Question: I just got a new dog from the shelter and I have to stock up on supplies. I can't afford to buy all organic, but I would like to get the best I can where I can. What types of products should I consider when I get new stuff for my pet?
Start with the fun stuff: Toys! Don't spend a fortune on plush new chew toys your dogs will likely demolish. Shop yard sales and thrift stores for used rubber dolls, balls and stuffed animals that pooch will enjoy just as much as if they were brand new. When you do buy new, choose toys like those from West Paw's Zogoflex line that are tough, pliable, non-toxic and designed to be recyclable. An added bonus: They're dishwasher safe.
Also, check out West Paw's inexpensive Eco Bones, which are made of 85 percent re-engineered recycled IntelliLoft fibers. They'll offer Fido a strong, squeaky and eco-friendly way to exercise his jaws, while saving you money on the real bones you might otherwise buy every week.
Hemp is a natural fiber that has been grown for the last 12,000 years in a variety of climates and soils, without pesticides and herbicides.
Hemp Collars and Leashes: Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent, and more mildew-resistant than cotton; they're hypoallergenic, 100% bio-degradable, odor resistant, and anti-bacterial, too. Earthdog offers a variety of hemp collars and leashes. Planet Dog's hemp collar is adjustable, and its cozy leash comes with a fleece-lined handle.
The Good Dog Company Hemp Canvas Collars also come in a variety of colors, styles and sizes.
Eco-Friendly and Comfortable Dog Beds: Dogs sleep at least 12 hours a day, so ensure they have the best bed possible. Beds made from natural materials such as recycled cotton, feathers, wool or kapok fiber offer a healthy alternative to the synthetics found in many conventional pooch pads. West Paw Design utilizes eco-friendly materials such as reclaimed cotton, organic cotton, eco stuffing and recycled fabric that can be used again and again without falling apart.
Big Shrimpy Planet-Friendly Beds are stuffed with Smartfill, a 100% pre-consumer recycled polyester fiber. The zip-off bed cover and the fill can be washed and dried in your machines at home.
Of course, all this is for naught if you don't keep your home healthy. Pets are just as susceptible to indoor air pollution as people — and maybe more so, since they spend so much time on the ground, where they can inhale fumes from floor cleaners and pick up dirt that's tracked in from outside. Use nontoxic cleansers on carpeting and furniture; both you and your pet will benefit.
Finally, don't despair over the two banes of any dog owner's existence: Fleas and poop. These suggestions for natural flea treatments and biodegradable poop bags will help you make your best four-footed friend Mother Nature's friend, too.
What tips do you have for greener pet care? Share your tips in the comments below!
Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.