Last week, we talked about six ways we can celebrate Earth Day. In the second part of this two part series, some tips on how to go green with your pet. Some of these tips are directly pet related, and some are more people related. Nevertheless, it helps out all species in the long run!
7. Save water. I admit, I use the sprinkler to water my vegetable garden, but I rarely use a sprinkler for my grass. After all, my lawn has nitrogen-stained yellow spots, thanks to the dog, so I don’t have much pride for grass. If you live in a location where grass wasn't intended to live (e.g., the desert), consider skipping the lawn watering in an attempt to save water. Instead, think about converting your lawn to a rock garden or perennial garden (with local, native plants that have reduced water requirements) instead.
As for water barrels, I’m a huge fan, and have two hooked up to my house. It's amazing how many free gallons of water you get this way with just one good rainstorm! Remember that this water is "dirty" and may contain chemicals from your rooftop and gutters, so only use it on your flower garden, not on your garden veggies. I use recycled water to water my compost bin, too.
Another more neurotic way of saving water: When I'm washing and refilling the water in my pets' huge water bowl, I dump the dirty water into a plant container … saving and reusing every last drop. Alternatively, I dump any "grey water" into my kitchen compost container.
8. Compost and minimize your crap. When I lived in Ithaca, the eco-crunchy, hippy, granola, crunchy college town of Cornell, we had to pay for garbage by the pound. In fact, we could also compost pet feces — in a specific, designated compost pile. Having to pay for trash may not work in the rest of America however, because people might just litter instead, but it was motivation to recycle and compost. It's amazing how much you can reduce your waste by composting. Go on-line and learn how to make a secure compost bin for your yard (chicken wire, and voilà, you're done!). You can also buy them from your local community center.
Any uncooked kitchen waste (aside from dairy or meat) can go into a composter, and it's a great way to fertilize my garden each spring. Stop by your local Starbucks too — they are usually giving away their coffee grounds, which can act as extra "brown" material for your compost.
Composting is really easy once you research it. Remember to alternate green and brown content (e.g., grass clippings or veggies, then coffee grounds, then veggies). Better yet, just stir, add some water, and you're on your way to being eco-crunchy. Keep in mind that you typically cannot compost dog or cat feces for your garden. Most importantly, remember that compost is poisonous to dogs, cats, and wildlife that get into it, so you always want to keep it fenced off appropriately. (Tremorgenic mycotoxins found in the compost result in severe drooling, elevated heart rate, tremors, seizures, and secondary hyperthermia.)
9. Boycott plastic bottles. I'm all for staying hydrated, and I don't drink soda or Gatorade. But instead of buying those small plastic bottles of water (no matter how many times you refill them), I splurged on a one liter BPA-free container to tout around. It's easy to wash and helps minimize all those plastic bottles. Get them as holiday gifts so your plastic wielding friend can go green too. Alternatively, get a Brita pitcher for your office desk or cubicle, so you can minimize having to buy plastic bottles of water at work. If you hike, run, rollerblade, or Frisbee with your dog, make sure to bring a water bottle for him too — it’ll keep him cool and hydrated. This is particularly essential if you and your dog play on the beach; your dog can develop severe salt poisoning from drinking ocean water.
10. Travel light. OK, I admit, I wear the same clothes over and over again when I'm traveling, and I don't care. At the airport last week, I was shocked when a woman had exceeded the baggage weight with both of her huge bags (she was packing for a cruise). Each weighed 54 lbs. I mean, how does one petite lady lug 108 lbs of stuff?
Go light. Pack, and then reduce it by 50 percent. Ask yourself if you really need to lug all that crap. Bring two T-shirts instead of four, and just be extra careful not to get dirty for a few days. I actually support the airline industries in charging people for their bags. After all, with the price of gas going up, it's expensive and environmentally unfriendly to lug it. Reduce your carbon footprint.
11. Be efficient. Ah, as if that wasn't the answer for all of life's problems. When running errands, be efficient. Go with or invite your neighbor to minimize the cars out there. Write a shopping list of things that you can save up and wait on so you're just making one trip instead of 4-5 smaller trips. Make one trip: Fill up on gas, stop by the bank, take your dog to the dog park, and get your groceries — all in one trip — so you're minimizing the amount of gas.
Don't idle your car and don't drive around in circles looking for a parking spot — just grab one, shut off the car, and walk to where you are going. While it sounds small, if we all did this, we'd really reduce the amount of fossil fuels that Americans seem to be obsessed with using.
Turn down your thermostat at night when you're under those covers and snuggle with your pets for body heat instead. I turn my thermostat off when I leave the house, and that's in the middle of winter in Minnesota!
Carpool. Join your local co-operative to refill large bottles of laundry detergent or supplies so you don't have to use a new plastic bottle. Buy in bulk — better to buy one huge container versus ten smaller containers, right?
12. Spay and neuter! Please promote spaying and neutering. Just think about the 8 million pets that are euthanized each year because of pet overpopulation. Think of all that extra crap that someone has to poop scoop each year, and all those extra plastic bags needed in the process. Each extra animal contributes a small amount towards a cute, little carbon footprint.
I'll get off my "Go Green" soapbox now, but remember, all these things that we attempt to do can make a difference … for the air that we breathe and, more importantly, for the air that our pets breathe.
Dr. Justine Lee