This April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an annual celebration of the beauty of the natural world and a call to action to do more in our daily lives to help keep our planet clean, green, and thriving. (Do you remember your first Earth Day? We do.)
As pet parents who want to give our furry (or feathery) family members the best life possible, of course we want to do our part. So, to get you started we’ve rounded up 24 ways to make a difference. Got 5 minutes, an hour, even the whole day? Here are some easy-to-do ideas divided into how much time you have to devote. (And no, you don’t need to do all of this in one day.)
Remember, it all adds up!
If you have 5 minutes
- Here’s something to chew on: currently fewer than 20 percent of aluminum pet food cans are recycled in a market with sales of over 6 billion dollars. (How many cans is that? Do the math and let us know.) The good news is that most pet food cans are made from aluminum and steel and are recyclable. Rinse and recycle!
- Open the windows and pull back the drapes! Let nature come right on in. You and your pet will feel so zen-sational. (And that’s not just good advice from Mom—here’s the science of why).
- Changing the water in your pet’s drinking bowl? Waste not, want not by using it to water houseplants or garden containers rather than dumping it down the drain.
If you have 30 minutes
- Be heard! Is there an environmental issue that impacts both you and your pet? It only takes minutes to jot down your thoughts, address to your local representatives, and hit send. (Here’s how to find your reps’ contact info.)
- Give yourself an off-to-bed timeout with your pet for a gratitude moment. Yes, we mean setting aside time at the end of your day to thank Fluffy or Fido for being your anchor in a sometimes-crazy world. No resources required for this one. (Wondering why this exercise leaves you with a drift-to-sleep smile? It’s all about the science.)
- It’s always best practices to use what you have until it can’t be used no more, but when you’re thinking about treating your pet to a new toy, consider one made from recycled materials that have a lighter footprint. Here are a few we love.
- Waste pickup: It’s a fact of pet parenthood. Since you’re buying them anyway, why not consider ordering some biodegradable poop bags?
- When your current pet bowls are no longer fit for feeding, replace them with ones made from more sustainable materials such ceramic, stainless steel, or bamboo, all of which use fewer carbon-based inputs to manufacture and can be recycled.
- Get all tied up in the fun of picking out a new pet leash that’s made from a sustainable material such as rubber, cotton, or recycled plastic (find some here).
- Let’s get granular. If your pet is comfortable with it, switching to biodegradable cat litter (which may be made from recycled paper products or plant-derived materials such as pine, wheat, corn, beet pulp, and soybean) can be an early-friendly solution.
- While tap water in most municipalities is perfectly safe to drink, with just a simple water-filtration gadget like a Brita pitcher, you can provide your pet with the best tasting H2O possible (and avoid all those gallons of bottled drinking water you might be buying).
- Save some BTUs by air drying pet bedding, blankets, clothes and accessories to avoid running the dryer. Better yet, install an old-fashioned (but oh so modern!) clothesline. Same goes for post-bath grooming. Holster the hairdryer and grab a plushy towel for a feel-good rubdown.
- Pay it forward by covering the cost of spaying or neutering a pet in need by contacting your local animal shelter or rescue, or make a donation to the Humane Society of the United States' Sponsor a Spay program.
- Oh snap! Take a picture of you and your pet in the great outdoors (whether in your yard, on your balcony with all your potted plants, or where possible, on a walk in the neighborhood) and share it on social media. Can’t find the words? These quotes about nature never fail.
If you have 1 hour
- From elephants and snow leopards to boobies and wombats, think global, act local by adopting a species of wild animal and supporting the work of organizations dedicated to protecting these creatures and their habitat…in your pet’s name. It’s neither crazy nor pricey, and it makes a real difference.
- Get your chefiness on and whip-up a plant-based, low-carbon healthy treat for your pet that they’ll love. (Remember, this is a treat, so not more than a bite or two!)
- Yes, we’re housebound these days but that doesn’t mean you and your pet can’t experience the natural wonders of this wonderful world. Scoop them up, settle in, and take your pet on a virtual tour of some of the most magnificent national parks in the U.S. via Google Earth. (We watched just about all of these and they’re mesmerizing.) Oh, and dig (and download) NASA’s collection of Earth Day posters from the past.
- Green-up your digs with some pet-safe living plants. While the science about the extent to which plants indoors have an effect on CO2 levels is inconclusive, there’s no denying that there are plenty of benefits. Any level of cleaner air is a good thing! Buy at a local garden center or order from The Sill
If you have 6 hours
- What’s more “Earth Day” than getting your hands in the dirt and planting something? It could be a tree, a vegetable garden, a flowery windowbox or two--doesn’t matter, just plant something pet-safe and easy to grow. Good picks include spinach, carrots and other pet-safe veggies. Bonus points if you enlist your dog to “help” dig the holes.
- Do so much good by just cleaning your closets and becoming part of the sustainability movement called the circular economy (it’s so the next big thing). Gather all of those new or gently used pet supplies, clean towels and blankets, and other soft and hard goods to donate to an animal shelter or rescue (find one near you). A world with more happy pets is a world we all want.
- There’s no time like the present to crack open a book and let your love of literature expand your passion for the planet. These pet-focused picks are a great place to start.
If you have the whole day
- We’re guessing your friends and neighbors would also love an easy way to be part of celebrating #EarthDay50. Get the ball rolling by organizing a donation drive (porch pick-ups are a good solution right now) or an online fundraiser to support the needs of a community animal shelter or rescue.
- Admit it: You’ve always wanted your pets to have their very own private dog park. Now’s the time to make it happen. Dogify your backyard or, weather-permitting, create a dog water park.
- You don’t have to choose between Earth Day and your Netflix habit. Go ahead, binge watch some of the best streaming tv shows about animals. You’ll deepen your appreciation for animals and the nature they love without ever leaving your couch.