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Increased environmental awareness has changed not only the way we live but the way we build and operate our communities. Everything from houses tucked into quiet suburbs to skyscrapers in bustling cities are being built with the environment in mind. Making use of natural light, having living rooftops to help reduce urban heat island effect and utilizing reclaimed water (“greywater”) are just a few of the ways we’re working to reduce our carbon footprint.

But it’s not just commercial buildings and houses that are making an impact. Animal shelters have joined the effort, either by building new, U.S. Green Building Council LEED Certified facilities or making improvements to existing facilities to make them more eco-friendly. Upgraded ventilation systems are more energy-efficient and can help mitigate the spread of contagious illnesses like kennel cough, sealed concrete flooring can help prevent the growth of bacteria, and natural light saves electricity and provides a more calming setting for animals and humans alike. Check out how animal shelters are incorporating these and other eco-friendly methods as part of their effort to help save animals and the planet!

1. Friends for Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization

How These 3 Animal Shelters Are Helping Homeless Animals and the EnvironmentFriends for Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization/Facebook

The Friends For Life shelter in Houston, Texas has been saving lives since 2002. In 2012, they decided to “go green” in an effort to help provide a healthier environment for animals and shelter workers. Their new LEED certified design benefits animals and the planet by combining eco-friendly features with those that help reduce stress in animals.

All of the kennels have individual air flow vents and were designed to reduce noise, creating an environment that’s healthier – both physically and mentally – for the animals. And natural light in every room not only reduces energy costs but helps create a calmer, home-like setting for animals, shelter staff, and visitors.

2. Humane Society Silicon Valley

How These 3 Animal Shelters Are Helping Homeless Animals and the EnvironmentHumane Society Silicon Valley/Facebook

Since 1929, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley has been helping save animals in California’s Silicon Valley.  When it was time to build a new shelter, their efforts to go green were worked into every detail. The decision to use an existing industrial site prevented the disruption of natural habitats and reusing concrete from the old building helped reduce construction waste.

To reduce water usage, they replaced the grass in their dog park with artificial turf, used native plants that thrive in drier climates, and installed an innovative system that collects and cleans rain water for future use. Their successful reduction efforts even led to the shelter being a recipient of the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award in 2010. Electric usage is reduced by the use of solar panels, which generate almost half of their electricity, and abundant natural light that also creates a happier environment for animals and humans.

3. Sacramento County Animal Care

How These 3 Animal Shelters Are Helping Homeless Animals and the EnvironmentSacramento County Animal Care/Facebook



In 2009, Sacramento County’s replaced their 40-year-old shelter with a new building that incorporates a number of environmentally-friendly elements. They made sure the new building site would not disrupt the habitat of any endangered species and reduced soil erosion during construction through the use of a sedimentation control plan.

Inside the building, energy-efficient efficient heating and cooling units, increased ventilation and low- to no-VOC materials all create a healthier indoor environment.  Outside, you’ll find bike racks and preferred parking spots for low- and no-emission vehicles to encourage alternate methods of transportation to the shelter. Water-efficient landscaping using native and adapted plants has reduced their water use by an impressive 40 percent. A public dog park placed outside the shelter completes the package by engaging the community and encouraging people to visit the shelter.

Going “Green” is Easier Than You Think

We realize every shelter isn’t able to go out and construct a new building, but there are still plenty of cost-effective ways to help the environment. Even small changes can make a huge impact on the environment – and help shelters save money in the long-run.

  • A lot of what we throw away can be either recycled or composted; implementing recycling and compost programs help reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.
  • Using “green” or eco-friendly cleaning products as much as possible prevents contamination of our precious water resources and is healthier for animals and shelter workers.
  • Plants are great for the air and help interior and exterior areas feel more inviting. Incorporating native plants and shrubs that require little watering can help decrease a shelter’s water bill while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere.
  • Take advantage of existing natural light to help reduce electricity usage. The installation of dimmable lights in animal care areas can also save electricity while creating a calmer nighttime environment for animals.

Lead image source: Friends for Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization/Facebook