Almost every family has a pet. They have many benefits: they’re loyal, loveable, and a great way to teach children responsibility. But what is your pet’s carbon footprint? Is there a way to make it smaller? Here are some tips on staying green while having pets.

Get your pets from a shelter.

There are so many animals out there that need loving homes; there is no need to get a pet from a breeder or pet store. Your local shelter will have tons of dogs and cats in need of good homes. Have your child volunteer at the local shelter on weekends for a few months, then let them pick out an animal there. Not only will you save a life, but you’ll ensure your child knows what’s involved with having a pet.

Are you only interested in a specific breed?

Look for rescue groups in your area. They have them for many different animals. You’ll most likely have to go through a screening process to get your animal, but that’s a good way to make sure it’s a good match for you and your family.

Choose pets that can serve another purpose.

Like birds? Consider getting a few chickens for your backyard. You’ll have a great supply of fresh eggs and some feathered friends too. Chickens are actually very social animals, and many people who raise them become attached to them. Goats can provide milk, and if you have enough land there are other animals you could consider.

Use organic food.

Just like us, the less processed our pet’s food is, the happier and healthier they will be. Buy a high-quality environmentally responsible food, or consider making your own. There are a ton of recipes out there for everything from treats to full meals!

Be responsible with toys.

Don’t buy toys that will tear up easily and that you will have to replace often. There are a lot of unbleached, un-dyed toys on the market, or you can repurpose. Collect tennis balls that are no longer good for tennis games at your local racquet club for your dog – they will still enjoy them. Old t-shirts can be braided into rope toys, and scrap wood can be used to build the perfect cat perch. Use your imagination.

Clean up that poop!

Animal waste getting into the storm drains is a huge polluter of local water supplies. Be sure to use bio-degradable poop bags and compostable kitty litter.

Clean responsibly.

No one wants a smelly pet. Use cleaners that are easy on the environment. Dawn not only will get your pooch clean, it will also kill any fleas that are hiding on it. There are also a lot of environmentally friendly pet supplies on the market, find the one that works best for you.

Following these tips will lower your carbon footprint, creating a healthier home for both you and your pet.