Saturday, July 30, 2016

Which Type of Cat Litter is Most Earth Friendly?

My first cat Owen
If you want to know the truth about cat litter, or how to choose which type cat litter is most eco-friendly and sustainable, this post is written with you in mind.

Long time readers of this blog may recall that nearly 18 years ago I was a Buyer at Petco. My first product category was cat consumables (cat food, cat litter, toys, treats, litter accessories, toys and cat furniture). Until that time I had always been a dog person, but I knew that in order to best understand the category and the products for which I had buying responsibility, I needed to have a cat. So I went out and adopted a kitty cat named Owen, who helped me evaluate various products and form my own opinions from experience.

Back then, there were some new types of cat litters coming on the market that were alternatives to the clay litters being sold. There were a range of interesting cat litters made from corn, wheat, pine, paper, etc. which positioned themselves as an alternative to clay, and also as more "environmentally friendly." These products seemed to fit the bill and offered consumers another choice, which is always good to let consumers have choices. However on closer review and using some of these alternative cat litters, I found that none of them truly performed as well as clay clumping litter. Clay litter has always performed best to control cat pee and poop, and deal with the waste. It dries out the moisture best, and clumps better than all those other alternative types.

The "reason for being" for the alternative litters then was that they were supposedly Earth-friendly, and therefore consumers were willing to sacrifice performance in favor of using a product they felt was better for the environment.

Fast forward 18 years, and now I'm involved in developing Cats Incredible litter, which is made from natural clay (pure sodium bentonite minerals). Our company decided to study the various litters available and deliberately chose to use clay and not corn or wheat as our litter type. The reasons are many...but mainly because just as I learned 18 years ago, clay simply does the best job to control cat waste. However we also learned that those corn and wheat litters also tend to rot and get moldy with moisture (from cat urine). They also attract pests and develop bacteria. When you think about it, corn and wheat are food materials, so it seems strange to use a food for cat litter. We all know what happens when food gets old and gets moldy and forms bacteria, so in my view these are not appropriate materials to use for a cat litter.

The more interesting learning we had was when we discovered that those "alternative" and "Earth-friendly" cat litters made from corn and wheat aren't really as Earth-friendly as people have been led to believe. When we reviewed the complete life cycle of various cat litters, we found that in total, clay litter materials have very low "CO2" carbon impact versus corn and wheat litters.

Think about it this way: corn and wheat litters require water to grow the crops, some use pesticides in the crops, along with fertilizers, then after a long growing season of using precious water, they need to be harvested, using harvesting trucks (which require fuel) and human labor. Then the corn or wheat has to be washed, processed, dried, cooked/extruded, crushed, sieved and packaged. Meanwhile those crop fields have to be re-cultivated again for the same process. The reason I am being so forthright about these facts is that there is so much mis-information out there against clay litter. There are companies only telling part of their story to lead people to believe their product is more "green" or Earth-friendly,  just to sell corn and wheat litter, but they are not being totally honest.

As California based, small family owned company, Lucy Pet Products is all about honesty and transparency. We are proud to partner with American companies that mine clay responsibly. Together we are helping to provide jobs to American workers in the heartland of America. These companies know how to responsibly mine the clay minerals used for cat litter to preserve and protect the environment at the same time.

I personally have visited clay
mining multiple times
As part of developing Cats Incredible, I have visited the areas where clay minerals are extracted, and have personally witnessed the how the land is reclaimed. When you look at the process to make clay litters, it starts with responsible mining (trucks digging clay minerals from the soil doesn't take long), then drying, extrusion, crushing and sieving and packaging. It isn't very deep, and it is a layer of clay that don't grow anything so it is basically unused below the soil. The CO2 emission of clay has, on average just 30 grams of CO2 per cat per day, or the equivalent of a 12 watt LED bulb running for just 6 hours. 

So, the process to make clay litter is actually very very low carbon emission. I would like to point out that this process IS NOT what some companies claim as strip mining. The land is carefully reclaimed, with fresh top soils, and re-seeded to enable wildlife to flourish. The areas are often revived to a better environmental state after the clay is removed.  When you look at these facts, they speak for themselves. Many people have only heard part of the story about "alternative" litters. I wanted to set the record straight here on my personal blog by sharing what I have learned through my own personal experiences.

I am writing this post because to provide the facts and truth to people interested in learning more. Of course, I am sharing this because I am part of the Lucy Pet Products team and we want people to know the full facts about litter. The fact is the clay litter we use for Cats Incredible IS Earth friendly, eco-friendly and sustainable. If you truly want a litter that has the lower carbon emission, you can use Cats Incredible and feel confident that our litter is more eco friendly and sustainable than those corn and wheat litters.

Below is a graphic we created to help illustrate what I just described. I hope you find it helpful and interesting. 

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