If you were to ask any reptile hobbyist about their collection, it would probably be difficult to get them to stop talking. This hobby is full of passionate, caring people that truly love their animals and everything about them. With all the reptile shows across the country and the thousands of products that are available, it is undeniable that keeping reptiles is a fun and exciting hobby that continues to grow every day. With all these new keepers joining and breeders expanding their inventory, one might start to wonder what kind of impact this incredible hobby has on the environment. Though it may seem like herpetology has little effect on the planet, if people really start to think about some of the things they do every day to care for their scaly friends, they can see how quickly it all adds up and the toll it takes on the environment. If hobbyists make a few simple changes to be greener keepers, a great difference would be made for the entire world, while saving some money along the way.
Those deli cups
Let’s start with how most people bring their new little friends home. When you walk the aisles of a reptile show, thousands of lizards, snakes, and monitors are all packed neatly away in their own little deli cups. This is convenient for customer viewing and safe for reptile traveling, but what happens to all those cups when the show is over? The breeder will probably reuse some of the leftovers, but most of them will end up in the trash once the reptiles are placed in their new enclosures at their new homes. These deli cups will then end up sitting in a landfill for a lifetime. As an alternative to these plastic containers, there are several companies out there that make biodegradable deli cups and other containers out of corn and potatoes. These products can be tossed into the trash and will dissolve into the Earth naturally without any harm to the planet.
Whether a hobbyist is keeping thousands of reptiles in a rack system or a few in an aquarium, it is important to think about what is on the bottom of the enclosures. Paper towels or newspaper are often used because of their convenience. They are not too expensive, can be replaced easily and thrown away when soiled. However, once we begin to think about how many thousands of people across the country use this method and think about the thousands of paper towels that are also thrown away every day, it is easy to see that this practice is extremely wasteful. If one average reptile breeder uses six rolls of paper towels a month, those six rolls add up to seventy-two rolls a year. If that one breeder is then multiplied by five that equals 360 rolls a year. If that one breeder is then multiplied by a thousand, that is 72,000 rolls of paper towels a year! That is a ton of wasted paper towels, not to mention wasted money.
This wasteful practice can be easily eliminated by simply switching to a reusable substrate such as tile or shelf liner. These products can be washed and replaced in the enclosure, so nothing goes into the trash. For people that only keep a few reptiles this can be done quite easily. For big breeders who keep hundreds or sometimes thousands of animals this may seem impractical, but there is a way that is just as convenient as paper towels. Start by keeping two sets of reusable substrate. For example, if you have 100 tubs, keep 200 hundred liners. When changing out the substrate, toss the dirty lining into a large bin and put the already clean lining into the enclosure. Once you have collected all the dirty bottoms, fill the bin with hot water and let it soak overnight. The next day, rinse and lay or hang them out to dry so they will be ready for the next cleaning the following week. It may take a while to prepare all the substrate, but once it is done, you will not have to do it again. The best part is that repurchasing substrate over and over is now a cost that has been cut from the budget.
Chemicals used while cleaning
When cleaning the enclosures, most keepers do not want to use chemicals, but there are some chemical cleaners available that are made for reptiles. A great way to clean and sanitize the enclosures is to use a mixture of white vinegar and water. A squirt of all-natural lemon or orange juice may also be added for a fresh scent. This is a natural and safe method for everyone and is healthy for the planet. Always wipe down with towels which can be washed and used again instead of a throw away product.
Stop throwing away those paper towels
Paper towels are needed and sometimes they just cannot be replaced, so just be sure to use them as sparingly as possible and always buy recycled products. Since soiled paper towels cannot be recycled, a great way to keep them out of a landfill is to make your own compost heap. There are various websites that have compost guides and they are fairly easy to start up. They can be contained in a large trash can or storage bin and everything from paper towels, leftover food, shedding, reptile waste and feeder waste can be tossed into it.
Breed your own feeders
Another great way to help the environment through herpetology is to breed your own feeders. Most breeders already do this because it not only saves them a great deal of money, but ensures that the feeders are healthy for their reptiles. Breeding your own feeders is helpful to the environment, because you are not running to the store every week to buy them so it saves you a few trips in your car. Also the pet stores will be ordering fewer feeders, which will reduce the number of trips for delivery truck drivers which will in turn reduce pollution. Since pet stores will be bagging feeders less often, paper and plastic bags will also be saved. If you are a keeper who only has a small amount of reptiles, and if breeding feeders would result in too much food for your pets, you can also bring in a container for carrying your feeders out so you will not be throwing away a plastic bag every week. We have a great post about breeding your own superworms right here on Gecko Time.
By making a few changes in reptile care, reptile hobbyists can and will make a huge, positive impact on the environment. The next time you start chatting with a hobbyist about their favorite reptile, find out what green things they integrate into their reptile care and share your ideas as well. Starting the conversation is the best way to spread the green word.