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!
News: JoAnna Lou
Dogs trained to find elusive flowers and butterflies
Earlier this year I wrote about dogs trained to find animal droppings for environmental research. More and more canines are being used to help scientists study endangered species and habitat loss. The role of the dog in this type of research is incredible.
The preservation of two species in Oregon can thank a Belgian Sheepdog named Rogue and his highly sensitive nose. Rogue is trained to seek out a rare plant called the Kincaid's lupine. Not only is this plant endangered, but it happens to be the one place where the elusive Fender's blue butterfly lays its eggs.
The one-inch wide butterfly lays one egg at a time, on the back of a Kincaid's lupine leaf. Each egg is no larger than the head of a pin. On top of that, the Kincaid's lupine's peak flowering period is only two weeks long. So as you can imagine, they're near impossible to find.
When Greg Fitzpatrick, Corvallis Land Steward for the Nature Conservatory in Oregon, read about using dogs to track rare turtles, he knew the working canines could be the key to helping the Kincaid's lupine and the Fender's blue butterfly. Fitzpatrick approached Dave Vesely, the executive director of the Oregon Wildlife Institute, and Debbie Smith of the Working Dogs for Conservation Foundation with his idea.
They soon discovered that dogs were incredible at the job. While some humans can detect the odor of lupine when they are flowering, canines can find the plants with or without flowers, and can cover an impressive area of land in a little amount of time.
Vesely plans to submit details of their work to a journal of conservation biology to share the program's success.
News: Guest Posts
Putting pullers to work—for the fun of it
We’re always looking for opportunities to green up our lives with dogs. So when Daphne Lewis sent us this video of her Chinooks hauling bamboo, we knew we’d hit one of those eco trifectas: Enlisting dogs who love to pull in the enterprise of helping to thin an ur-sustainable crop with no power tools. It was so simple and—based on the sacked out forms of Brett and Rosy after a day’s work—satisfying.It turns out Daphne and her dogs have a long history of pulling. She got into the game trying to find an exercise outlet for her energetic Rottweiler, Rubromarginata (Rubro, for short), years ago in Seattle. She began on rollerblades, which lacked a good braking system, and so soon graduated to scooters and sulkies. She launched a dog scooter business and then set about creating a market for them by starting a scooter group and writing Dog Scooter: The Sport for Dogs Who Love to Run. She sold her scooter business, and three years ago, moved to Perry, Ga., to farm bamboo. But she kept her hand in the pup-powered vehicle biz, as the owner/operator of Chalo Sulky, which makes a light, two-wheeled cart (like those used in harness racing) and harnesses. The sulkies look like so much fun. Watch Rosy and Brett nearly pass cyclists on a trail. Her other passion is adapting the harnesses and techniques for people with disabilities, especially to pull wheelchairs. She’s created several demo videos including a really wonderful short with her mother being pulled in a wheelchair. I love how calm Rosy and Brett are when they aren’t in pull mode. The day after we talked, Daphne was off to meet with a disabled vets group to help them train their assistance dogs to pull their wheelchairs. She’s also working on developing a tricycle, which some people may find easier to balance than the sulky or scooter.
Do you have a puller who helps at home, in the garden or on the road?
News: Karen B. London
A green option for waste
Recently, I posted a blog about how friendly people are when they see me carrying a bag of poop. One great comment was that people would probably offer even bigger smiles if I carried the poop in environmentally friendly biodegradable poop bags instead of plastic newspaper bags. Fair point.
I looked into the biodegradable poop bags and want to share what I learned. They are made from corn and contain no polyethylene, and are completely compostable and biodegradable. Depending on the exact conditions, they typically decompose in a compost bin within 6 weeks. Because they “breathe,” odor is kept to a minimum since there is less bacterial build up than in bags that don’t breathe. They will not decompose or start to decay in any way just sitting on your shelf. They will also fail to decompose with any sort of speed if put in the trash and taken to a landfill, which is not an environment conducive to such chemical processes. So, using them in an environmentally green way involves composting them, burying them, or disposing of them with yard waste, depending on whether that is allowed in your community. Biodegradable bags are available in two sizes—the regular size is 8 by 12½ inches and the big size is 10 by 14 inches. They are available in packages of 50 regular bags for $7.49, which comes to 10 cents per bag. The big size is just over 20 cents a bag. Buying in larger quantities can reduce the price to as little as 5 cents each for regular and about 14 cents each for big bags. Have you tried these bags, and if so, what is your experience with them?
News: Karen B. London
Finding non-dog oriented uses for supplies
The items needed for our dogs form an extensive list—leashes, collars, food, books, training treats, bowls, gates, toys, things to chew on, poop bags, tags, seat belts and on and on. Having spent years accumulating these items instead of a hefty savings account, I appreciate their value. In fact, I consider much of the pet gear I have to be so worthwhile that I use it for purposes that extend far beyond dogs.In 2000, I fostered a puppy named Who, and to help make our time together better, I invested in a puppy pen. Now, without a puppy in the house, I primarily use it for keeping young children away from the wood stove. When my own kids were younger, the pen was up almost all winter since the wood stove is our primary heat source. Now that they are old enough to stay away from the stove without this barrier, it is only up when we have tiny visitors. Many dog trainers and behaviorists use enzymatic cleaners in their offices and training spaces to properly clean up after accidents and marking incidents, and I am no exception. Even thoroughly house-trained dogs can occasionally goof in an area that smells of so many dogs, and I’ve found that cleaners such as Nature’s Miracle are the best at removing the smell completely. As a mother of two boys, my bathrooms are not always pristine. (Actually, they’re NEVER pristine, but sometimes they are moderately clean for at least an hour after being cleaned.) I used these enzymatic cleaners extensively during the toilet training phases. Even now, I periodically catch a whiff of an odor I could do without and I clean the entire bathroom with one of these enzymatic miracles. And during a recent bout of the stomach flu, we had a level of gross in our house that I don’t feel the need to give details about (you’re very welcome!), but let’s just say I’ve never been so glad to have Nature’s Miracle in large quantities on hand at home. In my own bathroom, I use a large fancy dog bowl that was the base for a gift basket full of dog goodies to hold my hair dryer, curling iron, and some hairbrushes. It is a metal bowl with a bone-shaped rubber base and really quite decorative. Have you found new—non-canine oriented—uses for your dog gear?
News: Guest Posts
Spin it, stuff it, let it fly
I live with two very committed shedders. At certain times of the year, their output stuns. Even with consistent furminating (is this a verb yet?), I sweep soft, dirty tumbleweeds of fur onto my dustpan and out to the garbage regularly. And, until recently, I believed the highest and best use of their fur was to make sweeping more satisfying. But in the pursuit of shrinking their environmental pawprint, I’ve discovered a few ways to recycle their surplus.Spin fur into yarn. Dog fur is a fiber, and like wool, mohair and angora, it can be spun into yarn. Longer fur is best, but even short fur can be spun if blended with wool. It’s an idea that’s been around for a while but never seems to entirely catch on (except maybe in Russia)—probably because of reports that when dog fur sweaters, mittens, scarves, etc., get wet, they smell a little like wet dogs. Check out these instructions. Fight oil spills. We learned about the oil-absorbing magic of dog fur during the Gulf Oil spill, when fur and human hair clippings were stuffed into booms and woven into mats to absorb the petroleum. Now, the folks at a Matter of Trust, the ecological public charity behind the hair/fur boom effort, wants to expand the use of these wasted materials for preventing toxic run-off, soil erosion and creating marina bilge pads. Learn more at a MatterofTrust.org.
Build nests. When you groom outside, don’t worry about small tufts carried away by the breeze. Many birds like to weave fur and hair into their nests.Is there more we can do with all this leftover fur?
Another health bonus from walking your dog
The New York Times had an interesting article about studies examining the health benefits of nature. Researchers have found that spending time in places with trees aplenty, such as parks and forests, is good for us and has a positive affect on our immune functions. Seems as if stress reduction is one factor that the scientists attribute to phytnocides, the “airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting insects.” The Japanese have taken this to heart and even partake in a practice called “forest bathing.”
As The Times notes, “the scientists found that being among plants produced lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure, among other things.” So for all of you who walk your dogs in the woods, not only are you doing the right thing by providing sensory stimulation and exercise for them but you too get a healthy boost from the trees!
News: Guest Posts
Video: Green Puglet returns for World Oceans Day
Our favorite little green pug turns blue for World Oceans Day.
News: JoAnna Lou
Donate your dog’s hair to clean up oil spills
Living with long-haired dogs, it seems all the brushing in the world won’t prevent hair from ending up in every possible crevice of my house. So last week, when I got an e-mail from Best Friends Pet Care announcing a canine hair drive, I couldn’t wait to sign up.
It turns out hair is great for absorbing oil, including the oil from the BP spill currently wreaking havoc in the Gulf of Mexico. The non-profit organization, Matter of Trust, collects donations of human and canine hair to make mats and booms with recycled nylons (yes, the ones you wear under your skirts!). The mats and booms are then placed in the ocean to soak up oil.
If you’re interested in making a hair donation, visit the Matter of Trust web site for more information. Your local human salon or canine groomer may also collect for the cause.
According to Matter of Trust, the United States has over 370,000 hair salons, each cutting an average of a pound of hair per day. Dog groomers usually cut three pounds per day. Imagine how much oil could be soaked up using material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Check out this video for more information on how hair goes from dog to ocean.
News: Guest Posts
Your dog’s hair can help clean up the Gulf oil spill
Every day news of the expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico gets worse. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gush into bio-rich waters. Looking at satellite images and reading the stories, it’s easy to feel helpless. But there is a unique opportunity for pet owners to help out. The nonprofit charity Matter of Trust is facilitating donations of clean pet fur, mostly from groomers—as well as human hair, mostly from salons—which are woven into hair mats that are extremely effective at soaking up oil or stuffed into donated nylons to create oil containment booms for the Gulf clean up. Matter of Trust estimates that one pound of dog hair can soak up one quart of oil in one minute! I have a new respect for my dogs' furballs.
We learned about this ingenious reuse program from two participants: Pet Paradise Resort, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based pet boarding, daycare and grooming operation, with 13 locations including several along the Gulf Coast; and Camp Bow Wow, a boarding and daycare operation with more than 200 franchisees in the U.S. and Canada. Both organizations are collecting and donating hair and fur to the effort, which won’t end with this spill. There are an estimated 2,600 oil spills each year.
Learn more about the program and witness hair mats in action in this video from Matter of Trust:
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