Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Organic Lawns – What Kind Do You Want?

 

About this time of year, we’ve had enough of winter and are anxious to start gardening and working on the lawn. There are lots of creative options for lawns and now is the time to start planning.

Though conventional lawns are a perfect medium where kids can play as well as provide a nice, kempt look to your landscape, to get that perfect, weed-free golf course look requires time, expense and unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen-based fertilizers.  Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and linked to health problems in children, pets and adults.  These chemicals get tracked into our home, seep into our waterways and kill beneficial life in the soil.

515219850_b3805959a1

Turf grass is our largest irrigated “crop” using as much as half of all fresh water used in urban areas each year.  With drought striking much of the country, this is an awful waste of water. Lawns also use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.  Additionally, the fuel used to power mowers and other fume-belching equipment required to maintain a perfect lawn emits toxic emissions into the air.

 

You can have a beautiful, lush, green lawn where your kids and pets can safely play without the use of chemicals and save money too.  How?

 

  • Feed your grass naturally with organic fertilizers available at your local nursery.
  • Spread a thin layer of compost over the turf, particularly on the trouble spots. The beneficial bacteria in the compost wake up your turf miraculously!
  • Throw down some extra seed.
  • Add plenty of calcium to your turf.
  • Leave your grass clippings, a natural source of nitrogen, after you mow.  Cornell researchers have shown that mulching leaves on to the lawn in the fall results in faster green up in the spring.
  • Mow high.  Longer grass encourages longer roots, which require less water and food.
  • When you water, water deeply and infrequently.
  • Learn to live with a few weeds, or wild herbs.  Dandelions actually add a bit of color,  don’t last long, and in fact are a highly nutritious, edible weed (only on an organic lawn however).  Monocultures like a lawn are not typical in nature and only invite problems.

 

Alternatives to Conventional Lawns

 

  • Edible Landscapes with sustainable, self-perpetuating vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts.  There are edible landscape companies available to consult and/or install.
  • Wildflower and perennial gardens that attract beneficial bees and butterflies.
  • Cool season or warm season ornamental, drought-tolerant grasses that need no mowing.
  • Low maintenance ground covers like myrtle or nitrogen-enriching clover that stays green even in the driest part of the summer.
  • Trees and shrubs
  • Xeriscapes, or landscapes with an emphasis on water conservation, soil improvement, limited turf, native plants, proper mulching and low-maintenance
  • Or a combination of the above

 

This spring, take a safer and healthier approach to lawn maintenance!

 

Some information compiled from: http://eartheasy.com/grow_lawn_alternatives.htm#c. www.ediblelandscapes.net, and http://www.bostontreepreervation.com.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treat Your Pets With Organics!

February 07 015We have the same concerns for our pets about good health, proper nutrition and chemical exposure as we do for ourselves;  they are vulnerable to many of the same illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. As with humans,there are now many organic products and accessories for pets, as well as alternative therapies like aromatherapy, homeopathy and botanical supplements.  For example, conventional flea control products contain pyrethroids and pesticides, which can cause health problems and cancer risks.  They also pose risks to humans who touch their pet after a treatment.  I sprinkle a yeast and garlic supplement on my dog’s food to repel fleas from the inside out which seems to work with no risk. (Don’t give your pet straight garlic however.)  Flea combs, non-toxic powders, organic sprays and shampoos also work.  Here is a natural, easy-to-do flea spray you can make yourself:

Natural Flea and Tick Repellant

6 drops lavender oil; 6 drops cedar oil; 6 drops peppermint oil; 1 cup witch hazel; Combine all the ingredients and place in a spray bottle. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Shake bottle before using. This does not need to be worked into the skin. The smell will repel fleas and ticks.

Conventional pet food has preservatives, additives with little nutritional benefit, substitutes for more expensive meats, artificial colors, thickeners and sweeteners.  Many of these fillers are contaminants and potentially carcinogenic, but you can find healthier alternatives at most pet stores and supermarkets.

Most dogs spend a lot of time outside on the lawn, rolling around, digging, and sniffing.  If you are not already doing so, consider switching to organic lawn care instead of conventional which uses unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen based fertilizers, many of which are known carcinogens linked to health problems in children, pets and adults.  Lawns actually use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.

Organic bedding, toys and clothing made using organic catnip and organic cotton help to keep your pets healthy and keep our planet free of pollutants.  Bark your dog (and cat) up the right tree!

Proper Disposal of Cat Waste

English: Female grey tabby and white cat resti...

English: Female grey tabby and white cat resting on a box of cat litter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my readers, a true cat lady, asked about the proper disposal of cat waste. With pet populations on the rise, this is an important issue.  According to pittsburghpermaculture.org/, “Composting Cat Litter and Waste”, “approximately 34% of the United States population owns a cat, 90% of which uses at least one litter box.”

Some publications say it is okay to flush cat waste, minus the litter, down the toilet, but research is showing otherwise.  The eggs of the parasite Toxoplasma Gondi found in cat poop may not be killed during the sewage treatment process and could therefore contaminate waterways.  Though this parasite rarely affects healthy people, it can affect those with compromised immune systems and can cause birth defects and brain damage in babies whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy.  It has also been shown to harm sea otters and other wildlife.  Burying or composting cat waste is not an option either since the Toxo eggs can last up to a year in soil.

The solution unfortunately is to dispose of cat waste in the trash sealed in a plastic bag.  While this may not seem like a “green” solution, it is the safest.  There are other green things you can do to lower your cat’s “carbon paw print”.

  • Use one of the greener litters made of recycled wood shavings, wheat, recycled paper or corn.  Clumping and scoopable cat litters are clay-based and not the by-product of the manufacture of something else, but instead produced by strip mining.  Cats can ingest the clay, known as bentonite, by licking their paws; it is especially dangerous for kittens or dogs that eat cat poop.
  • Clean your cat box daily—it takes about 24 hours for the Toxo eggs in cat poop to be able to infect people. Wear gloves when you clean your cat box and make sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water afterwards.
  • Keep your cat indoors to stop it from hunting birds and other small animals.
  • Remove cat poop from your yard since the Toxo eggs last for months in soil as previously said, and can move into rivers and oceans.

 

Information compiled from http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/,

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/, http://www.seaotterresearch.org/, http://pittsburghpermaculture.org/, http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp.

 


Dispose of Pet Waste Properly

waste  2

waste 2 (Photo credit: scotthughes)

When I grew up, dogs ran free and no one ever thought about picking up dog poop.  Today things are different – we have leash laws and people walk their dogs.  America has approximately 71 million dogs that produce 29,000 tons of waste each day. Leaving pet waste on the lawn or near the curb can be a major source of harmful bacteria and excess nutrients that wash into the storm drain and eventually into local waterways.  It’s very important to pick up the poop.

What then, is the most eco-conscious way to dispose of all that poop?

Throwing the bag away creates more burden in the landfill.  The plastic bags, even biodegradable ones, and the waste won’t break down without air, water, light and enzymes, which aren’t available in the landfill.  Some communities allow it however.

You don’t want to add the waste to your compost pile either.  Instead build a separate compost pile for the dog waste or dig a hole and bury it away from your vegetable garden or running water.  The enzymes in the soil will eventually break it down.

There are in ground dog waste digesters you can install which act like a home septic system.  You add water and an enzyme and bacteria digester to the pet waste, which turns it into a ground absorbing liquid that does not harm the environment.  Or, you can purchase dog waste buckets that can be attached to an existing septic system.

According to the EPA, “flushing pet waste is the best disposal method.”  (Cat waste however, should never be flushed down the toilet.) You can either empty the waste into the toilet or use a biodegradable,flushable bag and simply throw the entire thing into the toilet.  (Check your plumbing before flushing any flushable product.) That’s what I do – it seems to be the easiest, most sensible, eco-friendly option!  Let’s do the right thing for our dogs and the earth.  

Information compiled from http://www.practicallygreen.com, http://www.nrdc.org and http://www.epa.gov.

CALMING YOUR PET NATURALLY

Growing up we had Dalmatians.  Known for their high-strung, but loving nature, we had one that was particularly neurotic.  She was petrified of thunderstorms and the simulated bombings at a nearby army base.  During a storm or the bombings she hid in the “safety” of the bathtub or literally ran to the vet not too far from the house, jumped over the dutch door and admitted herself to the hospital!   She was also known however, to destroy the interior of my mother’s car during one of her anxiety attacks.

Pets, just like humans, have neuroses or nervous habits and behaviors.  Perhaps yours has separation anxiety when you leave the house.  Or gets nervous or acts out when you bring out the suitcase to pack for a trip. Maybe your pet gets jealous when a new baby arrives or when friends come over.  Loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms might cause stress.  Or somehow your pet knows when you are taking them for a check up and they shake the entire way to the vet.  Our cat always hid before her doctor’s appointments even though I purposely didn’t mention the appointment in front of her.  

Stress is harmful to a pet and can lead to unwanted behavior – excessive barking, destructive chewing, urination in the house, vomiting, etc.  As with humans, veterinarians are quick to prescribe expensive tranquilizers or sedatives.  But there are better approaches.   First, make sure you pet is getting adequate exercise and good nutrition with a high quality diet appropriate for his/her age and size.  After you have determined which situations cause stress, you can try to change the animal’s behavior by retraining them.   In extreme situations you may need to employ the help of an animal behaviorist.  Using a calm voice and playing classical music also help.

There are holistic, natural products that contain calming herbs such as valerian root and chamomile that are worth trying as well.  Pet Naturals of Vermont makes a product called Calming, Bone Shaped Chews for stress reduction, made with high potency, sugar-free natural ingredients, which don’t affect the pet’s energy level, cause drowsiness or impair motor skills.  You can get Pet Naturals of Vermont at local pet shops or at most Petco stores.  Homeopet.com also carries a variety of homeopathic remedies for stress, anxiety and other ailments.  I recently discovered an amazing product called the Thundershirt for dogs, a swaddling sweater that adds gentle pressure and calms the dog during panic attacks.  Check it out on youtube – it’s a great concept and certainly worth a try with a money back guarantee!

Information compiled from http://www.holisticpetinfo.com/conditions/behavior.htm and Pet Naturals of Vermont.

 


 

 

NON-TOXIC FLEA CONTROL

Does your pet have fleas? Fleas are more than just a nuisance to your pets (and humans); they can also result in severe skin problems.

As with everything, prevention is key.  Once they take hold, it’s hard to get rid of them.  Bathing your pet regularly, using a flea comb daily, regular vacuuming of pet areas and washing pet bedding will help stop fleas.  You don’t need chemical shampoos either – the lather will drown them. Fleas attack weaker pets, so it’s important to keep your pet healthy with regular check ups and nutritious food. Garlic and yeast supplements in your pet’s food help repel fleas from the inside out. The odor and the extra B vitamins make the pet less tasty. Most pets however, succumb to fleas at some point.

The female flea lays her eggs in dark, damp places such as cracks in the floor or a corner of the basement. The flea spends the majority of its lifecycle away from the host animal and attacks the pet only when they need food. But most flea control products are aimed at the adult fleas and are highly toxic to the pet and humans.  Also, much like humans and antibiotics, a certain amount of the flea population becomes resistant to the chemicals, requiring more and stronger chemicals for effective treatment.  The best control should be directed instead at the eggs and larvae to prevent future generations from being born.

If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, a biological control using nematodes, tiny worms, can be sprayed on your lawn and brings about 90% decrease in the number of flea larvae.  Inside, try sprinkling a boric acid product in your carpet.  Boric acid is inexpensive and effective in killing flea larvae, yet does not harm pets or humans due to its extremely low toxicity.

Another product to sprinkle on your carpet or directly on your pet is Diatomaceous earth, a fossilized algae that resembles chalk dust. It penetrates the waxy coating on a flea’s exoskeleton, causing the flea to die from dehydration. Use a mask when applying so you don’t get it in your lungs.

Several herbal sprays, shampoos and flea collars whose odors repel fleas can be found at natural food stores, garden shops and on line.  Their primary ingredients are cedar wood, citronella and rosemary.  Of course you can always make your own repellant – See below for a simple recipe from Jill Reichert’s The Joy of Green Cleaning.

Natural Flea and Tick Repellant

6 drops lavender oil; 6 drops cedar oil; 6 drops peppermint oil; 1 cup witch hazel

Combine all the ingredients and place in a spray bottle. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Shake bottle before using. This does not need to be worked into the skin. The smell will repel fleas and ticks.

Good luck!

Information compiled from http://www.alt4animals.com/flea.htm, motherearthnews.com, care2.com/greenliving and Green Living, The Environmental Magazine.


ORGANIC PET CARE

We have the same concerns for our pets about good health, proper nutrition and chemical exposure as we do for ourselves;  they are vulnerable to many of the same illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. As with humans, there are fortunately now many organic products and accessories for pets, as well as alternative therapies like aromatherapy, homeopathy and botanical supplements.  For example, conventional flea control products contain pyrethroids and pesticides, which can cause health problems and cancer risks.  They also pose risks to humans who touch their pet after a treatment.  I sprinkle a yeast and garlic supplement on my dog’s food to repel fleas from the inside out which seems to work with no risk. (Don’t give your pet straight garlic however.)  Flea combs, non-toxic powders, organic sprays and shampoos also work.  Here is a natural, easy-to-do flea spray you can make yourself:

Natural Flea and Tick Repellant

6 drops lavender oil; 6 drops cedar oil; 6 drops peppermint oil; 1 cup witch hazel; Combine all the ingredients and place in a spray bottle. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Shake bottle before using. This does not need to be worked into the skin. The smell will repel fleas and ticks.

Conventional pet food has preservatives, additives with little nutritional benefit, substitutes for more expensive meats, artificial colors, thickeners and sweeteners.  Many of these fillers are contaminants and potentially carcinogenic, but you can find healthier alternatives at most pet stores and supermarkets.

Most dogs spend a lot of time outside on the lawn, rolling around on, digging, and sniffing.  If you are not already doing so, consider switching to organic lawn care instead of conventional which uses unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen based fertilizers, many of which are known carcinogens linked to health problems in children, pets and adults.  Lawns actually use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.

Organic bedding, toys and clothing made using organic catnip and organic cotton help to keep your pets healthy and keep our planet free of pollutants.  Bark your dog (and cat) up the right tree!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 315 other followers