7 ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly pet owner

February 28, 2019 by  
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Whether we realize it or not, every choice we make for our furry friends has the potential to impact the environment. While the biggest challenge that eco-friendly pet owners face is the balance between the needs of our animals and the needs of the environment, keeping our pets healthy and happy should always come first. After all, they’re part of the family. If you’re trying to stick to sustainable living, you don’t have to stop with your own footprint — keep your pet’s environmental paw print in mind as well. Adopt, don’t shop Seven million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States, because there is no room for them in shelters. Even more alarming, there are 70 million stray animals living in the U.S. without regular food or shelter. Choosing to adopt a pet already in need of a good home rather than one from a breeder is not only more economically friendly; it also means that there is one less animal out there trying to make it on the streets. When you’re adopting from a shelter, you’re saving a life. Invest in sustainable pet food If buying sustainable pet food doesn’t appeal to you, make your own! Though time-consuming and somewhat controversial , raw diets are a huge fad right now (and they cut down on processed ingredients). You can even make your own dog treats so you know exactly what is going into their bodies. Related: Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet? Just remember: your pet’s health comes first. Raw diets and homemade treats may not be what’s best for them, so make sure to consult your veterinarian before making a big change in your pet’s diet. Your vet may even be able to suggest some healthy, natural alternatives when it comes to packaged food brands. If you do choose to buy prepared or canned food for your pet, buy in bulk and make sure the packaging is recyclable. Limit plastic toys, or choose toys made of recyclable materials Especially if you have a particularly rambunctious pet who likes to chew and destroy, plastic pet toys can end up in the garbage or landfills where they’ll never decompose. Opt instead for toys made from recyclable materials or natural fibers. There are plenty of companies passionate about eco-friendly pet toys, like West Paw , which uses durable, non-toxic, recyclable plastic, and Harry Barker , which uses earth-friendly fabric like hemp and certified recycled materials. Use non-toxic pet shampoo Feel better about your pet’s least-favorite activity by using organic and natural shampoo during their baths. Make sure it is non-toxic and free of dyes and parabens — it’s not only better for your pet’s skin and hair, but it also it ensures that no excess chemicals end up going down the drain and into the environment. Do your research or ask your vet first, because many companies advertise their products as “all-natural” when they’re really not . Clean up waste properly You may think that leaving Fido’s waste behind after he goes to the bathroom is completely natural, but studies show it may be harmful to the environment if it leaks contaminants into the water supply. When it comes to cat litter, some brands use toxic ingredients or silica dust that can be harmful to humans and animals. Luckily, there are greener options out there. Purina has a kitty litter made from old newspapers, and Cedarific uses soft cedar wood chips that are eco-friendly and smell great. For animals that do their business outside, choose a bag made from plant-based materials that will actually decompose , and throw it away. Take more walks You probably already know that nothing makes your dog happier than a good walk. It’s also a great excuse to skip the carbon emissions from the car and walk your pup to the store instead. Even cats and other indoor pets could use some outside time once in a while, so get out there are enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Spay and neuter This one might seem obvious, but getting your animals spayed or neutered is one of the best gifts you can give to the environment. You never know what kind of mischief your pet might get into, and making sure that there aren’t any resulting baby animals ending up in a shelter or using up environmental resources is important. It will help control the pet homelessness epidemic and gives your animal a better chance of not catching diseases like testicular cancer, prostate issues, uterus infections and malignant breast tumors. ASPCA has an online service that finds low-cost or free spay-neuter programs in your area, so you can still be a responsible pet owner even on a budget. Images via Jowanna Daley , Luisella Planeta Leoni ,  Aqua Mechanical , Julita  and Shutterstock

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7 ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly pet owner

NYCs plant-filled Greenery Unlimited is worlds first Biophilic Design Store

February 28, 2019 by  
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An enormous green wall and a 12-foot ficus tree await visitors at Greenery Unlimited , a newly opened retail store that’s been billed by Greenery NYC owners Rebecca Bullene and Adam Besheer as the “world’s first Biophilic Design Store.” Located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn , Greenery Unlimited is the first brick-and-mortar location for the botanic design and installation company, which has a thriving online presence and an impressive client list ranging from the likes of TED Talks and Google to The New York Times and Netflix. The retail store will sell plants as well as more complex green installations aimed at improving human wellness indoors. Created as “an evolution of the traditional plant store,” Greenery Unlimited will sell plants in addition to growing systems such as grow lighting, irrigation systems, specialty vessels and tools. With a decade’s worth of experience installing large-scale botanic installations around the city, Bullene and Besheer have learned the best practices for plant cultivation and long-term management and have seen first-hand the restorative effect that indoor plants have on improving human health and comfort, a practice that Bullene and Besheer call “ biophilic design.” “As long time residents of New York, we know that the only way to deal with the chaos of the city is to make your home into a sanctuary,” Adam Besheer explained in a press release. “Plants are an unmatched aid to calm and relaxation, but there’s an inherent stress in trying to keep them alive in the suboptimal conditions of a New York City apartment. We want to provide New Yorkers with the tools and knowledge not only to keep plants alive, but to fully integrate them as part of their home environment.” Related: A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace Greenery Unlimited will serve as a showcase for green installations and biophilic design concepts, such as a 120-square-foot green wall behind the reception desk and a central seating area integrated with a self-contained irrigation and fertilization system supporting a 12-foot-tall ficus tree. The indoor environment will mimic an outdoor setting with a cloud forest-like atmosphere using a pressurized misting hub and circadian lighting displays. + Greenery Unlimited Images via Greenery Unlimited

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Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine

February 28, 2019 by  
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Researchers have discovered Glyphosate — an ingredient found in some weedkillers — in name brand wines and beers . Scientists from U.S. PIRG tested 20 different alcoholic brands and found the troubling ingredient in 19 of the labels. Currently, a federal judge is examining the correlation between glyphosate and cancer, as trial has begun against Monsanto, the company behind the popular weedkiller , Roundup, for allegedly causing the plantiff’s cancer. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers The director of U.S. PIRG, Kara Cook-Schultz, believes this is the perfect time to look at glyphosate and warn people that it is more widely spread than most suspect. “This chemical could prove a true risk to so many Americans’ health, and they should know that it is everywhere – including in many of their favorite drinks,” Cook-Schultz explained. Sutter Home Merlot had the most glyphosate with 51.4 parts per billion (ppb). But many of the wines and beers on the list were well above 25 ppb, including Beringer Moscato, Barefoot Sauvignon, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Budweiser and Corona. The only drink that did not test positive for glyphosate was an organic IPA from Peak Beer. These numbers, while troubling, are below what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) considers the safety threshold. William Reeves, a toxicologist employed by Bayer, noted that the numbers are 100 times less than the recommended maximum exposure limit. For reference, a person would have to consume an entire bottle of Sutter Home Merlot wine every minute for their entire life just to reach the upper limits of what is considered safe. That said, even trace amounts of glyphosate could have negative health benefits. In the study from U.S. PIRG, the group found that tiny amounts of glyphosate, on the order of 1 part per trillion, could cause cancer cells to grow in breast tissue. The active ingredient also wreaks havoc on the endocrine system, though at what levels is still uncertain. It should be noted that the EPA does not consider glyphosate to be a cancer causing agent in humans, though the World Health Organization did label it as possibly carcinogenic four years ago. Via Eco Watch Image via Shutterstock

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Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet?

December 20, 2018 by  
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Does your pup hover at your feet when the smell of bacon or steak wafts in his direction? It’s no surprise, considering the ingredients dogs are used to receiving and the evolution of the species. Every bag of food at the pet store promotes meat as its main ingredient. From chicken to lamb to bison, meat reigns supreme in the pet food world. Now it is coming to light that maybe it would benefit the planet and our pets if we moved to vegan food to fulfill their dietary needs. But is a plant-based diet both good for your pup and our Earth? Many companies are jumping into the plant-based pet food market. Celebrities are shining a light on the irony of providing shelter for animals and then feeding them animal-based foods. More and more people are beginning to question whether feeding meat-based foods is an unnecessary form of animal cannibalism. Does it make sense to rescue animals like rabbits in one effort and then raise them for slaughter in another? Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets A potential issue with meat-based pet food is the consumption of meat in a world already stressed by the burdens that cattle and other livestock industries contribute to the planet. When you consider that animals drink water and also consume foods that require water to grow, the effects are staggering, and it explains why many vegans have chosen a meat-free diet. In addition to gouging water resources, animal production requires massive amounts of land. Opponents of the meat industry argue that all forms of fruits and vegetables produce more consumable food per acre and use significantly fewer resources. Some estimates report that eliminating meat from the pet food market could reduce the environmental impact by over 25 percent. Of course, there is also the ethical component in the mix. Ask any PETA member and they will scream out that raising animals entirely for the purpose of butcher is inhumane. Plus, there are well-documented issues about how these animals are treated during their short life cycles with little room to move, limited access to the outdoors and an inability to follow their instincts. Related: This sustainable dog house has a green roof and solar-powered fan to keep cool Many animals are already vegan . Think cows, hamsters and elephants, for starters. So we know that humans and some animals can survive without meat. But does that apply to our domestic friends, too? The question has been asked, “Is it healthy for animals to go vegan?” This is where science and veterinarians weigh in. In short, the answer is yes, cats and dogs can be perfectly healthy eating a vegan diet. Like humans, the key is acquiring the right nutritional balance. We associate meat with protein , but vegetables can fill that requirement just as well in many ways. There are exceptions, however. For example, some vets argue that cats and dogs do not absorb vitamin D from the sun and need to get it from their food. Specifically, dogs and humans can absorb D2 from foods, but cats need D3, only available in animal proteins. An inadequately balanced diet can result in a deficiency of minerals, nutrients, vitamins, amino proteins (especially taurine) and essential fatty acids. A shortage of these dietary needs can lead to irreversible medical issues. As the premium pet food market explodes, manufacturers are finding ways to make sure that food meets the nutritional needs of our pets. That means that many products spend time in a lab before being added to food. This food technology is not new. Scientists have worked toward meat substitutes in our food markets for many years. The advantage of transferring this technology over to animal products is that the consumer is a whole lot less picky. Where humans require a smell and texture similar to the meat variety, pets don’t care about tactile pleasure. That means that pet food produced with the help of a lab is faster and less expensive to make. It also means that scientists can carefully balance the nutrients in the food, even if the ingredients don’t provide them upfront. The bottom line is that pets need specific nutrients, regardless of what form they come in. These needs are well-backed by science, so everyone can agree that if the nutritional profile is being met, then it’s absolutely healthy for your pet to sustain a vegan-based diet. The problem is getting a guarantee that your pet food selection in fact meets those needs. Pet owners should not make the decision lightly. After all, modern day pets are members of the family, and we want to provide them the best care we can. When considering the switch to vegan pet food, there are several things to keep in mind. Make sure the food has been thoroughly tested through trials and has met the requirement outlined by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Discuss the switch with your veterinarian; not only are they trained in animal diets, but they’ve seen the results of a poor diet and can guide you toward the best combination for your pet. Get a preliminary or baseline blood test for your pet, and take them back in for another test after six months. Never feed a vegan diet to puppies or kittens, or any animal that you plan to breed, as these groups have additional nutritional needs. While many see this as an opportunity to significantly reduce the carbon footprint from meat production and offer an alternative to the use of animals in animal food, others maintain the believe that there is no substitute for the real thing. Either way, the market is providing options for consumers on both sides of the aisle. Via Popular Science Images via Ish Ka , Mimzy and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

December 13, 2018 by  
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Our pets are our best friends … our family. That’s why it is important to spoil your animals with eco-friendly gifts that will make them and the planet happy. From chew toys made from sustainable hemp and wool to collars made of recycled plastic, here our some of our favorite holiday gifts for pets. Chew toys Whether your dog likes to snuggle with its chew toys or is a tough chewer who rips everything to shreds, these toys will make Fido the happiest pup on the planet. Each option is handmade in the U.S. from sustainable hemp canvas and eco-felt wool. They are durable enough to withstand extra-tough dogs, and they can also hold up to a washing machine. Pet beds Whether you have cats, dogs or both, all your furry friends will love the Snuggle Bed , a cozy sleeping space that can transform into many bed types to suit your pet’s preferences. This particular bed is OEKO-TEX certified; the company’s pet beds are also made from 100 percent recycled materials . Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family Cat trees Cats love climbing, scratching and — above all else — resting in baskets. Let your cat do all three with this cat tree , which features a carpeted base, a dangling ball for play, a scratch post and a basket-like sphere made from  banana leaf material . Best of all, this tree will fit right in with your home’s beautiful furniture. Aquariums If you keep fish as pets, make their home the best is can be with an eco-friendly aquarium. This specific tank uses fish waste to fertilize herbs growing atop the tank; the plants in turn clean the water for the fish . Related: How to make your own eco-friendly aquarium accessories Collars and leashes Adorn your lovable pets in nature-inspired collars and leashes made from recycled plastic bottles. For added style, this version mimics the “distinctive look and feel of a classic polo shirt,” making your pet cooler and classier than you. Images via  Rhaúl V. Alva , Honest Pet Products , Pet Play , Wayfair , Back to the Roots  and Lupine Pet

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Maryland just banned the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores

April 24, 2018 by  
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Maryland just became the second state in America to ban pet stores from selling puppies and kittens. Animal rights advocates say the move will help cut demand for animals from puppy mills . The bill, HB 1662 , also encourages pet stores to work with rescue groups and animal shelters to promote the adoption of homeless animals, according to The Humane Society . Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan signed the legislation into law with bipartisan support. The state already has regulations in place requiring stores to reveal breeder information, and stores cannot use breeders that the United States Department of Agriculture has cited in the last two years. But delegate Benjamin Kramer, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, told The Washington Post the regulations aren’t enough to protect animals. Related: California bans puppy mills and requires all pet stores to sell rescue animals Pet store owners fought against the law, hoping Hogan would veto it. Just Puppies co-owner Jeanea Thomson said her store doesn’t want animals from puppy mills, and that she and her husband visit their breeders, most in Iowa and Missouri, to vouch for conditions. But Kramer said the farms that store owners describe are abominations, telling The Washington Post, “There is not a single one that is this righteous, beautiful, loving, caring facility where there is room for puppies to roam and for breeding dogs to play.” Humane Society Maryland state director Emily Hovermale described the ban as a lifesaving measure that would close the state’s pet store market to puppy mills. She said, “Maryland has set an important precedent with this rejection of animal abuse that other states will surely follow.” Emily McCobb, a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, said a ban could result in a dog shortage, and people might not be sure where to go to get a pet. “There’s a lot of messaging around ‘adopt, don’t shop,’” she said. “But we haven’t done a good job of messaging about how to find responsible breeders.” The law will fully go into effect in 2020. It follows a bill passed in California last year that requires all pet stores to sell rescue animals. + The Humane Society Via The Washington Post Images via Depositphotos and Lydia Torrey on Unsplash

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Maryland just banned the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores

Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs create their own exclusion zone community

February 6, 2018 by  
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If you ever happen to visit Chernobyl , you might run across one of the around 300 stray dogs that reside there. After the 1986 disaster, residents weren’t allowed to bring their pets away with them, and many dogs were left behind. Today, their descendants still roam the area, and while their life isn’t easy, The Guardian reports they are “a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.” Around 300 stray dogs reside in the 2,600 square kilometer – or around 1,004 square mile – exclusion zone at Chernobyl in Ukraine . The Chernobyl Prayer, an oral history of the time, talks about “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.” Soldiers went in to shoot the abandoned animals ; The Guardian reports some heartbroken families pinned notes on their doors asking the squads not to kill their pets. Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl Some dogs did survive, and it’s their descendants who live there today. Their lives are short and hard – with “increased levels of radiation in their fur” and a diminished life expectancy. Many of the animals don’t live past six years old, according to The Guardian. But here’s where the hope comes in: guards have created small huts for dogs residing near checkpoints. United States nonprofit organization Clean Futures Fund put up three veterinary clinics nearby – one is inside the plant. They’re vaccinating and neutering the dogs, and handle emergencies. You can read more about their work and donate here . Chernobyl tour company Solo East Travel guide Nadezhda Starodub told The Guardian visitors love the animals, and she does, too. There are no rules against touching them, and she just asks visitors to use the same common sense they would around strays. The dogs have come to serve as unofficial Chernobyl mascots. Via The Guardian Images courtesy of Solo East Travel

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Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs create their own exclusion zone community

An enormous amount of mercury is buried beneath the melting Arctic permafrost

February 6, 2018 by  
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Scientists have learned that a massive amount of mercury is currently encased within the Arctic permafrost — which could have significant ramifications for ecological and human health beyond the far North. “This discovery is a game-changer,” Paul Schuster, study lead author and hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder  told AGU . “We’ve quantified a pool of mercury that had not been done previously, and the results have profound implications for better understanding the global mercury cycle.” Of particular concern is the permafrost -enclosed mercury’s relationship to a warming climate. Schuster said, “There would be no environmental problem if everything remained frozen, but we know the Earth is getting warmer.” In a study published in  Geophysical Research Letters , a journal of the American Geophysical Union , scientists recorded mercury concentrations within permafrost cores in Alaska and extrapolated how much of it is estimated to have been trapped in northern permafrost since the last Ice Age. The researchers found that permafrost soils of the north contain the largest store of mercury on the planet, nearly twice as much as all other soils, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined. The mercury originally became trapped within the permafrost when atmospheric mercury bonded to organic material in the soil, then became frozen, stuck until melting. Related: Scientists puzzle over mysterious disappearance of mercury from Utah’s Great Salt Lake The release of large quantities of the element, which can negatively impact the reproductive and neurological health of animals , becomes more likely as the permafrost thaws. One concern is that it could contaminate waterways, where it could be absorbed by microorganisms and converted into methylmercury, a dangerously toxic form. While such a massive surge of mercury could affect ecosystems far south of the Arctic, its effects would be felt acutely by local communities. “Rural communities in Alaska and other northern areas have a subsistence lifestyle, making them vulnerable to methylmercury contaminating their food supply,” Edda Mutter, science director for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, told AGU . “Food sources are important to the spiritual and cultural health of the natives, so this study has major health and economic implications for this region of the world.” To better understand the risks, the research team plans to produce another study that models the potential impact of the mercury’s release on the global mercury cycle and ecological health. Via AGU Images via  Schuster et al./GRL/AGU and Depositphotos

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An enormous amount of mercury is buried beneath the melting Arctic permafrost

IKEA is offering furniture for pets – and it’s adorable

October 10, 2017 by  
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It’s here – the modern, inexpensive pet furniture of your dreams. IKEA is now selling furniture and accessories for dogs and cats , and they’re just as well-designed and affordable as the company’s furniture for humans. From a cute cat house to a cozy dog bed, you’ll drool over the Swedish giant’s pet collection . Pets are members of the family to many people, and IKEA said they were inspired by that sentiment to create the LURVIG – Swedish for ‘hairy’ – line of pet furniture. They got a little input from veterinarians to design their pet collection “so you and your pet can enjoy your home together.” LURVIG “covers all the bases of our shared life with pets indoors and out.” Related: Light-filled home for book lovers and their cute cats is built of recycled materials Pets can snuggle in on IKEA’s $49.99 pet bed , which looks like a mini couch for a cat or dog. There’s a $19.99 pet blanket , to minimize fur on the couch or car seat. The most expensive item in the new collection is a $54.98 cat house on legs that comes with a pad inside. A cheaper $5.99 cat house can even be incorporated with human furniture – it fits inside the open squares of a KALLAX shelf unit. There are also several inexpensive accessories that would be ideal for someone getting their first pet, including food and water bowls ranging from $0.79 to $4.99 and a $7.99 water dispenser. There’s a $4.99 litter tray, and $3.99 brush. IKEA is also offering several different dog leashes, with reflective, retractable, and anti-shock options – and even a cat leash if you have aspirations of grandeur. An IKEA spokesperson told Mashable the LURVIG collection had its pilot launch the beginning of October in five countries: the United States, Canada, France, Japan, and Portugal. You can check out the entire collection here . + IKEA Pets Via Mashable Images via IKEA

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Biodegradable PawPods: a better way to bury your pet

June 26, 2017 by  
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Burying a beloved pet is never easy. But PawPods offers a thoughtful, biodegradable option for burying deceased animals with their bamboo and rice husk pods. Similar to eco burials for humans, PawPods allow pets to return to the earth with dignity. PawPods CEO Ben Riggan had a terrible experience after he had to put down a cherished dog. His pet was given back to him in what he called a glorified plastic bag, and Riggan said the experience bothered him and he couldn’t let go of it. He was determined to create an alternative so others wouldn’t have to experience what he did. On his website he said, “I decided to create a company to provide a better way for pets to come home, whether they will be buried or cremated.” Related: Space Burial Service Will Launch Your Pet’s Remains into Outer Space The result was PawPods. These pet caskets are made of bamboo powder, corn starch, and rice husks, and will fully break down in three to five years. They’re sturdy – Riggan said he didn’t want to offer flimsy paper caskets like others on the market. PawPods are also designed to be painted and decorated so families can grieve through art, and have a therapeutic experience as they say goodbye. PawPods offers several different sizes, from a $9.99 fish pod to a $149.99 large pod designed for medium dogs or large cats . The products have a seeded wildflower leaf on them so a pet grave can be adorned with color in the spring. They also come with a sympathy card. The company also offers two $39.99 urns – a heart-shaped one and traditional one. The urns are designed to hold ashes and will biodegrade as the pods do or can be displayed. These come with a seeded sympathy card that can be buried in place of an urn if the family wishes. + PawPods Via TreeHugger Images via PawPods Facebook

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