HOw to start it?
Zero Waste Dog Care or be a zero waste dog owner
I’ve been thinking about how to live a zero waste life with a dog, because let’s be honest, we dogs owners have a huge carbon footprint.
One thing is for sure, it’s an enornous challenge. However, the good news is that it’s totally up to you but you have to completely change your mind and attitude.
Obviously, someone will not switch to zero waste lifestyle just because of the dog. It requires global thinking and a total reform of living.
However, once you’ve made up your mind, you need to think over thoroughly what pace is appropriate for you, what alternative solutions you have up your sleeve for everyday consumer goods.
In this article, I would like to help specifically those mates who, like me, proceed step by step to give up a lavish lifestyle …. And they have a dog! 🙂
Let’s get started.
Change your thinking
As a dog owner you would produce the least amount of garbage and waste if you didn’t have a dog. 🙂
I know, I know, I agree with you, no way!
Well, then it’s worth changing your thinking as follows and strive for minimalism and abandoning wasteful lifestlye, but let’s see how:
– Don’t buy a collar with cute figures for every holiday. Of course, it’s just an example, but the point is to have self-control (it’s not easy, but you can do it)! In most cases, we only buy little things for our pet just for our own amusement. That is for ourselves not for the dog. Our puppy doesn’t need one more collar, toy, etc. You know what he/she really needs? Your love and care.
– Once you’ve bought something for your pet, use until it tears into pieces and buy a new one only if it’s completely destroyed (and then collect it selectively, use it for something else, make it useful, maybe compost it). Or if it didn’t work, don’t throw it away, ask the shopkeeper to take it back, or give it to your dog friend.
– If you’re creative enough, instead of buying, craft a new one. For example, you can make your own hemp rope leash, a toy from a plastic bottle, or a bed from used tires. I’m sure you’ve already experienced that instead of the brand new, colorful, bouncy, super-duper new toy, your hairy little friend rather play with a stick. Be creative, make up your mind, and believe me it’s worth it. The simplest things cause the greatest joy.
– Buy items without packaging. When buying dry food, take a container with you and ask the retailer to fill it for you. You can also buy treats and snacks by the piece or kg without packaging at more and more places, or you can even refill natural dog shampoo. Take the opportunity.
Compensate for your ecological footprint by planting trees. Plant a wood for cleaner air, protecting living things and, last but not least, create shade for your dog (and yourself). Besides protect and care for nature. Make sure your dog doesn’t pee the living tree, it’s not good for it.
If you consider the line of reasoning above, you will not only have a more positive impact on the environment but also spare some money! 😉 I’m speaking from experience.
Concepts you need to be clear with
Recyclable: you probably have a recycling bin at home, where you collect plastic, paper, glass and organic waste separately. If you do that, you’re one step ahead of most of the other owners. For example, if you run out of dog shampoo, throw the empty plastic bottle into the selective trash can in order to be processed.
Recycled: You can take another step on the “environmental maturity” by paying attention to the packaging of the dogproducts. In this case, you’re putting yourself in a circuit where you not only give manufacturers the opportunity to make new containers thanks to your recycling, but you also choose such a recycled product.
Upcycling: The fact that something may be reused, depends on your creativity, not just on the type of material. You can use a plastic bottle to make a toy for your dog. Or a cloth diaper can also be reused for our puppy, so we can avoid a daily 3-5 disposable plastic diapers for house trainig. This act is very close and essential to the zero waste approach.
Compostable: I think you have heard this phrase before, especially if you have a kitchen garden. In this case you probably have a composting bin or a corner for that purpose. Well, this term is not the next step to be a zero waste dog owner but it is essential and it is worth striving to make use of it.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But as a dog person, how to use it, what to compost?
Any idea … ? It’s closely related to your dog’s diet.
Yes, yes, it’s dog poop.
BUT!!! Be aware that our dog is a carnivore, so microorganisms in the feces can cause disease if you eat your tomato that is fertilised with poop. It is very important to compost dog poop separately from the fruit and vegetable compost. Designate a place for this purpose and we can throw the ripe compost (not the poop) under ornamental plants.
However, you can not only compost poop, there are also dog products made of plant material (e.g. hemp, wood, paper). You may also keep those in mind.
Biodegradable: I feel this notion is a little twisted and mainly used for advertising purpose. You should be aware that if a packaging says biodegradable (e.g. poopbags), it means that it is made of petroleum-based plastic in the same way as its conventional counterparts only a D2W additive is added to help falling apart into microplastics after a while. I’m sure you’ve already found a Tesco bag at the bottom of the cupboard that’s fallen apart into little pieces. Unfortunately, it has its own polluting effect as it wouldn’t be degradable. In that case, I’d rather recommend a compostable poop bag if you need to pick it up.
Raw material or a cosmetic ingredient can be degradable. If you are environmentally conscious (and health conscious), it is also worth remembering to use natural care products, organic dogshampoo, which ingredients are not harmful to your dog or the environment.
I have written about the theoretical need of changing the attitude, now let’s look more specifically at practical solutions to start with.
How to start
- First, think over and then note down all tools and products you use and apply for your puppy’s lifestyle.
- Once you have the list, prioritize them from the point of view what produces the most waste and garbage, let’s say, in a month. At the top of the list there are the things that produce the most and the least productive things are at the bottom of the list.
Since it is difficult to switch to a new lifestyle overnight, it is worth going step-by-step, you do not need to do everything right now.
- When your prioritized list is ready, write alongside what alternative zero waste solutions you have found (out). Keep your list updated.
This is what our list looks like! Mézi also helped me compiling the list 🙂
- collar→ DIY from hemp
- leash→ DIY form hemp
- food and water bowl→ ceramics, old pot
- dog diaper→ washable diaper with mat
- toy→ from hemp, old clothes, denim
- shampoo→ homemade, refillable naturcosmetic
- poopbag→ compostable, washable
- food→ refillable, paper packaging, cook
- treat holder→ DIY from hemp, bike inner tube
- food container→ ceramics. glass (e.g. old container)
- dog bed→ old clother, old bike tubes
- comb, brush→ wood. metal
Specific tips, ideas on how to become a zero waste pet owner
My list is a helping hand for you how to start yours. However, let’s look at the options one by one, I try to give useful tips.
1. dog diapers
If a new puppy arrives, the first thing on your shopping list is the dog diaper as you need to house train him/her. But it’s the first on the „most garbage” list as well.
Mézi was 12 weeks old when we brought her from a shelter and we knew she was going to be an indoor (and garden) dog, so there was no question about whether we needed a dog diaper or not. So we went to the nearby shop, and we bought the first, second, third… pack of dog diapers. It was really tough, we used 2-5 pieces a day. Later I just cut out the dirty parts but the bin was full that way too. There’s no question washable or cloth diaper is the best option, or even any cloth with a rubber doormat (maybe from the car) underneath. It is worth keeping about 5-7 washable diapers in rotation. While one is in use, the other is washed, the rest dries and you have a few in reserve. But still, the best zero waste dog diaper solution is if you no longer use them.
2. Poop issue
I might as well write a whole article on this topic but I try to summarise the possibilities briefly because it is a key issue.
If you have a garden…
If you have a garden and your dog is house-trained, hurray, you don’t have to use a poop bag.
I see two solutions, one is more environmentally friendly than the other.
You scoop it up with – let’s say-a metal dustpan and flush it down the toilet, just like we do. The weak point is that we use water, but it’s much better than collecting it in a bag and throwing it in the trash. It would be nice if humans do it the same way.
The other and I think the best solution is to compost in a specially designed place and then use it later to compost our flower garden.
Here’s a good solution, a storage that’s specially designed for this purpose, but you can make it from anything else.
If you don’t have a garden… (or you go on a trip)
You have no other way, take your dog out for a walk few times a day. Running, playing are dogs’ elemental needs, as well as pooping. As an exemplary owner you MUST pick up dog poop.
Here would be a longer article, but I’ll try to put it briefly… how to handle poop to produce zero waste? How can we cause the least harm?
Since it is absolutely necessary to pick it up (yes, also in the forest so as not to infect other creatures, e.g.: other dogs that go on excursions, etc.), we can choose from the following options:
– compostable poop bag: if a bag is inevitable, it should be made from 100% vegetable material. Pick up the poop and it will probably end up in a municipal bin (by no means leave it in the woods). As we all know, it will be either burnt or get underground, that’s why it is important not to contain petroleum. And if we’re after a trip, we can bring home the dog mess in the bag compost it at the designed place.
– used newspaper: Every household has its certain amount of advertising paper. If you don’t use it for kindling, notepaper or something creative, it’s best for poop picking. In a well packed form we might as well throw it in the trash. If you’re after a trip and you have a garden you can take the poop home (however, consider how far away from your house) and the whole package can also land in the composting bin(I think this is the best option). Without a garden, flush down the poop -even though you use water – and throw the paper into the composter and not the selective paper.
– reusable waste bag: I see one more solution for collecting poop: the reusable, waterproof poop bag made of durable material. This could be a little sack made from a punctured float, for instance. During walking, we pick the poop up, seal it (as far as it can be hermetically sealed) and take it home. In this form do not throw it in the municipal bin. Empty the sack at home into the composting bin or without a garden into the toilet. Wash the little sack (although you also use water).
Consider your options and choose the solution that is most likable to you.
At various fairs and dog events, we love to buy new toys and surprises to our cutie. However, Fido can play only with one thing at a time, preferably with you, and he/she doesn’t need any more. Find or create a multifunctioning toy that is comtostable and non-toxic. That’s how I made the choice of a hemp rope, which with a little dexterity we can make different shapes. My favorite is the ball form with a small handle. You can do a little fetching with it, play push and pull, and during the game the rope fibers clean the teeth. If a few pieces come off and happened to be swallowed, she/he’ll digest and/or poop it out. Finally when the toy is totally worn-out the composting bin awaits.
There is a large variety of old clothes, denim to manufacture a toy. A PET bottle is also an exciting thing to play with but finally it will end up in the bin so we can hardly call it zero waste.
We need food every day, so most of our waste (the packaging) is generated from it. But with a smart replacement, it shouldn’t be like this. Either by cooking the meals, buying dry food into your refillable jar or purchasing dog food in a bulk, exclusively with paper packaging. With a masterstroke like this, the amount of waste (coming from dog food packaging) can be reduced to zero. It sounds simple and it really is if you are determinded. A few words about the quality of food: it is not only important for the dog but also for the environment. It could be made from natural ingredients without synthetic additives
5. Food and water bowl
When choosing bowls give special consideration to the durability and material quality. Let’s look at the options:
Plastic – easy to chew, easy to tumble, may release toxins, the material is not environmentally friendly, although it can be inserted into the selective bin. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Metal – it can be easily tumbled without a non-slip base, its vibration is not good for food, may contain threats to those who are allergic. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Wood – it can’t resist moisture so it can quickly break down, may leak, it’s hard to clean and keep clean. It may worth a try but I don’t recommend it.
Glass – I haven’t encountered a well-designed, stable and thick glass dog bowl, but if there is one, I think it can be well cleaned and durable.
Ceramics – that’s what I’m saying is the best solution from the zero waste point of view (as well). There is a large variety on the market. It’s massive, durable,
I am concerned it’s usless to bathe the dog often. Of course, accidents may happen, but a regularly maintained fur can stay well-groomed for a long time, especially if you get your pal quality food.
Since we often go on excursions with Mézi, bashing and bathing are inevitable. If you don’t have a dog beach or a small lake where the mud can be removed, or you definitely want to bathe Fido at home with shampoo, because it might even rolled in the dung, you can select from the following:
– take the dog to an organic dog groomer where only natural cosmetics are used
– find a shop where you can refill your bottle you bring (unfortunately, there are hardly any of these)
– buy unpackaged or minimal paper-wrapped organic dog soap
– make your own dog shampoo or soap
7. Collar, leash
If you don’t buy those collars you would have liked at first, you’re going to be a lot less polluting than most of the pet owners.
As I mentioned before it’s hard to resist the adorable patterns, especially the ones with Santa Claus when Christmas is coming. One set is enough, no more! And if you want to jump another step, make your own collar and leash from a hemp rope or a strap complementing with some metal parts. And once it’s worn-out, the buckles and carabiners can be reused while the other parts can go to the composter bin.
The collar is hard to see but the leash is easily recognized to have been made of hemp:
8. Dog bed
Now, let your imagination run free, use your creative mind. Use old, torn garments for filler and make the cover from, for example, your old denim shorts. Turn someone’s trash intor treasure: one of your relatives punctured tyre into a dog bed. And if you want to be very exclusive, ask a local basket weaver for crafting a dog bed for your pooch. It might be a challenge but it’s worth it. It is showy and if it has ruined, you just throw it into the fireplace or invite friends for a barbecue.
Old tires reused:
I don’t think you necessarily need one. At the dog school you keep the treat in your pocket. If you cannot live without a holder, craft your own from natural material (eg. hemp). I have seen a kind of pouch from bike inner tube but it could function a treatholder as well. As regards treat I prefer dry ones, coldcuts and sausages are not bad, but their quality is not satisfactory.
Just for the sake of example, we also made our treat from hemp.
10. Comb, brush
As I explained at point 6, the regular care of fur is essential. This requires the appropriate comb and groom. To make it simple, pin brushes for long-haired dogs, deshedding or bristle brush for short haired dogs. It is worth choosing them in wood or metal.
Zooro grooming tool for short hair removal with a wooden handle, stainless steel blade and LIFETIME GUARANTEE
11. Food container
This can be a ceramic or glass jar, and if you cook beforehand you can put it in the fridge in a glass container.
Everyone should contribute to safeguarding our environment as far as possible. I am not perfect but I do my best to reduce the huge carbon footprint that a pet keeping means to zero. Believe me, it’s not a question of money rather a question of determination to live a more sustainable life, regarding future generation, wildlife and Mother Earth.
I hope you’ve enriched with some useful tips and ideas to become a real Zero Waste owner.
If there’s anything I haven’t mentioned please write me.