When it comes to sustainability and animals the two terms often don’t go hand in hand. The pet industry creates so much waste, both organic and inorganic, and lots of it is completely unavoidable. But if you are anything like me, pets are family and a way of life and they aren’t going anywhere, ever. So, instead of eschewing the whole concept of pets in general, let’s talk ways to make better choices when it comes to how we care for our pets and our planet! So here are 10 ways to be more sustainable with dogs!
Now, some of these can be transferred over to other animals, but today we are focusing on our canine fur babies! Before we get started, when it comes to sustainability it isn’t all or nothing! Take a good look at your life and what could possibly be feasible to change, and start small! Little changes in a large chunk of the populace (read: you!) can make huge waves!
Care About What You Feed Your Pet!
The dog food industry as a whole is incredibly wasteful, and can oftentimes be deceitful in its marketing efforts. So do your research on which brands you’d like to support- and know that one brand, especially if it is a smaller brand, can’t do it all! Think about the ways that you’d like to be more mindful when it comes to pet food. Do you want to focus on sourcing locally? Sounds great- try looking up local pet stores and asking which brands are nearby. Want to focus on where ingredients are sourced? Look at ingredient lists and processing facilities online!
Remember that the choices that you make are what is best for you based on your values! I often get asked why I don’t feed my pups a raw boxed service, and for me the sheer amount of plastic waste that comes along with daily, individual frozen meals is something that I can’t get over. But so many people it works incredibly well! Choose your battles.
I happen to love the brand I and Love and You (pssst… this is not sponsored!) which is local to me here in Denver, just 25 minutes north up in Boulder. Not only are they local but the whole ethos of their company is steeped in sustainability. From their wind-powered corporate office, to their founder actually founding the Pet Sustainability Coalition which works towards a more sustainable pet industry they have all their ducks in a row. Plus, my two fluffs love everything they have to offer, and especially their Ear Candy treats sourced from free range, grass cattle.
Deal With Dog Fur Better!
I have two extremely fluffy [read: extreme shedding] pups and with all of that fur comes fur removal. While I am perfectly content becoming part yeti while I’m in the confines of my own home, heading into public looking like I’m in need of a very thorough grooming isn’t the most acceptable of ideas. For many this requires Costco-sized packs of lint rollers which create an excessive amount of waste! So, to be more sustainable with dogs, you can look into alternative fur removal methods. The two I like the most are the Chom Chom (ridiculous name, incredible results) for flat surfaces like car seats, couches, and most furniture, and a little wooden handled rubber bristled lint brush from Redecker!
Reuse Dog Fur
Now this one sounds silly, but depending on how your dog sheds, you can reuse fur! Try popping tufts of fur out for the birds in your backyard in the spring, donate hair to pet allergy studies, try your hand at felted crafts, or sprinkle some in your garden to keep pests away!
Choose Things That Last
Choosing things that last should be a priority in every sector in your life, from kitchen to clothing and everything in between! I’ve noticed that so much of the pet goods industry is built on quick fixes and cheap fun and that is something that needs to change. Instead of the plastic slicker brush or comb for $3-4 dollars opt for a metal version (you all know that I LOVE this metal comb) or instead of a cheap, poorly made toy, upgrade to toys that will last for years! I love Tuffy Toys for heavy chewers- they have a grading scale for each toy that shows what kind of abuse it can hold up to! And lastly, I know that fun leashes with cute prints make for super cute photos, but they also aren’t that durable! If you have larger dogs like I do make the switch to something more heavy duty! I love my Freedom Harnesses and my climbing rope leashes- and if you have multiple pups like I do, the Double Dog Coupler is a godsend!
Diversify Your Treats!
Just like human snack food, so many dog treats are in single use packaging. And while you can choose amazing treats that are sourced well and from sustainable companies (another shout out to I and Love and You!) especially for animal-product treats like cow ears, bones, and the like, you can also be more sustainable with dogs if you opt for a variety of treats and supplement with package free! If you have the time and ability try making some treats at home! I have a number of different recipes here on Habits of a Modern Hippie and a treat series on my YouTube Channel, but there are dog treat recipes all over the internet! Plus, don’t have time to make something specifically for your pup? Lots of your favorite farmer’s market finds can be shared with fido- just make sure what you’re feeding them is safe! Check out my Summer Produce for Dogs post if you’re looking for some great options.
Dispose of Dog Waste Properly
I’ve heard the ‘but my dog is an animal and wild animals can poop without cleaning it up’ argument quite a bit, but there is actually a big difference between wild animal scat and dog refuse and it comes down to ecological benefits. While I could go on and on about the differences, I’ll leave it to Leave No Trace to explain succinctly!
Scat from wildlife provides an essential benefit to the ecosystem. Wild animals are consuming resources and nutrients from the ecosystem, and then promptly returning those same resources and nutrients. Essentially, the system is a closed loop with no net gain or loss in nutrients or resources.
When we start adding in nutrients from pet waste, the ecosystem balance is thrown out of equilibrium. Our dogs likely aren’t eating native plants from the ecosystems they leave their waste in, but instead eating nutrient heavy pet-foods designed to give them a complete and healthy diet. Unfortunately, these same pet foods result in excess nutrients in our outdoor spaces if pet waste isn’t picked up.
Pet waste adds excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to the environment. Excess of these nutrients in many ecosystems creates unstable conditions that allow algae blooms to cloud our rivers, lakes, and streams, and create an easy habitat for invasive weeds to grow.
So essentially, clean up your pup’s waste and help keep the environment healthy! When it comes to dog bags I prefer the bags from Earth Rated. While no longer considered biodegradable, they are exponentially better for the environment than traditional plastic bags! There are also facilities that will compost dog waste for you!
Clean Up As you walk
Want an easy, active way to be a bit more green when walking your dog? Try picking up trash on your daily walks! This practice is so common in Scandinavian countries it actually has a name- plogging! Apparently jogging (or in this case walking your dog) and picking up trash can have health benefits from carrying extra weight in trash to the motions of bending down or squatting to pick stuff up! Make sure you’re being safe though- don’t pick up any trash that can be hazardous to your health. And if you find something very unsafe- think needles or drug paraphernalia, contact the non-emergency line of your town’s police force!
Green Up Your Grooming Products!
Just like many human ‘grooming’ products, dog products can have some not-so-great ingredients as well! Look for products that are non-toxic, all natural, and if possible organic! And avoid products that have micro plastics (think of those scrubbing beads that are now illegal!), parabens (chemical preservative), sulfates (can strip natural oils from your pup’s skin), phthalates (chemicals that can show up in urine and are in lots of different body care items), and phosphates (chemicals that can lead to environmental problems.) This sounds like a lot, but there are some incredible brands that make natural products! The brand that I’ve sworn by for years is EarthBath! I love their whole line of products, but especially the Oatmeal and Aloe and White Coat Brightener lines!
Looking for something to spruce up your pups in between baths? Try a DIY dry dog shampoo! I have a recipe and a video up to show you how!
Donate what you don’t use!
I am so fortunate to be in a line of work in which lots of dog products constantly show up on my doorstep, and while my two fluffy pups love all the new things that show up I donate to local animal shelters constantly! And while I know not everyone has the opportunities that I do when it comes to dog gear, there are so many items outside of toys, treats, and leashes that you can donate! Look at your local shelter’s ‘needs’ lists! From used towels and newspapers for bedding, to old t-shirts that can be made into rope toys there are so many items in your home that shelters can use!
Spay and Neuter
While the timing of the procedure is up to you and your vet, if you don’t plan on responsibly breeding your pups, spay or neuter them! This keeps ‘accidents’ from happening- we already have so many pups that need homes, so look to top notch breeders, rescues, or shelters to find your next friend!
I’d love to know, what are some of the ways you try to be more sustainable with dogs? I am always looking for ways to be a little bit more green! If you have any in particular, post a photo of your furry (or not so furry!) friend on Instagram and tag me! I’d love to see all of your pets too!
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