By Lynette Holloway

Sean J. Hunter, director of Doggy Au Pair, with Shih Tzu Lester J. Doodles and Silla, a Mastiff

Most days, Sean J. Hunter, a jaunty dog walker, can be seen maneuvering his way along the sidewalks of Chicago’s tony Gold Coast neighborhood followed by a cavalry of his charges: pampered pooches. They range in size from as tiny as Shih Tzus and Maltese to those as big as Labradors and Mastiffs.

So, it’s safe to say Hunter knows all about the business of doggie poop and the importance of picking it up. He uses biodegradable waste plastic bags, his contribution to greening efforts. He also is conscious of keeping the sidewalks clean in a community where residents like to run, walk, and enjoy strolls along the lake front with its commanding views of the city’s jagged skyline.

But not everyone is as vigilant as Hunter. And he has the poop stories to prove it.

“I’ve had to go up to people and offer them bags,’’ said Hunter, director of the 2-year-old Doggy Au Pair, a dog walking, obedience training and vacation care service. “It’s just the considerate thing to do.’’

In fact, the incidences had grown so numerous that he worked with the neighborhood association, Gold Coast Neighbors, to help restock the community’s long abandoned boxes for emergency dog waste baggies. The organization held a fund raiser in May and raised enough money to stock its nine boxes for the short term, said Maureen O’Brien, president of the association.

Navigating the poop was not the only issue underfoot, pun intended, according to O’Brien, who says the residuals were starting to attract rodents.

“It’s quite an expensive project, but for health reasons we were very concerned,’’ said O’Brien, who estimates that it costs about $800 per box annually to keep all nine boxes stocked with baggies. “The streets are much cleaner. People were just forgetting their baggies.’’

The neighborhood’s supplier, J.J.B. Solutions, a Virginia-based company, sells baggies, metal waste baggie supply boxes, among other products, to help cities and municipalities manage dog waste. If you live in rural areas, or have a sprawling yard, well, dog poop becomes fertilizer.

The biodegradable baggies may cost more than using grocery bags, about $6.95 for a roll of 200, compared to paying nothing, but the long-term damage to the environment is worse. Poop scooped in regular plastic becomes petrified, and takes up to 100 years to decompose, according to some claims. Biodegradable products such as those made by J.J.B. Solutions, whose bags are made of recycled plastic, degrade in about 18 months, both the poop and the bag, said John Bright, director of the company.

Pet waste disposal has become more and more important as cities grapple with what to do with bulging landfills and their gases. In response to the problem, a number of companies, besides J.J. Bright Solutions, have begun to manufacture biodegradable pet waste bags. Many of the products have been designed for “open’’ or “turned,’’ not air-locked landfills, which allows for the decomposition of biodegradable material.

And for cat lovers, there is even some environmentally friendly kitty litter. Here is a listing of greener products for both canines and felines:

  • EcoChoices makes affordable, biodegradable waste bags for easy clean-up when you’re walking your dog. The company urges pet owners to dispose of waste as naturally as possible, which includes removing it from bags and papers and flushing it down the toilet. Still, using biodegradable poop bags extends options. If pet owners live in rural areas or have yards, the waste and the bag can be thrown in a backyard compost pile, where both items can decompose naturally; the waste and bag can be buried, where micro-organisms will quickly eat both; the waste and bag can be set at curbside with other yard waste where communities collect biodegradable waste for composting. One package of 50 bags costs $7.49.
  • offers 100 percent biodegradable bags. The Web site says the bag and its contents will decompose in a commercial composting environment between 60 and 90 days after use. In this case, strongly urges consumers not to place feces-filled bags into home composting systems with food scraps, or “green bins,” as this could lead to E.coli contamination. One package of 100 bags costs $18.98, including free shipping.
  • Eco-Products promises that its doggie waste bags, made from renewable resources, will degrade “within days” into rich compost. The company says that it is certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute. Prices start at $4.99 for a box of 50.
  • Doggie Dooley offers an easy solution for dog waste for those with backyards. The pet waste disposal system, which is buried in the ground, works like a miniature septic tank, using enzymes and bacteria to reduce dog waste to a ground absorbing liquid. The product is neat, sanitary, and most importantly, odorless and insect free. It can handle the waste of one to four dogs and costs $89.95.
  • For environmentally friendly cat lovers, wondering where to put the poo, World’s Best Cat Litter offers a product that uses highly absorbent protein found naturally in corn, which binds cat urine and odor molecules in the litter. The company claims that it clumps better, and controls odors without the need for perfumes and scents. It’s biodegradable, flushable and septic tank safe, the company says. It is ideal for multiple-cat households and virtually dust-free, which helps eliminate tracking. (The State of California encourages the disposal of cat feces in the trash and discourages flushing cat feces in toilets or disposing of them in drains.)
  • Arm & Hammer High Performance Clumping litter also is environmentally friendly. It is biodegradable and marketed as a natural alternative to clay-based cat litter. The litter, available at supermarkets and pet stores, is 100 percent scoopable and makes very little dust.
  • For those who have not seen the television commercials, there is the CatGenie, which is the only cat box that flushes away waste. The CatGenie uses permanent washable granules that never need changing, the company says. The granules biodegrade in landfills within two years and in septic tanks within nine months.

“In the end, it all boils down to choices for pet owners,’’ Hunter said. “Give them enough choices and they are willing to do the green thing.’’

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media