4 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner

4 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner

Getty Images Author: Andrea Karr


4 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner

Lower your pet's carbon paw print and maintain a healthy home with these tips from author Darcy Matheson.

You may recycle, eat organic vegetables and bike to work, but have you ever considered that your pet’s lifestyle could be damaging the planet? Or that your everyday household cleaners and grooming products could be harmful to your beloved furry friends? Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care (Self-Counsel Press), has four ways you can ensure your home is safe and green when it comes to your pets. 

Greening Your Pet Care book cover
Greening Your Pet Care by Darcy Matheson (Self-Counsel Press), $15,

1. Use pet-friendly household cleaners 
Not only can traditional household cleaners be harmful to your own health, but they can damage your pets as well. “Our pets live their lives on the floor,” says Matheson. “If you mop and leave residue, it becomes an ingestion risk because a lot of pets lick their paws” or eat food off the ground. Even the vapours left behind can cause skin and eye irritation. Beware of traditional drain and toilet-bowl cleaners, dishwashing and laundry pods, and any products that contain acids, bleach, ammonia, glycol ethers or pine oil, as these can have harmful side effects. 

To avoid these hazards, look for non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaners or make them at home with ingredients from your pantry. Try these recipes by Crystal Brisson, owner of Absolutely Clean Personalized Housekeeping Services: 

General household cleaner: Use on counters, tables and chairs and in the bathroom—but not on windows and mirrors. 

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup hot tap water
2 tsp of baking soda
2 drops of dishwashing liquid

Instructions: Mix together the vinegar and water. Add the baking soda. This will fizz so add the soda slowly. Add the dishwashing liquid. Shake. 

Carpet deodorizer: Use to refresh your carpets and neutralize pet odours. 

1 or 2 cups of baking soda
Several drops of lavender oil

Instructions: Mix well and sprinkle on your carpet. Allow it to sit for an hour and then vacuum. 

2. Clean your grooming routine 
Read the labels of your dog’s grooming products for ingredients that can cause skin irritation (redness, flaking and itchiness) or be harmful to fish and wildlife when washed down the drain. Matheson’s list of worst offenders includes BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), DEA (diethanolamine), SLS (sodium laureth) or SLES (sodium lauryl ether sulfate) and synthetic colours and fragrances. 

Search for shampoos and conditioners that are biodegradable, free of parabens and synthetic fragrances and use organic ingredients. 

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3. Change up your pet toys 
When possible, choose toys made from natural materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, canvas, natural rubber, untreated wood or bark and wicker. Alternately, try toys made from recycled plastic or other recycled goods. 

When purchasing plastic toys, be sure to do a sniff test. If the item smells like a new car or seems kind of stinky, it could contain PVC, phthalates or VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can be damaging to human and pet health. “Basically, my message is: If it stinks, leave it in the store,” Matheson says. 

When it comes to edible chew toys, Matheson suggests opting for naturally shed antlers or raw cow bones from the butcher instead of rawhides. “Rawhide chews are among the most popular dog chews in Canada because they’re a cheap way to keep your dog busy,” says Matheson. “But arsenic and formaldehyde are sometimes sprayed on rawhide when it’s removed from the animals, which means your dog is chewing on these chemicals.” 

4. Use biodegradable poop bags 
If you’re going to make only one change, this one is probably the easiest, says Matheson. Look for eco-friendly bags that are made from renewable plant-based materials, such as vegetable starches, instead of plastic. They should also have a cardboard core and only contain natural fragrances, such as lavender. These bags are biodegradable, which means you will likely divert 730 bags per dog from the landfill each year. 

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4 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner