You care for your pets, and you care for your planet. The two loves seem hard to reconcile now that mounting data suggests that our pets negatively impact the environment. Of course, not having a pet is not an option!
Take heart: It is possible to live an environmentally-responsible life and still love pets! In your day-to-day, small steps and swaps can add up to a big environmental impact.
Just like you take tiny steps to diminish your impact--declining a plastic straw, bringing your own travel mug to the coffee shop, and so on--you can take tiny steps to diminish your pet’s impact on the planet, too.
Let’s look at 10 tips for eco-friendly pet owners:
- Pick up after your pet. It sounds obvious, but as we all know, there are left-behind piles everywhere. Dog poop contaminates groundwater, so always pick up--and grab an errant pile or two while you’re at it!
- Groom with the planet in mind. When you run out of your current product, skip the plastic pump bottle of shampoo. Most often, the tops and triggers can’t be recycled, and many shampoos are stuffed full of chemicals you don’t want going down the drain (or on your dog’s skin for that matter). Instead, pick up a shampoo bar wrapped in paper. They’re easy to find in health food stores or on sites like Etsy.
- Be bird friendly. Speaking of grooming, when you brush out your dog, take all the loose fur and pile it around the base of a tree. Birds love to scoop the stuff up for nest building.
- Compost. Did you know hair and nails can go in your compost pile? After a nail trim and whatever fur the birds don’t use can be collected and composted, avoiding sending that material to the landfill.
- Buy in bulk. Get the biggest bag or box of treats, the biggest bag of food, or bulk bin cat litter. Whatever’s available to buy bigger, do. It cuts down on the product’s entire life-cycle impact, from the manufacturing to the packaging to the shipping to your door.
- Shop responsibly. Buying dog treats or pet food from ethical, environmentally-responsible companies goes a long way toward diminishing your pet’s impact on the planet. While we all can make a big impact as individuals, the reality is that manufacturers have the biggest impact on the planet. So, supporting eco-friendly companies extends your pet’s eco-impact much further than your own kitchen.
- Feed fresh. Food production is the biggest villain when it comes to the environment. We know eating less meat creates a ripple effect of positive change, but our dogs thrive on a diet that includes meat. Work with your vet to consider swapping out a portion of your pup’s meat for fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables. You can also cut down on your kitchen waste by sharing scraps with your pup strategically. For example, if you’re making mashed potatoes, save the potato skins to garnish your dog’s dinner. Or, if you’re making a fruit salad, give your dog the greens you cut off the tops of strawberries. No kitchen waste and a very happy dog!
- Change dog food. This isn’t possible for everyone, of course, but if you can change to a dog food brand that participates in the Terracycle program, you could mail in your dog’s empty food packaging instead of sending it to the landfill. Plus, many of the programs include donations to charitable causes extending your goodwill even further. Chat with your vet to see if any of the brands offered fit your dog’s health and lifestyle.
- Pick up second-hand gear. Crates, cat trees, leashes, you name it--you can find it at your local Goodwill or on cragislist.org or the NextDoor app. And, when your dog outgrows something, consider listing the item or donating it instead of tossing it to give it a new life and keep it out of the landfill.
- Adopt a dog. Think about the impact a stray animal has on a community. Once the animal lands in a shelter, they consume enormous resources there. By saving an animal, you eliminate that eco burden and allow the shelter space to take in another homeless animal. Adopting a pet won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a huge leap in the right direction!
The best part? None of these tips cost you more time or money. They’re simple tips for eco-friendly pet owners to take bit by bit, and the benefits of all those tiny steps add up exponentially!