Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Wise choices make your home healthier for you and your dog
Try this: Select a spot in your home and lie down on the floor. Is it the kitchen? Give the floor a little lick. Or the living room? Put your nose on the carpet and take a really deep breath. Then, wander into the bathroom and check out the porcelain “drinking fountain.” Okay, stop the experiment. You get the idea: this is your home from your dog’s point of view. You generally experience your surroundings from a five- or six-foot elevation, but your dog is much closer—and much more inclined to sample her surroundings.
While there isn’t one set definition for “green” or “eco” buildings, there are important general concepts to bear in mind: Energy efficiency, size (it matters), sustainability, use of recycled materials and low impact. Considering that the average US household is responsible for twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average car, energy efficiency tops the list—aim for good insulation throughout your home, well-sealed heating and cooling ducts, windows and doors weather-stripped, and energy-efficient appliances and lighting. (More tips can be found at epa.gov.)
If you are remodeling or redecorating, use resource-smart building materials, which are safer for you and your dog as well as for the environment. And, before you purchase flooring material, or even paint for your walls, give some thought to the environmental consequences of your choices. Even small changes can have a big impact. Consider using traditional materials—beeswax polish and vinegar and lemon juice for cleaning, for example—zero to low-VOC paint (latex), finishes and adhesives; and non-aerosol products.
Follow suggestions laid out by green-building expert Jennifer Roberts in her book, Good Green Homes. When you are selecting home furnishings or building materials, ask yourself (or the retailer or product manufacturer) the following questions:
• Is it safe and healthy to use in my home?
• Will it introduce irritants or off-gas potentially harmful chemicals?
• Will I need to use harsh chemicals to clean or maintain it?
• Is the harvesting or manufacturing process safe and healthy for workers?
• Is there a safe way to reuse, recycle or dispose of it when I’m done with it?
Green Flooring Materials
Other good flooring materials to consider are concrete, brick, tile (ceramic, porcelain and glass), terrazzo and stone.
Does Green Building Cost More?
Here are two places to start your investigation. If you’re thinking of remodeling or other large-scale projects, visit greenbuilder.com. For tips on home care, see care2.com/healthyliving.
LEED Green Building Rating System
Rapidly Renewable Resources
Bark Likes This
Sometimes the most impactful innovations are those made to simple, every day acts — like picking up your dog’s waste. We were introduced to Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags at last month’s Global Pet Expo where they debuted their eco-friendly poop bags made from tapioca. The light but sturdy bags are manufactured from the starch of tapioca plants, a sustainable non-GMO crop that helps support small farmers in Indonesia. The material easily decomposes in soil or landfills when exposed to micro-organisms. Renewable resources, community farming — a great back story for sure, but how does the product … perform? Very well we’ve found. The bags have a slightly thicker feel to them than other starch bags we’ve tested, and a toothy surface that helps buffer the tactile experience. Plus, they don’t fall apart in your pocket after a few weeks as some other starch bags do. Bark loves Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags! A pack of 60 bags sells for $9.99 at ecodogplanet.com
Click here for a chance to win a box of bags.
News: Guest Posts
One suggestion, follow your dog’s lead
Earth Day—the giant environmental teach-in that became a four-decades-strong spark for eco-activism around the world—is spinning, like Earth, back around.
In the past at The Bark, we’ve focused on promoting green living choices to reduce our environmental footprints and paw prints—and these are still major priorities. But this year, we’re marking Earth Day by emphasizing something a little more fundamental: nature.
Last summer, editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska reported on Richard Louv’s ground-breaking work on nature-deficit disorder. Simply, that in this digital age, we are getting out in nature less frequently with negative physical and mental health consequences, including everything from obesity and anxiety to depression.
But those of us with dogs in our lives have a distinct advantage. Our pups need to get out—and the greener, the leafier, the wilder the setting the better. So on this Earth Day, we’re celebrating and appreciating their contribution to our lives. With their wagging tails and eager grins, our dogs insist we get our daily dose of "vitamin N."
How does you dog help you get closer to nature?
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.
Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.—Andria Head, Bremerton, Wash.
A great way to recycle dog hair is composting—I put some in my worm box.—Tima Priess, Ester, Alaska
When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.—Nyla Wright, Bellingham, Wash.
I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove. Free heat!—Abby Smith, Arbor Vitae, Wisc.
I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.—Sharon Phillips, Ashford, Ala.
Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.—Irma Aguirre, San Francisco, Calif.
The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It's a snap.—Barbara Morgan, Tucson, Ariz.
For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great.—Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif.
Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.—Nikki King, Federal Way, Wash.
Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.—Janice Mitchell, Maryland Heights, Mo.
Never get just one use out of bathwater. Recycle used water for houseplants, and to soak rags and clean waste baskets, dirty galoshes and the rest of the house.—Elissa Sara, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Add baking soda to a fresh vacuum cleaner bag to cut down odors.—Debby Aceves, Goleta, Calif.
Birds love the stuffing out of old dog toys to build nests...a new way to reuse those worn out toys!—Anna Hamel, Birmingham, Ala.
Buy large packages and divide them up into Tupperware to avoid all the wasteful packaging of individual servings.—Jennifer Hunter, Pepperell, Mass.
Don't throw out used toothbrushes. They can clean all sorts of things!—Dawn Nordquist, Albuquerque, N.M.
Eucalyptus leaves are natural flea and tick deterrents.—Meghann Pierce, Napa, Calif.
How many ways can you reuse plastic grocery bags? 1. To line small garbage cans. 2. I cut them up in strips and then tie them together to make a plastic yarn to knit with. This makes great tote bags. 3. As a poop scooper when you walk your dog.—Diane Jay, Fort Worth, Texas
I have laminate flooring and a dog that slobbers. I run a dust mop with a bit of white vinegar between cleanings to cuts down on stains.—Erika Bongort, Cedar Park, Texas
I use lemon peel to clean my sink, and afterwards I put it down the waste disposal. It cuts the grease and smells lovely.—Ali French, Parker, Colo.
I use diatomaceous earth on my floors and yard to keep fleas away; I use borax as a cleaner on hard surfaces and add it to the washing machine as a laundry booster; I clean clogged/slow-moving drains with baking soda and vinegar, flushed with a gallon of boiling water.—Elizabeth Beavers, Lawrence, Kan.
Lavender oil in a spray bottle (4 parts water to 1 part oil) keeps fleas, ticks and other bugs off you and your animals!—Wendy Bennett, Micanopy, Fla.
To keep drains from clogging, use 1/4 baking soda followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar and flush down the drain. It foams way up and works!—Pat Byrnes, Northampton, Mass.
To remove candle wax off of carpet: place some ice cubes in a plastic bag against the wax on the carpet. The ice should make the wax brittle and easy to pick/pull off of the carpet.—Dianne Houghtaling, Lansdale, Pa.
Wash windows with vinegar and water instead of window cleaners.—Boni Tenenbaum, Dublin, Calif.
Using a steam cleaner eliminates the need for chemicals.—Roz Granitz, Novi, Mich.
We use beeswax or soy candles with lead-free wicks so not to poison ourselves or our puppy when we use candles.—Susan Weis-Bohlen, Baltimore, Md.
Use hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and bacteria instead of bleach.—Amy Miller, Eagle point, Ore.
To replace disposable paper towels for cleaning, cut up old bath towels and worn t-shirts. Socks make great furniture dusters.—Gina Isaac, Eugene, Ore.
Microfiber cloths are about the best there is to attract and grab pet hair and with 2 Dalmatians, I need them! They're washable and reusable.—Barbara Brandon, Parma, Ohio
We take advantage of our building's composting so that we cut down on trash. Since there's not rotting food in the trash bin, we don't have to take it out as often. With the combo of compost and recycling, the volume of trash really dwindles.—Lijay Shih, San Francisco, Calif.
When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.—Linda DeCelles, Rowley, Mass.
News: Guest Posts
The education of a conservation dog team
Dogs assisting biologists and conservationists around the world in the never-ending effort to protect and save the planet we humans abuse and call home at the same time—almost sounds like a sci-fi movie doesn’t it?
If you love dogs, odds are you love or at least appreciate the natural world. It is no secret that protecting the environment is extremely important. We all impact the environment every day, whether by driving gas-powered vehicles, writing on paper that came from trees, leaving our lights on in our house—you get the idea. None of us are innocent bystanders, but we can all be proactive by lessening our impact and/or getting directly involved in protecting the environment.
I chose both from an early age. Like many little girls, I loved animals and my passion never wavered. I have made a career out of it—working as a wildlife biologist, a wildlife rehabilitator and a zoo manager. I have worked and lived in the United States and South Africa, where I met my future husband, a fellow conservationist, Mike.
My love of wildlife has always had one strong competitor… a love for dogs. My current household consists of four dogs. Two sweet, geriatric Pointers that Mike had when we met, and my two “boys,” former Bark cover dog, Golden Retriever Riley and his hilarious sidekick Tank the Frenchie. Dog training has always been a fun hobby. However, in recent years as my career in wildlife was sidelined so I could be a fulltime mom to now four-year-old daughter Camryn, I got involved with dog training more seriously and started attending conferences and training seminars.
It was at one of these seminars in early 2011 that I heard the wonderful Ken Ramirez speak about the use of dogs in wildlife conservation efforts. He spoke of dogs finding sea turtle nests, detecting orca poop in the ocean, locating invasive plants and illegal caches of ivory, and on and on.
Rebecca Ross with tiger cub, zebra and giraffe in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
What was this? Did I hear him right? My two passions joined together? I did hear him right, and during 2011, as we were living and traveling throughout southern Africa, I took the opportunity to learn more and interview fellow wildlife conservationists to see if dogs really were a resource they could use.
The answer was a resounding yes. Fast-forward a year and a half later: Dogs for Conservation is now following in the footsteps of only a few pioneering people and organizations that specifically train dogs for conservation work.
In only a few short days, I am flying to Florida to pick up a Golden Retriever puppy, donated to us by a kindhearted and supportive person. He comes from an impressive line of hunting, search and rescue, disaster and cadaver dogs.
Over the coming months, I will blog about the special training for our first Conservation Dog and special projects. I will also write about my travels to increase my own knowledge and training, including a trip to Namibia to visit with the scat-detection dogs and livestock guardian dogs at the Cheetah Conservation Fund as well as several seminars for human remains detection dogs and disaster dogs.
Come along for the ride, I can’t wait to introduce you to the first paid employee of Dogs for Conservation. (Paid in tennis balls and treats of course!)
News: Guest Posts
Expanded capacity, green features
Dallas animal shelters are going green. In 2007, the municipal Dallas Animal Services opened an eco-friendly shelter, and this month, the SPCA of Texas cut the ribbon on the Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center. The formerly vacant warehouse has been transformed into a 72,000-square-foot full-service shelter, which includes an adoption area, spay/neuter clinic, veterinary care for sick and injured pets, and a humane education outreach center.
The West Dallas facility doubles the SPCA’s capacity. “There’s a great deal of energy and excitement created by our expanded facility,” SPCA of Texas president James Bias says. “We’ll also be able to match more animals with North Texas families who seek to adopt pets.” Extra capacity is important in the sprawling Southwestern city where the SPCA takes in not only cats and dogs but cows, donkeys, horses, goats and other farm animals from the surrounding suburbs.
The new shelter isn’t LEED certified but has many eco-friendly features, according to Peyton Boddie, project manager of Hill & Wilkinson, general contractors. An energy recovery system cleans the air, cutting down on the spread of common airborne shelter diseases such as kennel cough. High-power hoses use less water when cleaning. Sensor-operated lighting and low-flush toilets reduce utility bills. Nontoxic paints were used. Shelter design makes maximum use of natural sunlight. A central recycling area collects cans, bottles, cardboard and newspapers.
Founded in 1938, the SPCA places about 9,000 animals every year. It operates two full-service shelters, two spay/neuter clinics and one satellite adoption center. Pets are also available at local Petsmart adoption centers.
For more information about the shelter, visit www.spca.org.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Simple strategies for reducing your paw print
Nosing out planet-friendly options when we shop, eat, clean, work and play not only helps preserve our planet for future generations, it makes our environment safer and healthier — for us, our pups and all the other creatures on the planet — right now. So, to inspire better choices, we offer ideas and reminders on greening up indoors and out.At Home
From cleaning with natural substances to building with resource-smart materials, there are many ways to keep a greener, pet-safe home. Start small. Clean with traditional substances, such as beeswax polish, vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice — they’re effective and safe.
Vinegar, one of the oldest (and least expensive) cleaning substances available, is perfect for “green” cleaning. Among its many virtues, it can be used to:
While white vinegar is recommended for cleaning, apple cider vinegar can be your dog’s friend. Use it to soothe hot spots and clean ears.
For more tips on vinegar’s many uses and other cleaning ideas, check out: frugalliving.about.com and earthclinic.com.
Baking soda is an awesome odor-eliminator for more than those strange smells in the fridge. Tackle canine-created aromas in your carpet by sprinkling baking soda on the surface, waiting 15 minutes (or longer for strong smells), then vacuuming. You can do the same with your dog’s bedding. (By the way, running only full loads of dog towels and bedding can save up to 3,400 gallons of water a year.)
Pet accident on a rug or carpet? Soak up as much as you can, wash the area with club soda and let dry. Then, sprinkle with baking soda, wait a bit and vacuum. (Test this technique on an outof- the-way spot to be sure it won’t discolor your carpet.)
Baking soda is also a fantastic dog-grooming helper. See details.
Also, look into incorporating reclaimed materials in your project. You’ll get lots of character and earn good landfill karma.
Did you know that dust has a dirty little secret? Many environmental health and veterinary experts believe that chronic exposure to the synthetic industrial pollutants, such as PFCs and PBDEs used in flameretardants and stain-repellants that end up in house dust, may be at least partially responsible for skyrocketing cancer rates in dogs these days.Dog Do's
Consider feeding your dog organic, natural, locally sourced food — always in ceramic or stainless steel bowls. Avoid plastic, which can leach chemicals.
Seek out safe, planet-friendly toys without preservatives, toxic metals, chemicals or latex that dogs can absorb with they lick and chew.
Skip the car for errands. Train your pup to ride in a cart or basket, and take your bike.
Some portion of the grooming products you use will end up in your dog’s belly and wash into waterways. Use shampoos and conditioners with nontoxic, organic and biodegradable ingredients and free of coloring, preservatives and fragrance. Bonus points for shampoo bars that cut down on plastic waste.
Fight Off Fleas
For a complete breakdown of good, bad and ugly fleaand- tick control methods, go to greenpaws.org and check out NRDC’s GreenPaws fact sheet.In the Garden
Grow your own organic produce in a dog-friendly garden. Planting a garden doesn’t mean excluding your dogs from the yard — instead, include them in your plan. Set aside an area (or areas) for your pup, with shade in the summer and protection from wind, rain or snow in the winter. If your dog is a digger, create a digging pit.
One of the easiest green investments you can make is to grow vegetables, fruit and herbs for you and your dog, organically of course. That means no chemicals — no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Use allnatural compost, and bone up on ingredients, absorption rates and application instructions before applying such products; even organic fertilizers such as manures and fish emulsions can be harmful to your dog.
Plant shrubs and grasses in masses to discourage dogs from entering an area. Raised beds also act as a deterrent to digging or unauthorized “harvesting.”
Avoid cocoa-bean mulches; their chocolaty smell makes them pup catnip, but they contain theobromine, which is toxic for dogs and causes serious gastrointestinal problems.
Create dog zones. Not all fruits and vegetables are safe for dogs to eat. Put a barrier around plants of the nightshade family, including eggplant, tomato and potato; their leaves contain alkaloids that can harm a dog.
Do not use slug or snail bait, even those that purport to be nontoxic, such as Sluggo. Alternatives include setting out a dish with beer in it (snails love the odor and so do dogs — cover the dish so only mollusks can enter); placing copper strips (available at most gardening stores) or pet fur around the base of plants; or scheduling early-morning “snailgathering” forays. (For more snail-defying schemes, visit sustainable-gardening-tips.com/garden-snails.html/.)
Need help with yard work? Enlist your dog. Think of easy chores for her to do, perhaps fetching a small tool, such as a hand trowel. Large breeds can be taught to pull small carts to help move soil, plant trimmings and other garden material (be sure not to overload the cart). Help with digging? Great for dogs who are trained to dig on request; dogs have also been known to help turn the compost!Waste Control
Keep pet waste out of landfills and waterways.
Want to make a dog-loving environmentalist’s heart sink? Collect dog poop in non-degradable plastic and pitch it into the garbage. Or worse, leave it; uncollected waste is not only a source of bacteria, but also may contain chemicals from canine medications that can be washed into local waterways. Luckily, there are other options.
Consider installing an underground pet-waste digester. These devices, such as the Doggy Dooley, work like small septic systems and involve minimum hassle. Find step-by-step instructions for making and installing a DIY version at TheBark.com/green. City dwellers without yards might want to try flushable poop bags, reportedly safe for pipes or septic systems. Once flushed, dog waste is processed along with human waste in your local sewage-treatment facility.
Some municipalities do their part. If you live in a progressive enclave like Cambridge, Mass. (and someday, Gilbert, Ariz.), your dog’s poop might be converted to methane and used as a power source. The Tompkins County off-leash area in Ithaca, N.Y., provides bio bags for collection and a poop-composting program.
Reduce: Avoid products with unnecessary packaging and skip disposable products altogether. The petproducts industry is filled with a disappointing array of convenience items, from food-bowl liners and shrinkwrapped chews to toothbrushes pre-loaded with toothpaste for one-time use.
Think durable. Skip the plastic flea comb that breaks easily and choose a metal comb that will last. Saves money in the long run.
When traveling, carry your dog’s water in your own aluminum or stainless-steel container. Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour, but recycle only one in five.
Reduce pet overpopulation: Spay or neuter your dog.
Reuse: One man’s trash is one dog’s treasure. For example, take the humble but worn-out yoga mat. It has many uses beyond keeping you from sliding out of position in downward dog. Cut out a square to use as a placemat that will catch splashes and keep dog dishes in place; roll it up as a draft stopper (your old pup will thank you); or slice it to create safety treads for slippery stairs.
Convert old dishtowels into dog toys by tying a knot at the center.
Old inner tubes (and waterproof tape) are all you need to create cheap waterproof dog booties — a reuse idea hunters employed back in the 1970s.
Recycle: Of course you compost or recycle food containers — paper, aluminum and recyclable plastic, but remember to clean them well first. Food contamination of recycled goods is a major contributor to these materials ending up in landfills.
Look for manufacturers of beds, collars and leashes who incorporate second-life materials, such as reprocessed cotton filler or fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.
Seek out companies with proven commitments to recycling packaging materials and waste products on the production end. (A helpful starting point for research is Goodguide.com, which rates the safety, environmental sustainability and sourcing of nearly 150,000 consumer products.)
Collect your dog’s fur and spin it into yarn, then make a sweater — 40 ounces will do the trick. Or felt it and make a dog collar from it. Or just leave it outside for birds to pick up for their nest-building.
“Recycle” a dog: adopt a rescue or shelter pup!
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
1. Take an old plastic garbage can and drill a dozen or so holes in the sides.
When you add poop to the bin, sprinkle in some septic starter (available at hardware stores) and add some water.
“Within 48 hours, the septic-tank starter (which is noncaustic and promotes natural bacterial growth) will have begun its work and you can add more dog doo,” explains Michael Levenston, executive director of the City Farmer program in Vancouver, Canada, from which these instructions are adapted. “You can then begin to add it daily. This waste biodegrades and flows into the subsoil.” (Do NOT use composted dog waste in your garden.)
While burying a garbage can to compost dog waste might seem like overkill if you live near the woods or close to a patch bushes, dealing with dog waste in an environmentally friendly manner is always a good thing.
By the way, if you know someone who lives in a city, the cityfarmer.org website is loaded with all kinds of helpful urban agriculture tips.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
A fantastic dog-grooming helper
Baking soda is a key ingredient when it comes to grooming.
•Keep your dog brushes clean by soaking them in a small basin in a solution of warm water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Rinse and air dry.
•Give your dog a dry bath by sprinkling her with baking soda. Rub it in, then brush it out.
•For a wet wash, combine 3 tablespoons baking soda with 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 1 teaspoon baby oil in a spray bottle. Spritz your pets, then wipe them dry.
•For healthy teeth and gums, dip a damp, soft brush in baking soda and gently brush your dog’s pearly whites.
•Maintain your pet’s dental hygiene by rinsing her mouth regularly with a solution of 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
•If you trim your dog’s toenails and accidentally cut too close and draw blood, dip the affected nail in baking soda, then apply pressure to stop bleeding.
News: JoAnna Lou
Arizona city considers a street lamp powered by dog waste
Last year, Lisa Wogan blogged about a Cambridge, Mass., artist who created a dog poop-to-methane converter used to fuel a local park lamp. Visitors pick up after their dogs and stick the biodegradable waste bags in the converter to power the light. I happen to think this is an ingenious idea. It puts dog waste to good use, while encouraging people to pick up after their dogs.
Although the idea of poop-powered lights hasn't caught on yet with other cities, Gilbert, Ariz., is the latest town to consider the alternative energy source for street lamps.
The town is currently debating whether to approve a project that would use dog waste collected from the local dog park to power a street lamp, with the option of expanding to other uses later.
Students from Arizona State University are hoping to design and create the converter necessary to power the street lamp. Although a similar machine has already been created, there will be unique challenges in designing one suited to Arizona's climate.
I would love to see more cities embrace this alternative energy source and it's a great way to get students involved in green initiatives with a “real world” project.
I also hope that one day this technology will be accessible for home use. Imagine having a poop-powered porch light!
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