We are all striving to be more conscious of the impact our decisions have on the environment. In a society that prioritizes convenience, it can be hard to break away from consumerism and make more conscious choices. After all, it's easier to pop into the 7-Eleven and grab a bag of chips than go to a farmers' market, buy loose potatoes and go home to make chips yourself.
That said, many people are striving to adopt a more low-waste lifestyle. From switching to reusable water bottles and coffee cups to using reusable bags, there are easy swaps that make a real difference.
The pet industry is incredibly wasteful. From plastic pollution to the adverse environmental impact caused by the industry as a whole, it's not having a very good impact on the planet. Pet Sustainability Coalition research estimates that pet food and treat packaging alone produces around 300 million pounds of plastic per year! And of that, about 99% ends up in landfills rather than recycled. That's not including plastic bottles from dog shampoo, conditioner, and other grooming products packed in plastic.
90.5 million families in the United States have pets, of which 69 million have dogs. Consider how much waste they create per day, both plastic and natural waste (you know what we mean).
Let’s see what can you do as a conscious pet owner to reduce your doggos environmental impact! We will be talking about everything from zero-waste grooming products to making eco-conscious choices when it comes to your pet food. So, let's get into it!
1. Choose zero-waste grooming products
Dogs love to get dirty. They always seem to find that big puddle of mud to run through or end up rolling in some mystery item that is less than pleasant smelling. When you get home, it's bath time! What are you currently using to groom and bathe your dogs? Most dog shampoos and conditioners come in plastic bottles. Shampoo bars, conditioners bars, and solid creams have become staples of the low-waste lifestyle toolkit. But what about zero waste alternatives for pets? Additionally, dog brushes are often plastic, and once they are past their usage, they will end up sitting in the landfill for hundreds of years.
There are some fantastic zero waste options that will ensure your pet's coat stays silky and shiny without harming the environmentLuckily, there are some fantastic zero waste options that will ensure your pet's coat stays silky and shiny without harming the environment. Choose eco-friendly dog brushes made from sustainable and biodegradable resources such as FSC-certified beechwood. Amazing innovation in plastic-free packaging means that there is now the option of dog shampoos, ointments, and conditioners in bottles made from 100% raw compostable materials.
How? One example is a plastic-free solution called veganbottle®. We are the first pet brand to use this technology to package all our grooming products, but hopefully, more will follow suit. Veganbottle® is a bioplastic made from sugarcane which is compostable at industrial composting facilities. This is a massive game-changer in the world of product packaging.
Additionally, it's worth taking the time to ensure you're supporting companies who ban plastic and non-sustainable materials in their production, packaging, shipping, and storage processes.
2. Feed your pet a low-carbon footprint diet
It's common knowledge that some diets have a lower carbon footprint than others. And the same goes for our pets. The beef industry alone is responsible for a huge portion of global methane emissions with 60 kilograms of emissions per kilogram of meat produced. If you're currently feeding your dog beef-based dog food, it has a much larger carbon footprint than if you were feeding them other types of food. Dogs are omnivores, just like humans. That means they require nutrition from plant sources as well. And although this is still a taboo subject, dogs can also thrive on a plant-based/vegetarian diet. For cats, this is not advised, but you can choose meat proteins that have a lower carbon footprint, such as organic, free-range chicken, or turkey.
Choose more environmentally friendly food options for your furry friend
Along with choosing a healthier dog food option with a lower carbon footprint, be sure you're feeding them the right amount. Don't overfeed your pets. Overfeeding means you go through more food (having a more significant environmental impact), but you could also be putting your pet at risk. About 56% of dogs are overweight, and overfeeding and lack of exercise directly impact that.
3. Eco-friendly pet waste disposal
It's easy to find compostable or biodegradable doggy waste bags, even at your local grocery store. That said, unless you properly dispose of them, they likely won't biodegrade at all. Throwing your used dog poo bags into the garbage means they end up in the landfill, where they won't have the right conditions to biodegrade and will continue to release harmful methane for years to come.
Even if your city or town has a composting system, almost none of them will accept dog waste. But there are some ways you can compost your dog's waste yourself. Don't compost pet waste with your regular food scraps compost, as it will contaminate it with pathogens, and you won't be able to use it in your garden. But you can start a separate compost system specifically for your pet's waste.
Opt for more conscious waste disposal options, like creating your own compost
United States Department of Agriculture has this guide for making your very own dog waste compost system at home, but you can also purchase one, such as the Tumbleweed Pet Poo Worm Farm, where worms do the work for you!
This isn't necessarily an option if you live in the city and have no garden or outside space. The American Kennel Club actually recommends flushing it down the toilet, just like you do with your own (obviously out of the bag).
4. Stop buying plastic toys
Plastic dog toys or those made from non-biodegradable materials will inevitably end up sitting in the landfill for many more years than either your dog or you will be on the planet. Dog toys are often made from non-recycled materials and unsustainable resources. Plus, how often do your dogs get sick of toys within 15 minutes or totally destroy them in a few days? You love your dog and want to make them happy by gifting them new fun toys but choosing your dog toys more strategically can help you dramatically reduce their environmental footprint.
Choose natural pet toys, like this pup and his stick!Choose toys made from organic and natural materials like bamboo, rubber, linen, wool, or hemp. Make sure retailers list that materials are sustainably sourced and organic (grown without pesticides or toxic fertilizers). Best case scenario, just go for a good old-fashioned stick. Your dog will likely have just as much fun anyway!
5. Make your own dog treats
Instead of buying packaged pet treats from big box stores or supermarkets, try making your own! It's super easy to make healthy, organic treats that your dog will drool over. By making them yourself, you aren't contributing to the production or shipping of dog treats or the over-processing of ingredients. You can also make a big batch and gift them to your friends who have four-legged friends in reusable containers or paper bags. Here are some easy recipes you can try at home:
- Banana, oat, and peanut butter treats
- Pumpkin and applesauce treats
- Carrot and spinach treats
- Sweet potato dog treats
Try making your own dog treats at home. Your dog will love it!
Start reducing your pet´s environmental footprint
With a few minor changes, you can start lowering your pet's carbon footprint and feeling good about the conscious choices you're making for your pet. Every little bit you do makes a difference, from switching to zero-waste grooming products to baking yummy, healthy treats at home. Lead by example, and other pet owners will be inspired to do the same.
One of the best places to start is by sharing this resource with the other pet owners in your life so we can all work together to make a difference!