Q. How do I reduce my pet’s carbon footprint?


A. Most pets spend their days focused on three main events — food time, poop time and playtime. If only life could be so easy for their owners. Fortunately, there are easy options that will help reduce their mark on Mother Nature. Make just one of these changes, and your pet's paw print will be a bit smaller.

Get the good stuff: Invest in a high-quality pet food that lists a protein such as beef, lamb, chicken or fish as the first ingredient rather than a by-product or beef meal. This one change can make a major impact on your pet’s health while reducing the amount of poop left to scoop.

Keep it simple: Avoid all those packaged, heavily processed treats designed to resemble human junk food. Trust me, your dog can live without corn-based “treats” shaped like mini porterhouse steaks.

Recycle: Those cans and plastic food bags don’t need to wind up in a landfill. Start by shopping for products with minimal packaging, and then recycle whenever possible.

Go green: Most pets enjoy the addition of fruits and veggies in their food bowl. I’ve had success with arugula, roasted sweet potatoes and baked carrots mixed in with my dog’s food. Be prepared for a little trial and error — Lulu detests bananas while a friend’s dog loves them — and consult your veterinarian before making major changes to your pet’s diet.

Ditch the plastic: Stainless steel or ceramic food and water bowls remove the risk of exposing your pet to bisphenol-a or BPAs. They also last a lot longer.

Get the 'green' poop bags: Eliminate plastic grocery bags and shop for corn-based, biodegradable poop bags. A pack of 100 bags from Poopbags.com costs around $20.

Dump the clump: Under the best of circumstances, cats can be somewhat resistant to change. So start sloooowly by adding shredded newspaper or wood chips to the kitty litter mix in place of clay-based clumping stuff that winds up festering in a landfill.

Embrace hemp: Who knew that hemp could produce durable, eco-friendly pet products? Scope out your pet store and you will probably find rope toys and stuffed animals from brands like Earthdog and Simply Fido that will appeal to the toughest chewers. Petside offers a roundup of the Top 10 Green Pet Toys for cats and dogs.

Shop with purpose: Pet toys don't undergo rigorous testing, so those super-cheap squeaky toys overflowing in the dollar bin come with a wealth of unknown risks. But "green" pet lovers have created a demand for products made from renewable resources and recycled products. Companies like Planet Dog responded with an "Orbee-Tuff" line of balls and chew toys made with nontoxic material. West Paw is another popular brand of cat and dog products made with recycled plastic bottles. The company also supports national animal shelters, so purchasing their products is like making a deposit into the karma bank for you and your lucky dog or cat.

Get crafty: You can make your own catnip, but remember that finicky felines may require patience and creativity. If you are a cat lover, you already know that.

Your pets may never realize the impact these changes are making, but Mother Nature will smile like a Cheshire cat.
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Also on MNN: 

• More green advice for pet lovers

Photo: Etolane/Flickr

How do I reduce my pet's carbon footprint?
How can I make my pets more environmentally friendly? Buy green products and high-quality food, for starters.