Saving the Planet, One Pet at a Time
Manufacturers are expanding environmentally conscientious offerings to produce sustainable goods that protect consumers—and the planet.
As the global population increases, the amount of waste created each year also rises. America alone, for example, produced nearly 254 million tons of trash in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To do their part in addressing this escalating problem, a number of environmentally responsible pet-supply manufacturers are using sustainable production methods and recycling materials to reduce waste and pollution.
Breaking the Waste Cycle
When avid cyclist and Cycle Dog president Lynette Fidrych recognized the waste caused by her used bicycle inner tubes was simply causing more landfill buildup, she repurposed the material as backing on dog collars.
“Over three million inner tubes are produced each day—over one billion a year,” she says, noting that the good news is these materials can be repurposed instead of sent to a landfill. “The reclaimed tubes make a great backing material because they dry quickly and resist bacteria growth.”
Comparing the cost of products created through traditional methods with those manufactured through sustainable means, consumers often find greener products require more greenbacks. In Cycle Dog’s case, Fidrych reveals that the higher price point is due to costly recycling processes to ensure materials are safe.
“Inner-tube rubber cannot be melted and injected into other forms, so it is not recyclable,” she explains. “In our tube process, we reclaim the rubber, and this is a very expensive process. We must procure each tube, hand clean each one, inspect for large holes and cuts, and then sort each tube by width down to 1/16.”
While the company’s inner bicycle tube collars are lauded for being safe for the planet, they also offer additional safety features to keep pets secure. The Cycle Dog collar design is reinforced with a safety bar that restricts the buckle from unintentional release, offering four times the strength of average products, for safe pets to enjoy a sustainable planet.
Good on Recycled Paper
Dogs and cats are often part of the eco-friendly pet product conversation, yet other animals such as small mammals, reptiles and birds are also a great fit for this product category. The delicate bodies of smaller animals require gentle materials to optimize wellness. For example, FiberCore’s Eco-Bedding is sourced from 100-percent recycled paper and promotes pets’ overall health.
“Our material allows them to forage and make nests,” says company president Brian Wood. “When they do that, it reduces stress. When you reduce their stress level, you reduce their anger. They are happier and healthier. We’re protecting our environment and improving the microenvironment of critters inside their cages.”
Pet parents of birds, small mammals and rodents are in constant need of bedding, cage lining and foraging products. By offering eco-friendly options, according to Wood, retailers are able to expand their reach by becoming recognized as a resource for all animals in the environmentally conscientious pet-products category.
“Consumers don’t have the power to shift this until retailers offer the products,” he says. “The trend is going to be natural, but the people who make the purchasing decisions need to be dialed into it. It’s hard to get people excited about bedding, until we offer them alternatives.”
Sustainably sourced manufacturing practices begin when innovators think outside the box, which is how BPV Environmental developed eco-friendly, dust-free cat litter and pet bedding. Manufactured from recycled paper, the litter pellets provide an alternative to traditional products, and the company continues to innovate with new products.
“We were excited to launch our Fresh News Light Weight Multi-Cat Litter at Global Pet Expo 2016,” reveals Marty Phelan, partner at BPV Environmental. “This product is not only about a third of the weight of clay litters, but it also has double the odor control and more absorption power than our pellet litters.”
Production of the company’s Fresh News reuses paper sourced through its PaperGator service. According to Phelan, this effort allows nonprofit groups to receive payment for paper collection.
“We developed PaperGator because we saw an opportunity to collect recycled paper directly from consumers while helping our surrounding communities with a super-easy fundraiser…[organizations] put their unwanted homework assignments, flyers, bulletins and junk mail into our bins, and then they get to make money for it,” says Phelan.
PaperGator has prevented paper from occupying 220,000 cubic yards within landfills, which Phelan notes is a winning partnership for everyone.
Successful eco-friendly pet supply manufacturers draw on many sources of inspiration. When launched in 1997, Planet Dog examined different companies that were accepting environmental responsibility.
“We saw [companies in] other industries like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s committing to taking good care of the planet while making amazing products, but didn’t feel the pet industry was stepping up,” says Amanda O’Brien, director of marketing. “We are proud to be founding members of PISC (Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition) and one of our company’s partners, Stephanie Volo, is on the board.”
Through its work as a PISC member, Planet Dog is able to collaborate with other pet-goods suppliers that value sustainability and eco-friendly manufacturing. It continues to explore sustainably sourced materials, such as the hemp used to create its Cozy Hemp Leashes, Collars and Harnesses, according to director of product Coleen Franzel.
“Hemp…is fast growing, replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen, needs 50 percent less water than cotton, and can grow with little irrigation and in cooler climates,” she notes.
Wiping Out Waste
Recognizing the potential of entering the business of environmentally friendly pet products, Best Pet Supplies also quickly learned that transparency is the best policy, says vice president of business development Andrea Chen.
“Other companies were simply calling their products biodegradable when they weren’t,” she says. “We looked into creating a biodegradable bag and discovered d2w—a special material invented by a U.K. company. Once added into a plastic, it allows it to break down and shortens the life of the plastic bag. No harmful chemicals are released into the soil, which is most important.”
Best Pet Supplies was able to create a trusted brand, according to Chen, as pet parents evolved into educated consumers who seek honesty.
“I think retailers have to be very morally conscious that the products they sell are not going to be harmful to pets and the environment,” she says. “We need to be socially responsible.”
As Best Pet Supplies continues to expand its offerings through eco-friendly pet wipes, toys and a possible cat litter launch, sustainability and transparency remain at the forefront of the company’s planning.
Eco-Friendly by Design
While shopping for sustainable products, many pet parents search for manufacturers that not only make safe products for pets, but also take steps to ensure changes in the industry. As a founding member of PISC, West Paw Design owner and president Spencer Williams reveals how sustainability in the pet-goods industry is integral to the company’s core values.
“When we started making environmentally-friendly pet toys and beds, twenty years ago, there wasn’t a guiding organization to help us grow our business in an Earth-friendly way – so we helped found one. The Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition unites pet-focused businesses, providing us all with resources so we can collaborate on advancing business goals while maintaining our commitment to the planet.”
As West Paw Design remains a resource from which other manufacturers can learn the business of environmentally responsible pet supplies, Williams continues to innovate within the eco-friendly space by introducing new products, such as its West Paw Pillow Bed with Hemp.
“Hemp fabric is an eco-friendly alternative for those who want a pet bed with a low-impact on the environment, as hemp is a renewable resource that can be grown without pesticides or agricultural chemicals.”
Using materials that once polluted the planet, pet-goods manufacturers are creating an array of products to promote the wellbeing of pets, families and the environment. As more manufacturers collaborate with PISC, the environmentally responsible pet-goods segment will grow and consumers will invest greater trust in eco-friendly claims.