Sustainability. You can read about it in Scientific American, Forbes Magazine, and even the Daytona Beach Journal. Businesses and industries from banking to pharmaceuticals, hotels to big box stores, Coca-Cola to L’Oreal are all touting their sustainability initiatives. But what is sustainability? And what in the world does it have to do with pets??
Bear with me while I explain.
While sustainability doesn’t have an official definition, the commonly accepted one goes like this: “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is a broad definition for sure and applies to a myriad of areas, from how we use our energy and water resources, deal with pollution, dispose of waste, grow our food, control toxic chemicals, manufacture products, even how we promote freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It applies to businesses and nonprofits, colleges and universities, hospitals and communities. Ideally, it reaches into our own homes.
Just last week, I attended a meeting of the new Florida Green Chamber of Commerce. That’s right, a Green Chamber of Commerce. While traditional Chambers of Commerce focus on promoting and protecting businesses within a particular community, the Green Chamber’s mission is to empower businesses to grow and be profitable by practicing and promoting sustainability.
Let’s see what that looks like.
Our meeting took place at First Green Bank in Winter Park, FL. Their building boasts recycled flooring materials, sustainable bamboo walls, LED lighting and energy powered by solar panels. Their lending policies encourage green buildings and solar panels, and their “First Green Foundation” supports local agriculture. Patrons can grab an organic cookie and fruit from their refreshment bar.
A second example that has global impact is Green Comes in Many Colors,a green business that recycles materials that would normally be burned or go to landfills. Unused paper of all kinds is sorted and then sent to other countries where women transform the paper into beautiful beads. Employment has lifted families out of poverty; and as the women share their wages with their villages, wells are dug and schools are built. In the process, of course, lives are transformed as well as paper. Can you say "global impact?"
CPA MOMS is a national network of moms who are licensed experts in accounting and tax services. What makes them unique is their commitment to “putting family first,” i.e. these moms work with clients virtually which allows them to be stay-at-home moms and have a career. They call themselves “the eHarmony of the accounting world,” connecting moms nationwide with business owners who want affordable bookkeeping and tax services. That's social sustainability in action.
What in the world does this have to do with pets??
Well, I figure if businesses can be sustainable, so can homes and families, and that, of course, includes our pets.
Here are just a few ways we, our families and our pets can begin to adopt a lifestyle that ensures that this generation and those to come will have a safe, healthy environment.
- Instead of clay kitty litter, use those made from recycled paper, wheat, corn, grass seed, cyprus or reclaimed wood.
- Recycle your pet food cans and litter containers, and use recyclable poop bags instead of plastic grocery bags. If your community, church or business doesn't have a recycling program, start one!
- Reuse! Gone are the days when our grandmothers would rinse plastic bags and hang them on the clothesline to dry; but there are still lots of things we throw away which could be reused or repurposed. You don't have to look far for ideas. From Martha Stewart to Real Simple magazine to Pinterest, ideas are everywhere!
- Buy pet toys and accessories made fromsustainable materials. Look for collars and scratching posts made from hemp, toys and bedding made from organic cotton or wool, bedding stuffed with recycled plastic bottles.
- Avoid pet products made from toxic chemicals, especially flea collars!
- Avoid air fresheners, virtually all of which contain toxic phthalates and other petrochemicals that can harm your pet and your family.
- Avoid vinyl, as it, too, contains harmful phthalates that can be inhaled (it's that new shower curtain smell) or ingested (what child doesn't put toys in her mouth?).
- Ferret out toxic chemicals in your home! You’ll find them under your kitchen sink, in your bathroom and laundry room, even in your nursery. Be aware that products that claim to be "green" and "natural" may not be at all (there’s no legal definition for either of those terms). Check out the Environmental Working Group for their toxicity ratings on hundreds of products; and Women's Voices for the Earth for recipes for making your own homemade cleaning products.
Whether at the global or local level, whether in the community or the home, sustainability takes commitment, time, effort, and ingenuity. The payback is both immediate and long term, and takes the form of conserving natural resources, improving lives, strengthening families, reducing our dependence on toxic chemicals, promoting small business, and preserving the beauty of our world for generations to come.
What are you doing at home that is sustainable? Let's share our ideas!
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