Environmentally Friendly Dog Ownership
A guide to living sustainably with a pet.
In the face of impending environmental crises like climate change, many people are reflecting on how their actions impact the planet.
Our personal consumer habits play a large role in determining our ecological footprint (https://www.footprintnetwork.org/our-work/ecological-footprint/). In recent years, the zero-waste lifestyle has become increasingly popular among people who want to live more sustainably.
Zero-waste refers to a set of principles aimed at reducing waste by changing the life-cycle of resources. By reusing items, reducing your consumption and opting for sustainable options, the ultimate goal of zero-waste is for your lifestyle to produce as little waste as possible.
Zero-waste living is an incredibly rewarding lifestyle that has a positive impact on our planet but it can be challenging and does require discipline and sacrifice.
An important part of adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is understanding that zero-waste principles extend beyond just your personal waste and include your consumer habits and the waste produced by those under your care.
For example, the way in which you take care of your pet and the waste they produce contributes to your overall environmental impact.
A lot of zero-waters or pet parents who are considering adopting a zero-waste lifestyle may question whether living zero-waste with a dog is possible. The answer is yes! It is entirely possible to be zero-waste friendly with a dog.
As any pet parent knows, dogs can be messy and their needs can often cause a lot of waste.
There are, however, a few easy to implement zero-waste hacks that make living zero-waste or minimal waste friendly with a dog entirely possible.
How to make zero-waste friendly dog products
Thrifting or finding new ways to use old items is an excellent way to sustainably source items you may need, like blankets, items of clothing or even kitchen equipment. The same is true for dogs!
Pet parents can easily reuse and re-purpose household items to make things their dog may need.
A great place to start is to find DIY alternatives to items your dog may need.
For example, did you know that you can turn an old sweater or pair of sweatpants into a jacket for your dog? Or turn an old crate and pillow into a comfy dog bed?
Check out our blog for some DIY projects that your pet will love, from recycled bottle treat dispensers to plush dog beds.
Try to take stock of the items you are purchasing for your dog that cause the most waste or that have the shortest lifespan.
Once you have identified the items that are causing the most waste, you can find sustainable alternatives.
For example, some dog’s may tend to destroy their toys. As a pet parent, you may feel it is impossible not to replace these toys to keep your pooch happy and stimulated.
The truth is though, most dogs will be more than satisfied with a DIY dog toy. By making your own zero-waste friendly dog toys you will not only be reducing your dog’s impact on the environment, but you will also be saving yourself some money.
Things like a tennis ball stuffed in an old sock or a hemp rope tug toy, make excellent toys that will keep your dog entertained for hours.
Image via Cloudnet
Another option is to get thrifty and check out your local animal shelter shops to see if they have any pre-loved dog toys.
Pro-tip: if you do decide to buy your dog a new toy, try to choose an option that is durable and will have a long lifespan.
How to shop for zero-waste friendly products for your dog
One of the core principles of zero-waste living is to make use of the items you have around you or purchase second-hand items instead of new items. However, if you do need to purchase a new item, a good way to reduce the impact it has is to ensure that the item is sustainable and will last for a long time.
If you are unable to find second-hand products for your pet, the next best thing is to invest in sustainably made pooch-proof items.
Stainless steel food and water bowls are a great option as they are near impossible to break and can withstand some general wear and tear caused by chewing pups.
Another thing to keep in mind is that material matters and plays a big role in determining how sustainable a product is.
Plastic is one of the most common materials you will want to avoid, but other materials like cotton, synthetic fibres or animal-derived materials can be very harmful to the environment too.
If you are in the market for a new dog collar or leash, a zero-waste friendly alternative is to look for products made from eco-friendly materials such as hemp or vegan leather.
The same is true for other types of products like food or treats. Always be sure to give the ingredients list a thorough check and keep an eye out for any products that could be harmful to the environment. This should include products that are linked to harmful chemical productions or pesticide use.
When in doubt, it is always best to stick with treats made with all-natural ingredients!
Zero-waste friendly dog food
When we think of pet waste, food is often the first thing that comes to mind.
Unlike humans, dog’s do not have many material needs so often food is their biggest source of waste.
There are however a few ways to cut down on the waste linked to your dog’s diet.
For example, if you are feeding your dog pellets, try to opt for bulk options instead of smaller quantities. Bulk shopping not only reduces packaging waste and harmful emissions linked to product transport, but it can also be a lot more budget-friendly!
To make your dog’s food last longer, try to add some human foods into your dog’s diet. This is especially beneficial if you grow your own veggies or can reduce food waste by keeping leftovers for your dog.
Always be sure that the food you are feeding your pooch is dog friendly! To be safe, take a look at our guide (insert link) of some of the best human foods to feed your dog.
Again, it won’t always be possible to be completely zero-waste friendly. But, if you need to purchase items such a wet or dry dog food, try to find the most sustainable option by supporting small and local business and choosing eco-friendly packaging.
Photo via https://unsplash.com/photos/pQVecS8pBNY
Zero-waste friendly ways to dispose of your dog’s mess
Single-use plastic is one of the first and biggest things anyone adopting a zero-waste will want to eliminate.
Did you know that a dog will use roughly 10 00 poo bags in their lifetime, if not more?
Unfortunately, a lot of dog poo bags are made of single-use plastics.
By opting for a more sustainable option, like biodegradable poo bags you can help reduce the impact your dog has on the environment.
It’s important to remember that while biodegradable items can break down in a landfill, they are not necessarily designed for this purpose. In some cases, it may be more effective to compost these types of items at home or through an industrial composting process.
Composting your dog’s poo is another great way to reduce their impact on the environment.
Composting waste can be tricky though. If not done properly under the right conditions, dog waste compost can contain harmful parasites.
However, if you follow the right procedures, composting is a perfectly safe way to help dispose of your dog’s waste.
There are some great at-home composters you can purchase or you can make your own!
Here is a tutorial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CnXFB6cWX0) on how to build your own DIY zero-waste friendly dog poo composter.
It would be best to ensure that the compost you are creating using your dog’s waste is not used on any plants you intend on consuming.
Another zero-waste friendly way to eliminate plastic from your dog’s waste is to flush your dog’s poo down the toilet.
This is a safe and easy way to dispose of your dog’s waste while ditching those pesky single-use plastics.
Zero-waste friendly ways to groom your dog
If you don’t have any items at home, it might be difficult to find second-hand dog grooming tools, like nail cutters, brushes and grooming sheers. But, there are great sustainable options available and the lifespan of these items is generally very good.
For example, you could purchase a brush that is compostable and made from bamboo instead of plastic. An item like this is bound to last for many years, making it a more sustainable option.
There are also several ways to bath your dog that are zero-waste friendly.
For example, if you have set up a greywater system in your bathroom, try to utilise this when bathing your dog.
If your shower is set up to a greywater system bath your pooch in the shower or rinse the leftover bathwater down the shower drain.
Bear in mind that if you are going to use a greywater system to dispose of your dog’s bathwater, you will need to use natural products to bath your dog. This is especially important if you use greywater for irrigation purposes as certain products can be toxic for plants.
Some pet parents may prefer to bath their dogs outside. This may also be easier if you have quite a large dog. If you do this using a hosepipe, try to avoid leaving the tap running. Rather than letting the water escape, have your dog stand in a large tub to capture the water. You can then re-use this water in your garden or recycle it as part of your grey-water system.
Whether you are fully zero-waste or working towards a more sustainable lifestyle, the most important thing to remember is that we don’t need everyone to be perfectly zero-waste. It is okay to make mistakes and purchase items here and there. Don’t let these little bumps in the road stop you from striving for a more zero-waste friendly life.
At the end of the day what matters is that you are making a concerted effort to reduce the impact you and your dog have on the environment.