stain Eliminator
(www.healtheclean.com.au).

7. Veto luxury pet products
With more luxury pet boutiques and products on the market than you could poke a carefully manicured paw at, pampered pets are spoilt for choice. There are puppy and feline designer coats, hair clips and ribbons with diamantés, plush multi-tiered pet houses, and even robotic toys that toss a ball if you are too lazy to. Ask yourself: Does my pet really need this? And for the rest, why not get creative, and make your own?

All-natural lifestyles
Buy pet food in bulk or make your own. Animal naturopath Susan Scott says the ideal pet diet replicates the foods they would have eaten in the wild. “They wouldn’t have eaten crunchy biscuits in a packet,” she says. “For dogs I’d recommend pulped fresh raw seasonal vegetables and raw meat, and for cats – raw white meat.”

When it comes to bath time, source organic pet shampoos that are paraben and sulphate free. To keep pests away, avoid chemical-laden cleaning products; instead use pennyroyal oil for fleas, chamomile as a tick repellent, and keep their coat and skin in good condition with rosemary (for each – just a couple of drops of oil in a litre of water). Electronic tick and flea repellers are another option. Try the LED-powered myFleaTrap (www.natrapest.com.au), which can safely clear a room from fleas overnight; because it’s so effective, you’ll only need to use it occasionally, so we recommend you then list the myFleaTrap on Open Shed (www.openshed.com.au) so that your friends and neighbours can reap the benefits of the machine – and you’ll earn a penny or two in the process.

8. Take care
Dr Joy Becker, a lecturer in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, says it’s important not to abandon unwanted pets to the wild – particularly when it comes to fish. “Australia imports an estimated 18 million ornamental fish each year, and some of those pose a disease threat to domestic fish stocks in aquariums, fish farms and even to wild fish,” Becker says. “A major issue of concern is that people liberate their fish into local waterways, including rivers, dams and fountains in public areas, or they flush live fish down the toilet and are doing that in places where our wild fish stocks are at risk… fish can survive being flushed, which is one reason we have feral populations of goldfish in many temperate parts of Australia and feral gourami in the northern more tropical waterways in Queensland.”

9. Quick Ways to reduce your pet's impact
Harness paw power. Walk your dog to the park (using a hemp lead) instead of taking the car for a spin.
Low-imact entertainment. If you have to leave your pets home alone during the day, leave some homemade toys, a chew toy with treats hidden inside, or a big juicy bone. If your pet misses human voices, try a solar-powered radio – or ask a neighbour to keep it company.

10.Offset the paw prints. Purchase carbon credits for you and your companion. For more info, check out: www.climatechange.gov.au/climate-change/going-carbon-neutral