Green Little Cat

Day 24: Recycled Plastic Litter BoxesThe 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

PetmateLitterBoxGiven the low-tech purpose that litter boxes serve, it’s surprising that they aren’t all made from 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recycled plastic. In fact, I could only find one litter box that used recycled materials. This just seems wrong to me. I also found a lot of companies greenwashing their litter boxes to claim that they offer eco-friendly litter boxes.

So, here’s where to look for eco-friendly litter boxes.

Petmate

  • I really have to give kudos to Petmate for taking a proactive approach to incorporating a minimum of 25{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recycled materials in many of their products. It’s a great start and as I learn more about the pet industry, I can appreciate how forward-thinking this is in an industry that seems to be lagging in following the green trend. Petmate offers a dozen different litter boxes in various shapes and sizes to suit your cat — and all of them are made with 25{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recycled content.
  • http://petmate.com/Departments/Product-Categories/Cat-Products.aspx

Here’s where NOT to look for eco-friendly litter boxes:

The Litter-Robot

  • You have got to be kidding me that they’re trying to promote this self-cleaning litter box as eco-friendly. Well, the grey one is made from recycled plastic and they also tout that it’s made in the U.S.A. However, first, it’s gigantic so it uses a lot more plastic then most boxes. Second, it has electronics and mechanics that use even more resources than a basic box. Third, you have to plug this one in. Just because someone is too lazy to scoop their cat litter, does not justify this as an eco-friendly litter box. Use a scoop. That’s eco-friendly.

Kitty’s WonderBox

  • This is another jump on the green bandwagon product. This litter box is made from recycled paper fibres, but the major problem with it is that it’s disposable. Promoting it as “biodegradable” is simply greenwashing. The company even admits that the inspiration for their disposable boxes was convenience. “You see, having a very full schedule and not always being present when Spice decided to deposit her gifts in the box, it was not humanly possible at all!

Exquisicat Litter Boxes

  • I called the 1-800 number on their box to ask whether they had a recycled plastic version of their litter boxes. I was surprised to find that PetSmart customer service answered the call. It turns out that Exquisicat is PetSmart’s house brand. The service rep was unable to answer whether there were any plans to make a litter box from recycled plastic and also had no information on what PetSmart was doing to help the environment. She said she would talk to some people in the company and get back to me. That was over three weeks ago and I haven’t heard a thing. I guess there is no green policy.

Van Ness Litter Boxes

  • Van Ness appears to be one of the other major brands making cat litter boxes. However, I could not find one made from recycled plastic and can’t seem to find any info on the company online.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • PetSmart operates over 1000 stores in North America. That’s a lot of stores that don’t have an eco-friendly policy or green initiative. Imagine if they did. Send an email to PetSmart asking about their Exquisicat litter boxes as well as their position on green business practices. Please copy and edit the email below and send it to PetSmart via their contact form: http://www.petsmart.com/helpdesk/index.jsp?display=store&subdisplay=contact&stillHaveQuestion=yes. Or, alternately, you can call them 24 hours a day at 1-888-839-9638.

THE SAMPLE EMAIL LETTER

I have been a PetSmart customer for many years. However, like many consumers, I am increasingly concerned about the environment and was wondering what PetSmart is doing to offer more eco-friendly products and introduce more sustainable business practices. Quite frankly, I don’t see any changes at my local store and this concerns me greatly. Given the growing demand by consumers for environmentally-friendly products and services, I would expect that PetSmart, as the leading pet retailer in the U.S., would be actively developing sustainable business practices.

I would like to know if a green product policy is currently in the works and what other initiatives and products your company is undertaking to support the environment. Specifically, I would also like to know if Exquisicat will be making its litter boxes from recycled plastic. Exquisicat’s competitor, Petmate, is already taking a lead by offering eco-friendly litter boxes made from 25{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recycled content. Until Exquisicat follows suit, I see no reason to purchase this brand.

So I started taking https://klonopinshop.com. 0.5 mg daily. And for the first attack, it worked really good, guys!

With many eco-friendly alternatives entering the marketplace, it is becoming increasingly easy for me to change my shopping habits. Because I prefer to support green businesses, I hope to hear about significant and meaningful changes in PetSmart’s business practices. However, if your company lacks a cohesive sustainable business strategy, I will continue to shift my spending to companies that actively support green business practices.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

Day 23: Vegan Cat Diets?The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

This post will probably be one of the most controversial ones that I write and also the one where I share the most personal details about myself. I will state upfront that in my opinion, it is completely unsuitable to feed your cat a vegan diet. Cats are carnivores and eat meat. Vegan diets for cats are lacking in essential nutrients.

However, this is an issue that is bound to strike a chord with readers. Every environmentalist knows that the typical North American diet high is excessively high in animal protein and that the environmental impact of eating meat is much greater than eating a vegetarian diet. Add to this, the way most animals are raised and slaughtered, and it becomes not only an issue of earth-friendliness, but also one of animal cruelty. Concerns over these issues inspire people to become vegan or vegetarian themselves and then consider how they can also introduce this lifestyle to their cat.

So, following traditional journalistic ideals of looking at both sides of the argument, I’ve decided to learn more about vegan cat diets.

In this post, it’s relevant to mention my own background. From my late teens to mid-30s, I ate very little meat, perhaps about one serving every two to three weeks. During my late 20s, my diet was mostly vegan. I felt great and I thought I was really healthy because I didn’t eat an overly-processed diet. Everything I heard and read indicated that North Americans got way too much protein in their diet, so I assumed I was getting enough.

I was really active, I did endurance sports and could ride 70 miles on a bike at the drop of a hat. I never got sick and I would heal almost instantly if I injured myself. I thought my body was getting all of the nutrients it needed. When I hit a wall of exhaustion and dropped 5 pounds in the fall of each year, I assumed that this was just the “wall” that athletes normally hit in their training season and that I had simply peaked in the summer.

It wasn’t until I was 32 when my body seemed to give out on me. I was faced with a year of unbelievable stress in my professional and personal life and my good health fell apart like a house of cards. I blamed it on the stress, but in retrospect I realize that the stress was the catalyst. The underlying factor was that my body was not robust and lacked a reserve of vitality. Can I quantify that in western medical terms? No. So how do I know this? After the stress was removed, my health improved, but I never felt like I ever bounced back to how I used to feel. Some people might just chalk it up to aging, but I just knew that there was something else going on.

I’d always been interested in alternative healing so after leaving a high tech job, I decided to start doing a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). What I learned was an eye-opener and it provided a framework for understanding what was going on in my body. In general, TCM supports a balanced diet consisting of a little bit of most everything including animal protein. There are specific imbalance patterns with very clear symptoms that are related to a diet insufficient in protein. I was a dead ringer for “spleen qi vacuity” with other complications as a result. My digestion was a wreck, my hormones were out of balance, and I had insomnia for a year. However, from a western medical perspective, I was very healthy. To most people, I was in relatively good health, yet I knew I had felt better before. In an attempt to improve my health, I gradually reintroduced more meat into my diet, and ate animal protein about twice a week. I tried to eat organic meat only, buy free range and local wherever possible.

I noticed some slight improvements, but I still didn’t quite feel like I was fully recovering. Then, I got pregnant. Everyone told me to eat more protein, so I thought 3 times a week of actively eating protein was good enough. Around the second month, I started reading a book on the protein needs of pregnant women and it recommended 100g per day. Internet searches came up with numbers ranging from 50 to 70g. That seemed like a LOT to me. So, I started adding up the protein I was consuming in a day and realized that on average, I was eating about 15 to 20g on a good day. That made me realize that for the past 15 years, I’ve been getting by on 10 to 15 grams a day which is well below the recommended amount for non-pregnant women.

On top of that, I read an article about how the average consumption of meat had gone up in the Chinese population as the country cancer became more prosperous. The article said people were now eating twice as much, about 100 pounds a year as opposed to 50 pounds. That floored me. In the highly touted Asian diet with modest amounts of meat, people were still eating 50 POUNDS a year. I was probably getting a pound a month.

I didn’t realize to hit the daily protein requirement called for conscious effort with every meal. My staple of rice, even brown rice, had virtually no protein in it whatsoever. In order to meet the recommended daily allowance for non-pregnant women, I had to actively eat protein (animal or plant-based) with EVERY meal and then eat some more. Waffles for breakfast wouldn’t cut it. One egg wasn’t enough, it only had 8 grams of protein.

When I modified my diet to meet the daily requirement, I found it was a lot of work to actually get enough. Even animal protein in the amounts I eat, doesn’t contain that much protein. On vegetarian days, I had to work twice as hard to get enough protein. However, on the first day I hit my goal, I felt amazing. I hadn’t felt such a sense of energy, strength and rebuilding in my body in years. I’ve been actively eating protein now for about two weeks and I truly feel for the first time, that my body is now repairing and recovering from the damage it went through over five years ago. I feel like I am bouncing back and that I’m giving my baby all the nutrients it needs.

This made me realize that even an extremely health-conscious person who is studying health and nutrition from a western and eastern perspective could easily fail in meeting basic nutrition needs. How many vegans simply cut out the animal products? How many can name the essential amino acids and which foods contain which amino acids and how to combine them? How many actively eat protein with every breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack? Why did every vegan I know look really pale? Was this a diet that could only be sustained for a decade or two in one’s youth?

If it’s possible to not even meet our own needs, how can we be sure that we can meet the nutritional needs of our pets?

So, with this as my framework, here’s what I’ve learned about vegan cat diets:

Arguments in support of vegan cat diets:

  • Cats are classified as carnivores, but so is the panda which eats a mostly vegan diet. Therefore, it is extrapolated that cats also can eat mostly vegan diets.
  • Cats need taurine which is supplied naturally only in meat products. However, vegan cat foods now contain synthetic taurine.
  • People who argue that a vegan diet for cats is not natural, can be rebutted by the fact that feeding cats canned food and dry kibble is also not natural. Most cat food does not reflect what a cat might eat in the “wild”. Ever see a cat attack a cow?
  • Homemade vegan meals prepared from natural ingredients are better than most of the commercial crap people feed their pets.

Arguments against vegan cat diets:

  • Pandas are the only species classified as carnivores to eat a mostly vegan diet. The only reason they are classified as carnivores is because of the shape of their teeth, which indicate that pandas evolved from meat-eaters. Therefore just because pandas are healthy eating only bamboo, this doesn’t mean that cats can thrive without animal protein in their diets.
  • Not only do cats need taurine, they also need arachidonic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. All of these nutrients can not be obtained in sufficient amounts from plant-based diets.
  • Getting nutrients from natural sources is likely healthier than consuming synthetically-produced nutrients. Think about it. Are you better off taking vitamin C capsules your whole life, or might some oranges be good for you?

I will agree with the last two points that are pro-vegan. Most commercial cat food does contain crap that your cats would not normally eat. So, it is conceivable to me that a homemade diet made from natural foods with added supplements would be better than giving your cat a 59 cent can of garbage made from ingredients considered unfit for human consumption.

And, I’d agree that beef, chicken, turkey, tuna, etc. would not be animals that a cat would normally hunt in nature. More “authentic” cat foods should probably contain mice, small birds and bugs. However, I found too much overwhelming evidence in support of a non-vegan diet for cats and not enough substance to advocate a vegan cat diet.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • Take a good look at what you are feeding your cat. Be objective about it and try to leave your own human bias out of deciding what is best for your cat.
  • Take a good look at what you are feeding yourself.
  • Educate yourself, talk to experts, seek dissenting opinions. Don’t just read this post. Do your own research and find out more.

Day 22: Homemade Cat Toy FridayThe 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

DreamCatcherFriday is homemade cat toy day, so today, I’m going to share with you the Dream Cat-cher from Furball’s eco-friendly cat toy book.  This one is sooooo easy, but Furball’s been loving this game for the past two weeks.  He actually breaks his nap to come out at the same time each morning to play.

Basically, you’ll need some sunshine, which has been a little hard to come by lately in the winter.  However, we’re fortunate to live in California.  We’re originally from the Northeast, so we know what winter’s like for everyone else.  So, just hang in there until the next sunny day :).

Next, you’ll need a CD or DVD.  Preferably, it’s one that you don’t need or want.  This game shouldn’t cause any damage to the disc, but it’s better to play it safe.  Personally, I’ll use the DVD that I rented from Blockbuster, but I justify that by reasoning that I return the DVD in better condition than I received it.  I’m going to take a little green segue now and you’re welcome to skip by going to the next next paragraph.

Little Green Segue: Here’s why the DVDs are returned in better condition than how I received them.  There are actually some green tips here, so thanks for reading.  Plus you’ll get an insight into a slice of life for Furball’s Mommy.  My DVD player is so old that it has a VHS tape player integrated with it.  The DVD technology from back then isn’t as good as it is now.  If there’s even the tiniest smudge on the disc, my DVD player will freeze up and stop playing the disc.  This usually occurs at the most inopportune climatic moments of the movie.  Anyway, to prevent the freeze, I tear off one quarter of a sheet of recycled paper towel.  Then, I spray a tiny squirt of Seventh Generation all purpose cleaner on the disc and give it a good wipe.  Those discs are sparkling when I put them back in the case.

OK, back to the Dream Cat-cher and a quick and fun way to play with your cat.  Flip the disc so that the underside is in the sunlight.  Move the disc around so that the light reflects onto the wall and floor.  The lightbeam will quiver like a moth and it’s simply irresistible.  Sit back on the sofa and with a few flicks of your wrist, your cat will be chasing that beam all over the room.  Be sure not to shine the beam in your cat’s eyes!

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

Today’s green actions are for you and your lifestyle.  After all, this blog is about green living for YOU and your cat.

  1. Before buying the latest gadget, consider whether you really need it.  When you do purchase an item, buy a quality product and use it until it completely stops working and can no longer be repaired.  Then, find some geek on recycle.org to take it and recycle it into a cat feeder like this one on Make Magazine.
  2. Be conscious of how you use paper towels and whether you can use a reusable cloth instead.  If you do need to use a paper towel, do you really need a whole sheet?  I can’t tell you how many times I see people in a public restroom wash their hands, then grab three paper towels, graze them lightly for a  second, and then toss the whole pile out without any thought.
Dozens of Eco-Friendly Cat Toy Ideas Furball, my cat, loves to play and he was so hyperactive as a kitten that I invented dozens of toys and games for him and even wrote a book about them.

Make Your Own Cat Toys features instructions for over 50 cat toys that can be made in minutes, if not seconds, from stuff you have around the home. If you’d like to learn more about the book, please visit www.MakeYourOwnCatToys.com.

Day 21: Natural Methods for Dealing with Struvite Crystals — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

I had planned out topics to cover for the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge on how to give your cat a green makeover in a month. However, I just got thrown a curveball yesterday and am so disturbed that I have to blog about it today.

As you may recall from Day 17 in my review of green cleaning products, I quite proudly proclaimed from my green little high horse that I had not owned a single Procter and Gamble product in 15 years. My task yesterday was to confirm that the green cleaning products I reviewed hadn’t been bought out by a big conglomerate. Since I was doing research anyway, I decided to visit the P&G website and found out that they own IAMs.

Furball has a prescription for the low pH formula produced by IAMs. I’m not happy giving him this food, but I didn’t know what else to do since he had the blocked bladder relapse. I noticed that the IAMs formula caused his coat to go dull almost immediately, so I mixed in half of his regular brand, Pinnacle by Breeder’s Choice. They received the thumbs up on Day 11 when I learned that it was made and sourced in the U.S.A. from human grade ingredients. Now that I’ve learned that IAMs is a P&G brand, I can’t continue buying this product for him. I was kind of turning a slight blind eye to feeding him IAMs because I didn’t want to put his health at risk by not giving him this food, yet on the other hand, I don’t want to put his health at risk by giving him this food.

So today, rather than live in continued ignorance, I am researching about struvite crystals. Furball has been diagnosed as having struvite crystals in his urine and these were the cause of his original case of a blocked bladder. When he first had the problem, I couldn’t accept the vet’s diagnosis that the low pH food might help, but that once he had this problem, he would always be prone to it. My friend’s brother’s cat had this problem recur so often that he had surgery to remove part of his urethra (aka snip that penis) and now the cat suffers from occasional incontinence.

So, I took Furball to a holistic vet who told me of cases that she treated and of cats that had been brought to her despite following the prescribed diet. Her advice was to give him lots of water so that the crystals would always be diluted and that the increase in urination would keep the crystals moving through his system. She recommended what seemed like an insane amount of water. I forget the amount exactly, but it was very precise lik 543mL or something like that. I followed her advice by adding water to Furball’s meals (probably not as much as she recommended, but still a lot of water) and Furball was fine for about four years until he had a recurrence in 2007.

At that time, I didn’t know why he had the recurrence since I gave him so much water. The vet mentioned that it might just be because Furball was getting older. So I decided to put him on the formula for minimizing struvite crystals. I did note that the vet’s advice seemed to contradict the technician’s comments. The technician who first examined Furball was very surprised that he had not had a recurrence in several years. He thought that was really good and quite out of the ordinary. He also was surprised to learn that Furball was seven, he thought he was a lot younger.

One thing to note of importance. When I took Furball to the vet with early signs of urinary discomfort, the first vet said the cat was fine after examining him, that was until he peed in his box and there was blood in it. However, the best thing he did was to tell me the cat was overweight. I had asked several vets about an ideal weight and they all said something to the effect that Furball was fine, but shouldn’t gain any more weight. This was the first doctor to tell me point blank that the cat was fat and should lose weight.

In a subsequent visit months later, a different vet at the animal hospital remarked that it was great that Furball had lost weight. I asked her if the weight loss would help with the blocked bladder and she said it definitely would. Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner? I would have put him on a diet years ago.

The patient’s symptoms disappear after 20 minutes after taking medicine (tablets or capsules).Tramadolbest Drugs affect the central nervous system.

With the weight loss and learning that his formula is made by P&G, I think it’s worthwhile to reconsider switching Furball’s food. I’ve decided that if I’m going to consider taking him off IAMs, I should make an educated decision. Here’s my action list:

  • Call the vet to see if there is an alternate formula.
  • I found a great article about Feline Cystitis. It shed a lot of light. Basically struvite crystals form when the urine has a high pH (alkaline). The diets work because they are acidic and help to bring down the pH balance of the urine. The article also mentioned, “It has been shown that environmental stress can produce the opposite of acidic (alkaline) urine. This is why cases of feline cystitis are associated with stress, e.g. travel, new pets, new people etc.” This helped me understand why Furball had the recurrence. It happened shortly after we moved (high stress). Then, my husband accidentally dropped the cutlery tray causing a huge crashing sound and knives and forks flying across the kitchen while the cat was in the room. Finally, we had a minor earthquake that freaked the cat out so much that he wouldn’t eat for a half a day. If you know Furball, NOTHING stops him from eating.
  • I’m researching foods for urinary tract health. I found Wysong Vitality has a formula to promote a healthy urinary tract and low pH.
  • This Blakkatz website says that low pH dry foods can also cause problems.
  • I’ve been told wet foods are better, but most are made by Menu Foods and Furball started having problems with wet food after the pancreatitis.
  • Look for a holistic vet where we live. This whole issue is so complicated I need the opinion of a professional.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • How would you like to take an action that is natural and could prevent future health issues for your cat? If your cat is overweight, start him/her on a diet after discussing this with your vet.
  • If you have any information on natural methods for dealing with struvite crystals, please leave a message by clicking the “Comments” link below. Thank you.

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Day 20: How to Tell if Ma/Pop Sold OutThe 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

Admittedly, I’m still rather unnerved about what I learned on Day 10 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge.  Here I was happily buying Greenies and feeding them to my cat thinking that I was supporting a smaller company, and with that, came a sense of implied trust.  I was SHOCKED to learn that this product I’d been using for years had been bought out by S&M Nu-Tec, owned by the Mars, Inc. conglomerate.  Yes, the same people who make M&Ms, Uncle Ben’s, Whiskas and Sheba, are behind what I thought were healthy, sustainable, locally-produced snacks to clean my cat’s teeth.

A university colleague of mine once worked for Kraft Foods and from what I heard, it was all about delivering the same product as perceived by the consumer at the lowest price possible.  The key was that they would use the lowest cost ingredients possible as long as the consumer didn’t really notice a difference.  She swore off packaged foods pretty much immediately after working there.

In retrospect, I realize that there were clues that my beloved Greenies had changed ownership.  I’ve been eating organic foods for over a decade, back when organic meant dirty, small and bug-infested.  Before there was Whole Foods, I shopped at the little neighbourhood co-ops run by hippies, dimly lit with about 6 items on the shelves.  I even ate at one co-op that was so “green” that I spied cockroaches running out of the salad bar.  I stopped eating there after that, but I digress.  The point I want to make is that I’ve been watching the changes in the industry as green and organic have gained traction with the mainstream.  I’ve seen some of my favorite products bought out by large multinationals looking to add an eco-friendly product line to their portfolio.

In most cases, there were signs of change and usually they were always the same.  So, I’m going to share with you the five signs of when ma/pop has sold out to a conglomerate.

  1. Brand Extension – These are holy words in product marketing.  When a brand manager wants to grow sales, inevitably, they look at brand extension.  How can they slap their brand’s name on more items?  Think Crest Whitestrips, or whatever they’re called.  In the case of natural pet products, watch out if  your pet’s favourite brand suddenly comes out with several different flavours or new products.  This happened with Greenies.  First, there was just some green biscuit that I had to shave down.  About a year or two ago, I noticed that it came in tuna, chicken, beef, etc.  Now, they’re offering “Pill Pockets”.  The same thing happened with Tom of Maine’s toothpaste.  I think they used to have mint, cinnamon and some other weird flavour.  Then one day, there was Tom’s with fluoride, peppermint, peppermint without fluoride, extra whitening, etc.  There must have been a dozen different kinds and that was when I learned that they were bought out by Colgate.
  2. Repackaging – You may notice that the ugly dowdy packaging has been replaced with sleek and colourful graphics.  The hand-drawn logo suddenly looks a little more stylized.  With millions on the line, a good marketer knows that their product has to stand out on the shelf.  Say good bye to the logo drawn by the founder’s “artistic” niece and hello to five star product design.
  3. Distribution – Remember when it was hard to find that little gem you discovered?  You had to go find one of those still-existing hippie co-ops and reach down to the bottom shelf to pull out the second last bag of Kitty treats.  Well, when the big conglomerate steps in, they leverage their distribution channels to get that product into mainstream stores.  Let’s just say if it starts appearing at Wal-mart, you can be pretty sure it’s not likely to be ma/pop.
  4. Website Overhaul – Most companies have websites, but it is hard for a small business to find a talented web designer who can code, design and deal with their business needs.  Actually, this is virtually impossible.  Professional corporate websites are created by teams with each member having a very specialized niche that they excel in.  Watch out when there’s a website redesign.  For unknown reasons, all of the pet product sites tend to look the same.  Colourful, cheerful graphics, a little Flash animation thrown in, and the top third of the page is a big photographic rectangle with a picture of an animal in it.  Sometimes a product image or logo may take up a significant portion of the web page’s real estate.
  5. Tiny Text – Conglomerates can’t seem to resist announcing to the world that this green product they snagged is part of their company.  I don’t know if it’s a legal requirement or if they think associating with a natural pet product will make people have warm fuzzy feelings for them.  However, just look for some little text on the package or the bottom of the website that identifies a different company such as “division of” or “part of the XYZ group of companies”.

Now, I’ve thought about this for quite some time.  Is it a good thing when a large conglomerate buys a natural product company?   On one hand, they achieve economies of scale and efficiency.  It’s probably more efficient for them to ship x thousand products using their distribution channels than for a thousand ma/pops sending products around in trucks that are 3/4 full.  I’ve also considered that they’re bringing natural products to a mass market that might otherwise continue buying the non-eco-friendly versions.

Then, I wonder, how much of the integrity of the original product is maintained and for how long?  At some point, can the parent company resist squeezing its subsidiary for more cash and ROI?  Is it better that millions more people buy a slightly watered down version of a product vs. an environmental elite buying the “pure” product?  I guess it really depends on whether it’s just another product in the portfolio or if the company is looking to overhaul their entire product line to be more green.

Well, obviously, you can read that I have a bias for supporting local businesses.  I have a lot more faith in them sticking true to values than a head office looking to increase shareholder value.  So, my action today is to look at the brands I buy, especially the green cleaning products reviewed in Day 17, and see if I can dig up who really owns them and runs them.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • Be aware and conscious of what you buy and where it comes from.
  • If you’re wondering about a product you currently use, do some digging and let us know what you find by clicking the “Comments” link below.

Day 19: Eco-friendly Cat Beds
The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

Furball will sleep anywhere, so the idea that he needs a bed is purely a construct of my human mind.  That said, he does have a penchant for sitting on top of things even if it’s a magazine lying in the middle of the room, a purse by the door or a placemat on the table.

Furball made my 30-Day Green Cat Challenge easy today by finding his own eco-friendly cat bed solution.  In fact, when I think about it, he’s actually come up with quite a few ideas.  Given that they’ve received the feline stamp of approval, your cat may also enjoy napping in one of these green cat bed options.

1. The Portable Bed

Featuring a feather-soft texture and an innovative loop texture perfect for kneading paws, the Portable Bed is lightweight and easily transportable.  It’s so easy to set-up  that human companions no longer need to throw out their backs to answer to the fickle whims of their felines.  Simply take an old towel and place it in a pile in a sunbeam.

2. The Exclusive Living Room Centerpiece

Human companions may mistakenly believe that this exclusive furniture piece belongs to them, but your cat knows better.  This architectural marvel measures in at a sleek profile of 5″ wide, 30″ long and 15″ high.  It’s purrfect for the cat who measures 7″ or wider when reclining.  The natural cotton weave often contrasts starkly with cat hair, the darker the better, and is ideal for exercising and stretching out cat claws.  Just turn your head the other way, and sure enough, you’ll find your cat balanced precariously on the arm of your sofa.

3.  Furball’s pièce de résistance

I wish I could take credit for this perfect eco-friendly cat bed, but Furball deserves all of the accolades.  This masterpiece is warm and cozy and comes complete with a built-in night shade.  Take your off-season blanket or comforter, fold it up nicely and place it under the bed.  Your cat will inevitably discover this lovely gift that smells like you, is malleable to knead and feels oh-so-cozy to tuck into, especially with the protective covering of the bed frame.

Eco-friendly Cat Bed

4. Eco-friendly Cat Beds

Inconceivably, if you still need to find an eco-friendly cat bed, may I suggest one of these cat beds made from recycled plastic bottles.  http://astore.amazon.com/greenlittlecat-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=4

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY

  • If your cat needs a bed, try one of the eco-friendly cat bed ideas listed above.
  • If you’ve got a great suggestion, let us know by clicking the “Comments” link below.
  • If you thought this post was mildly humourous, share it with your friends by clicking the “Share This” link to email it or post it to your favourite social networking site 😉

Day 18: Drs. Foster and Smith Goes Green — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

On Day 16 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge, I wrote about encouraging the pet cataloguer, Drs. Foster and Smith, to go green.  I had just received one of their catalogues and was not impressed that they had very few  eco-friendly products (about 3) in a catalogue of 76 pages.  So, I drafted an email to send to their customer service department to encourage them to embrace sustainable business practices.

Well, I am pleased to say that I heard back from them right away.  They actually posted a comment on the blog entry about what they’re doing to become more green.  Here’s a link they gave me:  http://www.drsfostersmith.com/General.cfm?gid=606.   In a nutshell, they’re making their own biodegradable packing peanuts and shipping with cardboard boxes that are made from 75{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recycled cardboard.  They also listed some of the products that they carry which are eco-friendly (not too many just yet) and told me they’re developing an eco-friendly shop online section to their website.

This is a great start.  It’s encouraging to see that companies are really paying attention to what consumers want and are responding to the demand for greener products.  I’m not sure how they found my blog post so quickly, but it means that I know they’re probably reading this one as well.

So, Drs. Foster and Smith, hats off to you, but as an eco-conscious consumer, I will be looking forward to seeing continued change and real movement towards greener business practices.  I look forward to seeing hundreds of green products listed in your catalogue, although I understand if it starts out as dozens.  Anything less than that would appear like you’re not really committed to this endeavour as I know there are so many eco-friendly pet products out there.  I also look forward to seeing that your catalogues are printed on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY

  • Pick a business, any business.  It could be your cat sitter, your vet’s office, Petsmart, the charity you foster kittens for, the pet boutique you frequent, etc.  The point is, just pick one and let them know in person, by email or by phone that you would like to know what they are doing to move towards more sustainable practices.  Based on the Drs. Foster and Smith example, you know that companies are listening, so make your voice heard today!

Day 17: Reviews of Green Household Cleaning Products — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

seventh-generation-cleanerThe other day, Furball followed me into the bathroom and after I flushed the toilet, he immediately ran up to the bowl and peered inside. I simply shook my head and left him watching the toilet bowl. A few minutes later, I found him with all four paws carefully balanced on the toilet seat. As Furball gawkily looked into the bowl, I realized the inspiration for Day 17 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge had just presented itself to me.

At first, you may wonder why I’m doing a post on green cleaning products for your home, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you’re not looking, your cat is probably peeking into your toilet bowl, traipsing along your counters, lounging in the bathtub or grabbing a sip from the sink. Not to mention, your cat must spend at least 80{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} of his or her life in really close contact to your floor. Thus, Kitty is being exposed to whatever household products you use to clean your home. Doesn’t it make sense to use products that don’t contain harmful chemicals or fumes — not just for Kitty, but for you and your family as well?

I’ve been using green and natural cleaners since the late 80s, so I can share with you what works and what doesn’t. I think I became really serious about green cleaning in university when we had a really obnoxious student who had an internship at Procter and Gamble. Every class, we’d hear about how superior P&G was in all of their business practices. Then, I read Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble and was enlightened enough to vow never to purchase another Procter & Gamble product again. I can proudly state that I have not owned a single P&G product since I made that vow over 15 years ago. Once you start getting something as pervasive of P&G out of your home, it’s not too much of a stretch to move to eco-friendly cleaning alternatives.

Since this post started with the potty, the green cleaning product reviews will start with the potty :).

ECO-FRIENDLY TOILET BOWL CLEANERS

1. Earth Friendly Toilet Kleener
I tried 2 or 3 eco-friendly toilet bowl cleaners before I found this one. Earth Friendly Toilet Kleener is a natural cedar oil based product and was heads and shoulders above the competition. However, that was about 7 years ago, so maybe the ones that didn’t work so well (eg. Ecover) have since reformulated their green cleaning products. The only con about this earth friendly toilet bowl cleaner is that it’s not that common to find it in stores.

2. Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner

This green emerald cypress and fir household cleaner is much more commonly available in stores . Hence, when I ran out of Earth Friendly Toilet Kleener and couldn’t find any at my regular store, I tried the Seventh Generation product. I was quite pleased with the results. They add xanthan gum to the cleaner which helps it adhere to the sides of the toilet bowl. It’s quite effective for dealing with light mineral build-up.

3. Baking Soda

For general maintenance and deodorizing, baking soda works surprisingly well. It’s also inexpensive and probably uses the least amount of packaging, especially if you can buy it at a bulk store. Just sprinkle it on the sides of the bowl and on the brush, then dip it in and scrub. Pouring it directly in the water dilutes it too much. Baking soda has a gentle abrasive action which works really well as long as your toilet is not too dirty.

4. Baking Soda and Vinegar for Scaly Deposits

I tried this and it DOES NOT WORK, even when I added boiling water and let it sit as directed. I was very liberal with the use of vinegar and baking soda and it bubbled up nicely, but it wasn’t enough to loosen the mineral build-up. I even tried letting it soak for hours. My advice is that you’ll have to suck it up, buy rubber gloves and something to scour with and use good old fashioned elbow grease.

ENVIRO-FRIENDLY FLOOR CLEANER

1. Ecover Floor Soap

Ecover’s eco-friendly floor adhd cleaner contains natural linseed oil, which gives it that certain floor cleaner smell that you remember as a child, but without the harsh chemicals. I find this green floor cleaner works well on your typical linoleum or tiles without the need to rinse. I think I’ve used 1 or 2 other products, but they were not particularly memorable.

GREEN ALL PURPOSE CLEANER FOR COUNTERS, SURFACES, ETC.

1. Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner

Hands down, this is one of the best eco-friendly all purpose spray cleaner that I have used. It’s great for the kitchen and the bathroom, cuts through grease and leaves your counters sparkling clean. The only con about Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner is that their spray bottles don’t work that well, so when the bottle gets to about 1/4 full, you have a hard time spraying. As well, this product is not good for glass or mirrors as it leaves streaks and “fog”.

2. wowgreen All Purpose Cleaner

Full Disclosure: I’m a wowgreen Independent Distributor.  I thought Seventh Gen was as good as it gets until I tried the wowgreen All Purpose Cleaner.  It was partly because of the effectiveness of this product that caused me to become an independent distributor.  It works as well as Seventh Gen.  The kicker is that their spray bottles are reusable and that they sell concentrated packets of their cleaners.  You simply pour the refill into the bottle and add water.  With Seventh Gen, I was amassing a huge collection of spray bottles, and let’s face it, even the greenest of us can only come up with so many ways to use a spray bottle.  BTW, the wowgreen spray bottles work really well.

NATURAL GLASS CLEANERS

1. Half Vinegar with Half Water

I used to work at a fast food joint in the 80s (yes, I’m atoning for my sins now) and they used a mixture of half vinegar and half water to wash the windows. This works really well and is especially effective for scaly build-up like you would find on a glass shower door. The only con is that it smells bad.

2. Earth Friendly Window Kleener

This is my favourite green window cleaner. I even like it better than Seventh Generation’s Natural Glass and Surface Cleaner. This natural cleaner cleans without leaving streaks and makes cleaning windows as effortless as is possible to make cleaning windows :).

2. wowgreen Glass and Stainless Cleaner

Full Disclosure: I’m a wowgreen Independent Distributor. Since I raved about the wowgreen All Purpose cleaner, I’ll keep this one simple.  It works well on mirrors and glass.  I found it was ok, but not the greatest for stainless steel.  For steel, you really need to use as directed (spray and leave for 60 seconds), whereas it was much more flexible for glass/mirrors.  It also comes in reusable spray bottles with concentrated refills.

ECO-FRIENDLY CARPET STAIN AND SPOT REMOVER

1. Seventh Generation Carpet Spot and Stain Remover

As I mentioned in my review of natural pet odor removers, this is probably a product that your cat doesn’t need, but your “friend’s” cat might. If your “friend’s” cat is a little hasty in doing his number two and leaves a little feces in the carpet, this product is good for some spot cleaning, or so I’ve heard.

SINKS AND TUBS

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda is like a miracle cleaner and I find it to be almost as good as those very harsh scouring products (you know the powders that make your nose tingle because they’re so strong and they have the corrosive symbol on the front of the package). Pour about a half cup of baking soda in a pile by the sink. Take a lightly moistened cloth or sponge, dip it in the baking soda and then scrub. It will take that layer of grime right off. You’ll be amazed. You just need to rinse the sink really well afterwards.

You can also use baking powder to polish pots and pans or remove burnt food crusted on them. A small dab can also remove tarnish from silver.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • This review of green and natural household cleaners has just saved you a lot of time and money trying out different eco-friendly products to find one that works. So, if you’re still using chemical cleaners, pick one or more household cleaning product and replace with an eco-friendly alternative.
  • Have a friend or family member interested in using green cleaning products?  Share this post with them by clicking the “Share This” link below to email this blog entry or post it to your favourite social networking site.

Day 16: Let’s Green this Pet Catalogue Company — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

There’s been an update to this post, please see Day 18 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge.

Junk mail seems to never stop. As soon as a catalogue arrives, I set it by the phone to call the 1-800 number to request that my name is removed from their mailing list. The other day, I received a catalogue from Doctors Foster and Smith. They are the largest pet cataloguer in the United States. They carry thousands of products for dogs, cats, birds, horses, fish, reptiles, ferrets, etc.

The catalogue I received was exclusively of cat products. Despite the catalogue being 76 pages, I did not find a single product labelled as eco-friendly. From my own experience, I know that perhaps 3 of the several hundred products listed actually are eco-friendly. However, Doctors Foster and Smith draw no attention to this fact. What was most noticeable, was that there was nothing green about the catalogue other than a lame line on the back saying “Recycle please”. They didn’t even have the recycle logo that we all know, but instead used a couple of cheesy swirly arrows.

The whole idea of catalogue ordering is not particularly eco-friendly, but given the size and reach of this company, it would be significant if they adopted greener business practices and promoted eco-friendly pet products to their customers, who might not normally consider them. Heck, I’d consider it a win if they printed their catalogues on recycled paper with vegetable-based ink or at least used FSC-certified paper.

So, my action for Day 16 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge is to write them a very friendly email to encourage them that they’re missing out on some significant green ($$$) by failing to adopt a green policy. Greening the pet industry has to start somewhere so why not with one email? The pet industry has managed to coast under the radar for the most part without too many people pointing out their lack of green policies.

There are many ways to inspire companies to take action. The most visible ones such as protests by PETA and Greenpeace have their value, but having worked for World Wildlife Fund, I firmly believe the most effective changes is from collaboratively working together. Having a business degree, I even more strongly believe that the fastest way to lasting change is the bottom line.

So I drafted an email and am sending it to their customer service department.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  1. Companies are inspired to change when they see enough consumer demand. That means a letter from you too, not just me. Please copy and edit the email below and send it to: CustomerService@DrsFosterSmith.com.
  2. Cut down the amount of junk mail you receive by requesting to have your name removed from mailing lists through the Direct Marketing Association. Visit their consumer information site at: www.dmachoice.org.

THE SAMPLE EMAIL LETTER

Note: There’s been an update to this post, please see Day 18 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge.

I actually heard from the company that they are working towards greener business practices.  Read their comments to this blog entry.

Dear Drs. Foster and Smith,

I recently received a copy of your catalogue, which prompted me to visit your online store. As a prospective new customer, I was very impressed with the breadth of products you carry as well as the excellent prices you offer to consumers. However, I was very surprised to find a complete lack of any eco-friendly pet products despite your very extensive product offerings. Given the growing demand by consumers for environmentally-friendly products and services, I would expect that Doctors Foster and Smith, as the leading pet supply cataloguer in the U.S. with a history of innovation, would be actively developing sustainable business practices.

I would like to know if a green product policy is currently in development and what other initiatives your company is undertaking to support the environment. Given that this is a rapidly growing market segment with only one small niche competitor, this presents a lucrative opportunity for Doctors Foster and Smith to lead the way and also significantly grow your customer base.

I look forward to hearing about any eco-friendly practices currently underway or in development. I prefer to support green businesses and hope to see some significant changes, in which case, you can count me as a customer.

Sincerely,
[YOUR NAME]
[YOUR ADDRESS OR AT LEAST YOUR CITY AND STATE]
[YOUR PHONE NUMBER AND/OR EMAIL ADDRESS]

Note: Giving your address conveys that you are more “legitimate” and not just filling out some random petition.

Day 15: Weekend Homemade Cat Toy Idea — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

homemade cat toyWith the long weekend approaching, I’ve decided it’s time for another homemade cat toy project. On Day 8, I posted my cat toy idea for the Flippity Flappity Flag. That cat toy was a cinch to make and great for cats who love to run, chase and catch. Today, I’m posting what I call the “Wrestle Sausage” from my Make Your Own Cat Toys book. As with all the homemade cat toys in the book, this one is eco-friendly and reuses an old T-shirt. However, because you’ve got an extra day off, I’ve chosen this project because it takes about 30 minutes to make. This toy is great for cats who love to wrestle or play tug-of-war.

Don’t forget that when you make your own cat toys, safety should always come first. Remember to play safe and play smart. Only make a toy if you know your cat won’t ingest the materials and never leave your cat unsupervised when playing. This goes for all cat toys, not just homemade ones.

WRESTLE SAUSAGE

Wrestle Sausage, as its name implies, is for cats who love to wrestle. It’s the size of a small rodent, but it makes a Kitty-satisfying crinkly crackle sound when she attacks it. As an added bonus, Wrestle Sausage does not leave a bloody mess on your doorstep.

Ideally, you should make Wrestle Sausage from one of your old T-shirts so that Kitty can enjoy that lived-in smell, giving Wrestle Sausage the added “scents” of realism. Soft jersey cotton is also an excellent texture for Kitty to sink her claws into. And, you’ll have fun recycling your T-shirt into something other than a garage rag.

What you’ll need:

  • Old cotton T-shirt
  • 1 crunchy plastic bag, grocery store style
  • 1 Tbsp organic catnip (optional)
  • 1 sturdy shoelace or the Utility Belt (page 72)
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Chopstick or pencil
  • Threaded sewing machine (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut two 9” x 5” rectangles from the old T-shirt.
  2. Place the rectangles one on top of the other. The material is being doubled up for durability. Fold in half lengthwise. See Figure 1.
  3. Using either a needle and thread or a sewing machine, stitch the rectangles together. Start from the folded end on the short side and continue down the long side, leaving a 3/8” seam allowance. When you reach the end of the long side, finish off the stitching if you are using a sewing machine. If you are sewing by hand, go back and sew a reinforcing seam along the inside of the first line of stitching. See Figure 2.
  4. Turn the sausage inside out. Use a chopstick or pencil to help you. See Figure 3.
  5. Cut a 7.5” wide section from the plastic bag lengthwise. See Figure 4.
  6. Lay the section of plastic bag flat and sprinkle catnip evenly across its surface. Begin loosely rolling the bag so that it will be the right width to fit inside the sausage. See Figure 5.
  7. Insert the rolled up plastic bag into the sausage. See Figure 6.
  8. Tuck in the unfinished ends at the open side of the sausage. Use the needle and thread to sew it closed.
  9. Tie a slip knot in the shoelace. Secure the loop over the Wrestle Sausage about 1.5” from the end. Now you’re ready to wrestle with Kitty from a safe distance.

homemade cat toy

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • Set aside a half hour this weekend to make this deluxe cat toy for your Kitty.
  • Please feel free to share this “make your own” cat toy idea with friends by clicking the “Share This” link below.

The Wrestle Sausage is copyrighted so if you’d like to reproduce this homemade cat toy idea, please contact me at permissions AT makeyourowncattoys.com with your request. Thank you.

Dozens of Eco-Friendly Cat Toy Ideas

Furball, my cat, loves to play and he was so hyperactive as a kitten that I invented dozens of toys and games for him and even wrote a book about them.

Make Your Own Cat Toys features instructions for over 50 cat toys that are can be made in minutes, if not seconds, from stuff you have around the home. If you’d like to learn more about the book, please visit www.MakeYourOwnCatToys.com.