Chances are, if you care about animals, you care about the planet. Being a responsible pet owner takes time, care, and attention--as does being a responsible global citizen. Combine the two by taking steps to reduce your pet’s eco paw print! Just like us, our pets have an impact on the planet. It’s easy to mitigate that impact with these small, consistent steps.
Think Beyond Plastic
Plastic gets all the eco attention these days--and for good reason--but we won’t solve our environmental problems with a single-minded focus. Instead, it takes a holistic approach.
Think about your dog’s entire routine. Are there any simple eco swaps you can make? We’ll dig into a handful of changes anyone can make, but thinking through your lifestyle--including your time constraints and budget--is a critical first step. For instance, if your dog only ever sleeps in your bed or on the sofa, skip buying a specific dog bed. You’ll cut down on materials entering the production and waste streams, save money, and save space in your home. On the other hand, if you’re someone who doesn’t want your dog sleeping in your bed, investing in an organic cotton or stuffable bed, or even DIYing one with scraps, would be worth your time and money. Same goes for water: If you have the space and budget, invest in a filtered water fountain. You won’t have to dump it as often, saving gallons each year. If that doesn’t fit your budget or lifestyle, fill a glass, ceramic, or steel water dish with tap water, and wash and dump as needed.
Clean with Care
Pets make messes. Whether it’s muddy prints across your kitchen floor, dried-up drool spots, torn up toy pieces, or the dreaded puke pile (why do they always aim for the rug?), most pet owners need to clean something most days. Unfortunately, many commercial cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can hurt you, hurt your pets, and hurt the planet. Swapping your conventional cleaners with gentler options not only safeguards your health, your pet’s health, and the planet’s health, it also saves you a ton of money. How? Well, just about any mess can be cleaned with a few key ingredients. Stock your pantry with vinegar, castile soap (available at nearly every grocery store), lemons, and baking soda. You can clean your entire home with those ingredients for pennies-per-clean without having a negative impact on your family’s health or the planet’s health.
Left-behind dog poop contaminates groundwater. Plus, it’s gross if you step in it, it can spread disease to other dogs and even to humans, and it stinks. Picking up poop is just part of the deal when you love a dog. There are super simple swaps to make it more eco-friendly, though being a diligent picker-upper goes a long way already! Depending on your lifestyle, yard, and walking situation, you have a few options: First, consider investing in a metal scooper. Then, you simply scoop the pile, walk to a garbage can, and dump it in. That’s not possible for everyone, of course, so the next-best option is to collect all the random pieces of plastic film that can’t be recycled (frozen food bags, multi-layer plastic chip bags, the cling wrap around your frozen pizza, etc.) and use those to scoop and toss. You’re still landfilling the plastic, but you’re giving it a useful job to do before it becomes trash and prevents perfectly good or recyclable plastic from going to the landfill. Finally, use a compostable pickup bag. These aren’t ideal because they don’t actually compost except under truly ideal conditions, which aren’t found in landfills. But, they’re better than using a plastic shopping bag.
Meat consumption makes up the bulk of your pet’s eco paw print. Work with your veterinarian to see if you can substitute a small portion of her diet with fresh fruits and vegetables. Depending on your dog and her health needs, consider switching a beef formula for a chicken one--per pound, raising chicken uses significantly less resources than beef. Choose treats from ethical companies that use humanely-raised meat. Finally, purchase the largest sizes you can buy of the products you use so that you cut down on packaging.
But Still Cut Down on Plastic
Plastic still contributes to the mess facing our planet. So, while you’re taking these other helpful steps, be mindful of your pet’s plastic consumption. Repair torn toys when you can. Purchase dog toys made from natural fibers; you can often find these at arts fairs or at your local farmers’ market. If you do buy a plastic chew toy, choose one from a company that takes back and recycles broken toys.
Don’t get overwhelmed trying to tackle too much at once, though! As the adage goes: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Take small steps when and where you can to reduce your pet’s eco paw print.