Week of 6/26/2005

Dear EarthTalk: What kind of environmentally friendly pet care products are there for controlling ticks and fleas and washing dogs and cats?

—Jeannette Peclet, Norwalk, CT

According to Australian veterinarian Lilian Lee, pets metabolize most of the insecticide contained in mass-marketed flea collars such that the concentration is so weak it hardly has any effect on fleas. Furthermore, many pets can develop allergies to such collars, often resulting in uncomfortable dermatitis. Lee also recommends avoiding flea washes and dust powders, as they usually contain toxins that have been known to cause tremors in cats and can contaminate your indoor environment.

For those looking to rid their pets of fleas and other pests in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, "area sprays" may be the best bet. Orange Guard, for instance, is a non-toxic, food-grade pesticide that can be safely sprayed into pet bedding and other crevices instead of directly onto your dog or cat. Available from online sources like the Green Home Environmental Store and Planet Natural, among many others, the active ingredient in Orange Guard is biodegradable, citrus-based d-Limonene, which has been shown to reduce cockroach populations better than Dursban, the toxic ingredient in Raid. Direct contact with d-Limonene will kill insects and deter future visits, without posing any risks to pets or humans.

Another alternative is Bug"n"Out, a natural, non-toxic biting insect repellent spray which uses a four percent concentration of citronella oil to safely and effectively repel fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, gnats, black flies, chiggers and horse flies. According to the manufacturer, it is safe and effective not just for pets but also for people, and is effective for up to eight hours per application. Consumers can buy it from the website DoctorDog.com, which also sells the One Earth Herbal Collar for Cats, which uses aromatic oil extracts of natural herbs, flowers and wood to repel bugs without pesticides.

Still another natural insect repellent spray for dogs and cats is Only Natural Pet Flea and Insect Repellent Spray, available from the online Only Natural Pet Store. It contains Neem Oil, Lemongrass, Catnip, Citronella, and other essential oils to keep pests away and contains no DEET or other pesticides. Only Natural also makes a Pet Insect Repellent Shampoo.

One of the leaders in the "greening" of the pet care industry is Planet Dog. Beyond its large selection of safe and healthy pet toys and accessories, the company offers biodegradable pet shampoos and conditioners that are pH-balanced with aloe, eucalyptus and chamomile. The Green Home Environmental Store also offers an all-natural and biodegradable pet shampoo, and guarantees that it contains no harmful ingredients such as petroleum distillate, ammonia, benzene or formaldehyde.

CONTACTS: Orange Guard, www.orangeguard.com ; DoctorDog.com, www.doctordog.com ; Planet Dog, www.planetdog.com ; Planet Natural, www.planetnatural.com ; Only Natural Pet Store, www.onlynaturalpet.com ; Green Home Environmental Store, www.greenhome.com .

Dear EarthTalk: Who are the greenest celebrities?

—Eddie Kelley, Albuquerque, NM

While there are no precise standards by which to judge how "green" any given celebrity may be, a number of entertainment luminaries come to mind for their outspoken support of environmental causes and their commitment to greener lifestyles. For instance, television actor Ted Danson started the American Oceans Campaign in 1987 to advocate for stronger coastal and marine ecosystem protections (the organization merged with Oceana in 2002). His views on marine conservation have spurred thousands of volunteers nationwide to take part in letter-writing campaigns as well as coastal clean-ups and other related events.

Not to be outdone, fellow Cheers barkeep Woody Harrelson drives a biodiesel-powered bus around the nation campaigning for clean energy and organic agriculture. The Ron Mann documentary "Go Further," which ran in select theatres last fall and features rockers Dave Matthews, Natalie Merchant and Rob Weir, documents one of Harrelson’s wild rides down the Pacific coast to raise environmental awareness.

Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz—who drives a hybrid Toyota Prius—is hosting "Trippin"," a new MTV show about eco-tourism. During the first season, Diaz travels with singer Justin Timberlake, comedian Jimmy Fallon and rapper Talib to locales as diverse as Costa Rica, Tanzania and Yellowstone National Park to enjoy, showcase and encourage the safeguarding of these breathtaking natural environments.

Actor Ed Begley, Jr. was an early adopter of energy-efficient car technologies. These days, he makes a point of showing up at Hollywood events on his bicycle, and lives in a self-sufficient house powered by solar energy. He serves on the board of the Environmental Media Association (EMA), a non-profit that consults with producers and actors about placing pro-environmental messages in TV shows and movies.

Daryl Hannah walks her talk by solar-powering both her Colorado and Malibu homes, maintaining and eating from her organic gardens, and running her vehicles on biodiesel pumped from her own home processing facility. She recently won EMA’s Greenlight Award for her environmental commitments.

Leading man Harrison Ford has served on Conservation International’s Board of Directors for 10 years and has actively participated in the work of the organization. Harvard Medical School recently honored Ford with its 2002 Global Environmental Citizen Award.

And Leo DiCaprio has been working since the mid-1990s on environmental issues. His foundation has funded projects by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the International Fund For Animal Welfare, the Dian Fossey Foundation, Reef Check, Oceana, Santa Monica’s Heal The Bay, and others. DiCaprio’s foundation places particular emphasis on the issues of global warming, alternative and renewable energy sources, and the preservation of biodiversity.

CONTACTS: "Go Further," www.sphinxproductions.com/pages/film_gofurther.html; MTV’s Trippin", www.mtv.com/onair/dyn/trippin/series.jhtml ; Ed Begley, Jr., www.edbegley.com; Environmental Media Association, www.ema-online.org; Leonardo DiCaprio, www.leonardodicaprio.org .