Imagine a rescue shelter where natural lighting, instead of flickering fluorescents, helps calm homeless pups. Envision a cattery with big, bright windows in playrooms, so the resident felines can bask in the sun.
Animal shelters across the US are going green, and that’s good news for people and adoptable pets. As funds become available, some older centers without energy-saving features are being rebuilt or upgraded. Others are taking small steps to help save the earth and improve animals’ lives.
Harmony House for Cats (Chicago, Illinois)
Chicago’s Harmony House for Cats is one of those shelters. This no-kill, eco-friendly adoption center uses geothermal wells, solar panels and cells that convert sunlight into electricity to heat and cool its 7,085 square-foot space. Cats and kittens enjoy the natural world by climbing on the shelter’s carpeted posts and looking out into a courtyard filled with trees and flowers.
Harmony House is not only LEED-certified, which means that it’s considered a leader in energy and environmental design, it was Chicago’s first Net-Zero Energy building. LEED-certified buildings use less water and energy than conventional structures, reduce landfill waste and decrease greenhouse gas emissions that may cause global warming.
Friends For Life (Houston, Texas)
In Houston, the Friends for Life shelter is also LEED-certified. Skylights bring in plenty of light, while “sniff holes” in large rooms let dogs check what’s going on around them. Kennels have individual air flow vents that recirculate 100 percent of the outside air up to 15 times an hour. This kind of air circulation, along with proper air filtration systems, goes a long way toward preventing the spread of diseases, especially those that cause respiratory problems in cats and dogs.
Humane Society of Silicon Valley (Milpitas, California)
When it was time to rebuild in California, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley went green by tearing down a structure on an old industrial site and removing the lead paint, mercury and Freon from the soil. Road beds and a pad for an Animal Community Center in Milpitas were then built, reusing 90 percent of the demolished materials. The center now features low-flow sinks and washing machines, and a system that cleans and disinfects kennels with green cleaning products.
Potter League For Animals Middletown (Rhode Island)
Dogs and cats stroll on comfortable floors made from recycled tires at the 19,000-square foot Potter League for Animals in Rhode Island. This shelter was the first in the U.S. to receive the top-ranked Gold Level LEED certification. Drought tolerant plants that need little care and water grow on the shelter’s roof, and water runoff is stored in an underground cistern until it can be recycled and used for cleaning. Like the Silicon Valley center, the Potter League repurposed and reused about 75 percent of the materials from its original building.
Help Your Local Shelter Go Green
Going green saves money and natural resources, and helps keep animals healthy and happy while they’re awaiting new homes. However, eco-friendly centers and catteries can be expensive to build or remodel. Here’s how you can help your local shelter go green:
- Volunteer your time to help landscape the shelter with native plants that can survive on rainfall.
- Donate eco-friendly supplies like LED light bulbs, or rags or cloths that can be reused, instead of discarded like paper towels.
- Look for related federal, state and private grants that can benefit a shelter, or hold a fundraiser.
- Ask corporations to donate money or eco-friendly products.
Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.
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