September 1, 2015

While the term eco-friendly lacks an official definition, experts agree that certain conditions should apply to any product that claims the label. We asked industry specialists how they define the term and here are the prevailing themes:

• Biodegradable packaging and shipping materials.
• Suppliers and manufacturers utilize eco-friendly processes and zero-waste initiatives.
• Local sourcing of plant-based ingredients or recycled materials.
• Avoidance of harsh chemicals and preservatives.
• Made in the USA to avoid the carbon footprint of shipping overseas.

While it may not be possible or cost-efficient to put every one of these processes into practice, manufacturers should strive to utilize as many as

Better Beds and Bowls

Everything from cat beds to cat bowls and litters are becoming eco-friendly. Beco Things is a young, fast-growing British company that specializes in environmentally-friendly pet products. Its cat bowls are made from a bamboo fiber and are fully biodegradable, while its plush toy range and Beco Beds are fully stuffed with recycled plastic bottles, making for green, extra-plush cat napping.

Worldwise Inc., which recently announced its merger with Quaker Pet Group, has set the standard for recyclable pet beds with its ecoAdvantages label.

“The ecoAdvantages label on our packaging clearly identifies the environmental advantages or materials used in our products, making it easier to compare to standard products,” said Wonjung Song, director of pet bedding for Worldwise. “EcoAdvantages ensures that your choice considers the impact on the environment as well. For us it’s not just another marketing tool, but a real belief that we all must make an effort to be environmentally responsible about preserving and protecting our world.”

Cat bowls are another area of growth with bamboo and rice husks leading the field in sustainable materials. In 2014, Loving Pets launched Bambu Bowls, representing an eco-friendly revolution in the pet industry. Bambu Bowls are among the most environmentally conscious dog and cat dishes available, made from strictly bamboo and corn starch. Machine-washable and 100 percent biodegradable, it is also affordable.

“Today’s pet loving consumers are willing to spend more on products that are great for the planet, its pets and its people … but a green decision does not have to mean more expensive,” said Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets. “Loving Pets set out to create a recycled material, fully biodegradable and functional pet feeding solution that is still in-budget for any pet owner. Pet owners are also quick to get behind companies like Loving Pets that are taking the right steps to support sustainability.”

Along with beds, cat furniture is also going green.

Catty Stacks founded an entire line of cardboard products that capitalizes on a cat’s need to climb and hide. Its cat furniture is made from 100 percent recycled (and fully recyclable) cardboard. Available in many colors, the company utilizes vegetable-based ink to keep both cats and the environment safe. Each box in the system is suitable for pets up to 20 pounds and is very easy to assemble. As an added bonus, the Catty Stacks designer cat house system ships flat, allowing owners to create a customized climbing structure for their cats.

Litter That Makes Less Litter

Among the first eco-friendly cat products were cat litters. The environmentally friendly options for litter continue to expand. Once reliant on clay, litters are now being made with everything from green tea leaves, newspaper and wood, as well as corn, wheat, walnut and paper.

Pioneer Pet recently introduced its SmartCat All Natural Cat Litter, which is made from 100 percent U.S. farmed grass with no added chemicals or fragrances. It will biodegrade after disposal since grass is a renewable resource. This is a very soft litter, ideal for sensitive kittens and senior pets who require a “soft on paws” approach that won’t stick to fur.

Other natural litter includes that from ökocat. A naturally lightweight litter with a super soft texture cats love, Soft Step is a fine wood granule with a texture similar to that of clay litter, so transitioning a cat to it is easy. True to its name, it’s perfect for delicate paws, seniors and kittens.

For cats with long hair, ökocat offers its Natural Wood Clumping Litter for Long Hair Breeds. This litter offers superior performance in a natural pellet designed to keep litter in the box. It is free from chemicals, dyes and other synthetics. Its specially formulated pellets have been lab-tested and proven to absorb more than five times their weight in liquid and control odor for seven days.

Next Gen is another innovative group which has placed thought into the manufacturing of litter. The primary ingredient in both Green Tea Leaves and Flush Clean cat litters is wood.

“One bag of Next Gen cat litter will last one cat for four to six weeks with routine litter box maintenance,” said Stan Yamamoto, president of Next Gen Pets. “It is no longer necessary to change out the entire litter box every week (as is common practice with many clay litter users). The wood we use is carefully selected, clean recycled wood scrap from factories that make furniture and/or musical instruments.”

The litter boxes themselves have also gotten more eco-friendly.

“Our KatPak is a disposable and portable litter box that is 100 percent compostable and biodegradable,” said Larry Wright, CEO and president of The Green Pet Shop. “It’s constructed entirely of recycled paper. We feel that environmental concerns necessitate the need for us all to be environmentally conscious and help ensure that the planet remains safe for generations to come. We source factories overseas who source the best and most eco-friendly products, as well as certify that their products are eco-friendly. If a product does not meet the criteria necessary to classify them as eco-friendly, we will not manufacture or sell it. “

Pet Product Packaging

For manufacturers seeking ways to integrate sustainable packaging alternatives, Earth Renewable Technologies recently announced the launch of EarthBottle, a revolutionary plant-based packaging solution that is a responsible and sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics. Ideal for pet care products, EarthBottles are comparable or superior to HDPE and PET plastics in most parameters.

“More than ever before, consumers are seeking products that reflect a comprehensive consciousness to the environment, which includes the vessel it’s packaged in,” said Owen Schultz, vice president of new business development. “Our product is a versatile plant- and mineral-based solution for brands looking to meet the demands of end users with packaging options that respect our resources and protect our earth at a cost that may be comparable to what they are using now.”

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