Even Your Dog Is Getting Green
Posted February 25, 2008 3:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2008 9:30 p.m. EST
When Bronna Bodenstein's "only child" Moe D. Beagle has a particularly hard day, she knows just how to pamper him: a few rounds of fetch, a belly rub and an evening unwinding to the relaxing scent of "Rose Petal Pooch," an aromatherapy candle made just for dogs, infused with essential oils and Peruvian balsam bark.
Bodenstein, 54, of Pikesville, Maryland, considers herself the quintessential customer for her store Earthdoggy.com, an online distributor of earth-friendly products for pets: a self-described "crunchy granola" who drives a hybrid car and buys eco-friendly laundry detergent and also loves her dog.
For Bodenstein, earth-conscious pet products are a natural extension of her green lifestyle. "I buy green because I care about the environment," she said "but I also love to do good things for my dog."
Fueled by increasing popularity of environmentally friendly products of all kinds, the sustainable pet product industry is expected to grow to nearly $1 billion in sales by 2009, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company in Rockville, Maryland Many pet stores are adding special eco-friendly sections to their aisles, and online sales are booming.
Now in its third year of operation, Earthdoggy.com is one of at least a dozen online retailers specializing in environmentally friendly pet products. The store carries everything from natural peanut butter-flavored dog cookies to eco-friendly plush squeaky toys. Their top seller is a $120 dog bed made from recycled materials and printed with low-impact dyes, and a $75 organic cotton quilt designed to protect car seats from pet hair is so popular it's out of stock.
Bodenstein says she sells environmentally- friendly accessories for all facets of a pet's life, from snout to tail - even biodegradable plastic baggies for picking up dog poop.
"A green product helps the planet no matter what it is," Bodenstein said. "If you're going to buy a collar or a dog bed anyway, why not pick an earth-friendly one?"
But the industry isn't all lavender and mint dog shampoo and stylish leashes made of hemp. In addition to environmental benefits, green pet accessories tend to be much safer for dogs and cats, said Donn Griffith, president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The pet industry has little or no regulation, he said, so that cheap rubber bone you bought for Fido might be coated with poisonous chemicals or tainted with lead.
At his practice in Columbus, Ohio, Griffith sees increasing numbers of dogs and cats with liver and pancreatic problems, complications that can come from ingesting toxins in chew toys and treats.
"Conventional rawhides and pig ears are treated with chemical solutions that give off a slow dose of poison," he said. "Pet owners need to be informed about what they are giving their animals."
Last spring's massive pet food recall after tainted food from China was linked to dog and cat deaths was "a wake-up call" for Stacey Toibin, 38, whose household in Chicago includes three cats and a dog. Toibin already bought natural food for her pets, but suddenly her laundry basket of plastic chew toys for Thunder, her Boxer, seemed suspect.
"I was horrified," she said. "The message is even if you think you're buying a high-end brand of food or a fancy toy, unless it says 'natural' you really can't trust it."
Toibin now buys exclusively natural and eco-friendly products for her animals, many from her new online business, Ecopetlife.com. Although the green pet accessories sold there cost "easily double" what their conventional counterparts would, she thinks the extra cost is worth it. "Our pets depend on us to make the right choices for them," Toibin said.
But daily treats of whole-grain doggie cookies and organic catnip can add up fast, said Marcia Martin, a veterinarian in Boca Raton, Florida
"I love the whole concept but I have kids and a family to buy for too," she said. "I try to fit as much into my lifestyle as I can."
For Martin, that means shelling out for "people grade" meat and natural treats for her daschund and Labrador retriever, but saying no to pricey recycled dog tags and pet jerseys knit from unbleached merino wool.
Bodenstein has fewer reservations. With no kids and only her beloved Moe to dote on, she happily buys most of the products she sells, from all-natural doggie spa products to aromatherapy deodorizer sprays - eco-friendly treats she acknowledges are just as much for her as for her dog.
"I don't think Moe knows or cares about most of this stuff," she said. "But Moe likes to roll in poop so I don't really trust his taste in products, if you know what I mean."