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About Sustainabilty

Grassy field with tree and blue skySustainability ... Minimizing Our Ecological Footprint

There are a whole lot of words and phrases being thrown around these days to help consumers feel better about the products they buy in relation to how their choices affect the environment.

Some you may have heard include: green-living, buy green, eco-friendly, environmentally friendly, certified organic, recycled materials, recyclable, up-cycled, re-purposed, buy local, buy handmade, all-natural and others. There are also numerous organizations with symbols, seals and designations which are supposed to help consumers make good choices. In theory, the intentions surrounding these terms and designations are good and can have positive affects on the planet, but when it comes right down to it, there are only a few concepts which are actually measurable. Two of these are sustainability and the ecological footprint.

"The traditional definition of sustainability calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." SOURCE:

"The Ecological Footprint has emerged as the world’s premier measure of humanity’s demand on nature. It measures how fast we consume resources and generate waste, compared to how fast nature can absorb our waste and generate new resources." SOURCE:

Essentially, the lesson behind both of these terms is don't unnecessarily nor selfishly use resources or you may not have them for long. Other phrases that come to mind are "waste not, want not" and "live within your means." This does not mean you have to go without or settle for inferior products. But, to make the best choices, it is important to look at the big picture.

Some big pictures are easier to see than others. For example, buying organically grown fruits and vegetables from a local farmer is a great way to help your local economy and no doubt healthier than eating foods sprayed with pesticides.  Unfortunately, not all pictures are as clear.

Choosing the right bed for your pet depends on many factors. And while no bed will satisfy all needs of all pets and their owners, some take more factors into consideration than others. For instance, a pet bed filled with recycled materials and covered with certified organic fabric is great in theory, but how are these recycled materials processed and where is the item made and by who? Is it made in a huge factory and does it travel across an ocean before you buy it? Can it be washed and how much energy will it take to keep it clean and fresh? What's "living" in the foam and/or filling that can't be washed? How long will it last before it starts to break down and needs to be replaced because it can no longer provide proper support and comfort? Can any portion be reused/recycled or does the entire bed go straight to the landfill?

It's not always easy to determine the exact sustainability or ecological footprint of a product, but making "better" choices is often a matter of common sense. To determine the sustainability and eco-footprint, try to look at all stages of a product's "life cycle" and consider things like:

  • Where and how is it made? Not just where in the world but whether in a big factory with large machinery or in a small shop or home business.
  • Who makes it? Adults in your community who are paid fairly for a job well done or nameless, faceless, who knows how old they are, who work long hours yet still live in extreme poverty?
  • Does it require special processes/machines to manufacture? Are harmful chemicals used or generated in the production process? How much fuel/electricity does it take to power large machinery?
  • How far does it travel before it reaches me? air, sea or land?
  • Can it be washed/repaired easily? How much energy will it take to maintain it?
  • How long will it last before I'll need to replace it and can any of it be reused or recycled?

There is a brief video series which explains these concepts in an informative yet entertaining way. It even has simple animated cartoons which make it appealing to adults but can also be a great teaching tool for kids. It's called "The Story of Stuff Project" and can be found at this website:

WARNING: Air beds are NOT recommended for teething puppies nor highly destructive "chewers"! Though inflatable is protected by industrial, claw/nail-proof canvas, NOTHING is completely chew proof. Air beds are NOT toys and are NOT for human children!
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