Enlightened animal lovers across the United States face a quandary: how to pamper beloved pets without adding to global warming or creating an outsized carbon paw print?
Answers for the ecologically-aware pet owner were on offer at the "Going Green With Pets" conference at Manhattan's tony Metropolitan Dog Club, with pointers on everything from whipping up biodegradable cat litter to choosing the best organic shampoo for one's Lhasa Apso.
"This is a doggy salon," said Charlotte Reed, the store's proprietor, as well as the doting owner of a small menagerie that includes three toy spaniels, three Himalayan cats and two birds.
Reed hastened to add however, that hers is a salon where the emphasis is as much on saving the planet as on doting on one's pet.
Green-minded pet expenditures amount to little more than two percent of the 40-billion-dollar US pet care industry, but the rapidly growing niche industry is valued nonetheless at hundreds of millions of dollars.
It's not surprising that a big part of the emphasis on doggie and kittie comestibles, after last year's tainted pet food episode that saw hundreds of family pets die.
The animals were poisoned after consuming pet food containing tainted wheat gluten from China, prompting the biggest pet food recall in US history, and spawning dozens of lawsuits from bereaved animal owners.
The suits were settled last month in a 24-million-dollar settlement for thousands of owners whose animals died or were sickened in the scandal.
Now many more pet owners are preparing their animals' meals at home.
"My husband is a chef, and he often cooks better for our pets than for us," said Reed, the pet salon doyenne.
Usually her animals are fed healthy fare, but from time to time "our dogs like oatmeal cookies without sugar, carob chip cookies," Reed said, adding that their all-time favorite treat is Parmesan cheese.
The must-read primer for the environmentally aware pet owner is Eco-Dog, published just three months ago, and already in its second printing.
The book is a how-to on making Fido a meal consisting of just rice and beans or how to convert a faded pair of blue jeans into a dog bed.
Written by Corbett Marshall and Jim Deskevich, the book covers everything from homemade remedies to control fleas and ticks, to the use of animal-friendly, non-toxic home cleaning products.
On the heels of the book's success, the authors have planned to launch a website later this year, which will serve as a sort of electronic bulletin board, allowing their readers to exchange everything from wholesome pet recipes to ecology-friendly grooming tips.