Go Green: Cats, Dogs & Other Friends

Almost 40% of U.S. households include at least one dog or cat, and many others have birds, hamsters, snakes and more. When you add up the food, accessories, and waste involved in pet care that makes for a big carbon paw-print.  Pet owners can make a big difference in Union County by trying some of our favorite green tips. Choose the ones that work best for your household. Some may surprise you!



In wet weather, uncollected dog waste gets into our soil and waterways, and it has been identified as a significant source of water contamination. In dry weather, it forms dust that gets into our lungs.


Even if your dog is curb-trained, always bag the waste and dispose of it in a trash can. When in public parks, leash your dog, bag its waste and dispose in trash.



Pet grooming products can contain unnecessary dyes and perfumes. When flushed down drains, these can introduce chemicals into our waterways.


Eco-safe products are now available online and at major pet stores. If you use professional groomers, ask about their use of products that contain no harsh chemicals.

Eco-safe products generally use plant-based ingredients that biodegrade safely in the environment, rather than petroleum-based ingredients and other toxic chemicals. They are safer for the environment, and for your pet. Look for products that clearly list their ingredients on their labels.


Unused pet medications should never be flushed down drains. They should be disposed in household trash, tightly sealed in their original containers. If necessary, they should also be adulterated to prevent unauthorized use. More information is available here.



Cleaning up after pets with conventional household cleaners can introduce more toxic chemicals into your home.



Use eco-safe cleaning products that are mainly plant-based instead of containing petroleum products and other toxic chemicals. They are safer for the environment when flushed down drains, and they help keep the air inside your home more healthful.



Eco-safe cleaning products are available at pet stores and other major stores, and online. They include odor busters, spot removers, dishwasher soap, laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, and general purpose cleansers.




De-icers and yard care products that contain harsh chemicals can make your pet sick.


Avoid products that contain petroleum-based ingredients and other toxic chemicals that can harm children, pets, and the environment.


For your lawn and yard, spot-treat weeds instead of spraying whole areas, ask your local garden shop about eco-safe ways to keep weeds and pests at bay, or consider replacing part of your lawn with low-maintenance shrubs and other hardy plants that require little or no pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer.


“Pet-friendly” de-icers are safer for the environment, and they help keep your pet’s feet away from toxic chemicals. Ask about them at major pet stores and hardware stores.



Pet care can add a significant amount of cans, bags, and other waste to your household garbage.



Include your pet in all household recycling:


• Tin pet food cans

• Plastic containers

• Paper food bags or boxes (include them in your mixed paper recycling – mixed paper means “anything that rips.”

• Paper litter bags.

• Paper packaging for toys and accessories (remove any plastic panels first).

For more information about recycling in your municipality, contact your local recycling coordinator.

Litter, bird seed, and other bulk products often come in non-recyclable plastic bags. Instead of throwing these bags away, put them to one last use as trash can liners or use them to dispose of pet waste.



Disposing of pet waste needlessly adds more plastic bags to our landfills and incinerators.


Instead of buying new “poo” bags made of plastic, ask your pet store about biodegradable alternatives.


Another good alternative is to save non-recyclable plastic bags such as the inner lining of boxed cereals. Before you throw them away, put them to one good use as “poo” bags. You can also use empty snack or frozen food bags, or empty plastic bags from bulk pet food or litter products.


Avoid using clean, dry plastic shopping bags for pet waste, because they can be recycled. Many supermarkets now collect them for their customers. Saving and re-using non-recyclable bags for pet waste is the greener way to go.


Burying pet waste is one alternative, but this may not be an appropriate choice in urbanized regions like Union County. If you are considering that option, first check with your municipal health officer, and follow their guidance to avoid contaminating waterways or vegetable gardens. Special “doggy loo” composters are available online and at major pet stores. For more information, visit the U.S. EPA (pdf).




Conventional litter is made from clay that is mined from the earth, which can cause permanent environmental damage. It may also be dusted with silica, which can harm your pet’s lungs, or use clumping agents that contain harsh chemicals.


Try an alternative litter made of recycled paper, sustainably harvested pine, or other biodegradable materials. They can be found at any major store and online. Look for packaging that clearly describes the environmental benefits of the product it contains.


To ensure a smooth transition to new litter, mix it gradually with the previous litter.



Stray cats and dogs kill valuable wildlife, and their uncollected feces get into our soil, water, and air.


Spay or neuter your pets. Even if you plan to keep them indoors, a pet can slip out and reproduce in a matter of hours.



Domestic cats kill millions of birds every year, and unleashed dogs can disrupt nests and breeding grounds.

Bell your cat, and leash your dog in public parks.