We have had our rescue dog Koda for over two years now, and cannot imagine life without our four-legged friend!
When we adopted him we were ready for all kinds of twists and turns, but what we didn’t expect was the steep learning curve that comes with our attempt at being sustainable pet parents.
How we feed, play, and live life with our dogs can have a big impact on the environment. If we’re careful, we can make it minimal. Read along to learn how your pup can leave behind a smaller paw print.
1. Dog Food
Let's start off with what we found was the hardest to figure out! Food. Kibble, canned, vet food, raw food, freeze-dried raw, vegan food, homemade food. If you look, you’ll find it. This leaves us (the consumer) confused and overwhelmed. There are too many options, plenty of which can impact our environment.
If you could choose one aspect to focus on, this is one that can have the biggest impact on your companion’s paw print.
Remember that what might be best for one pet may not for the other, so make sure to always keep their health #1. We’ve narrowed it down to a few key things to ask yourself when choosing food for your doggo:
Can the packaging be recycled?
Is the packaging re-fillable?
Are the ingredients sourced ethically, locally, and/or organically?
There are a few companies doing great things and pushing the movement on sustainable dog food.
For instance Open Farm has partnered with TerraCycle’s LOOP initiative, making room for reusable containers that can be refilled for their customers. They also strive to source ethically and support farmers who are doing better by the planet.
If you are near Toronto, Canada, HOUNDSonRAW offers organic, locally sourced options. They enable customers to produce less waste by providing bulk quantities that pet owners can use to refill old packaging. Check out if there's something similar where you live!
Don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be perfect – focus on what makes sense for you. We don’t all have the option to adopt all these changes, but we can work with what is accessible.
2. Pet Gear
Beds, leashes, collars, crates, oh my! The list can be long, especially if you are a brand new dog owner. Rather than heading over to the nearest pet store, a few minutes of research can have a huge impact on Fido’s eco score.
Most supplies can actually be found (in great condition) on platforms like Facebook Marketplace! We got our crate for a fraction of the price, along with second hand ceramic bowls.
If you cannot find what you need, there are a few companies looking to make a difference. Make sure to search within your local community for an eco-friendly pet store that stocks these low-waste options.
Here are some names to look for:
Wigglywoos: They offer leashes and collars made out of hemp, a natural and eco-friendly material.
Canada Pooch: Though not focused on sustainability, they do have waterproof, durable collars. We have had our pup’s for over 2 years now and it is going strong. Longevity is super important when trying to decrease our impact. And as an added bonus, this brand donates to dog rescues!
Former Fibres & The Sheepish Dog: Beds are one item many people like to purchase brand new. As a result, the best option is to look out for local brands! Former Fibres is a Canadian small business that offers beds made from upcycled fabric with natural stuffing. If you’re in Europe, The Sheepish Dog makes theirs with locally sourced wool fibres from free range sheep in the UK.
I debated adding this one because truthfully, Koda’s favorite toy is a stick. Doesn’t matter what kind – as long as it is heavy enough to throw far away and short enough to get him through the door.
That aside, pet parents spend a lot on this category! The reason is often because toys are not meant to last and we enter a vicious cycle of monthly trips to the pet store for a new stuffy. We can avoid that and landfill waste by being a more mindful consumer:
West Paw toys: If you have a puppy or a dog that likes to rip things apart, stick with more durable options. West Paw is my favorite for this – we still have both Zogoflex toys, 2 years later. They are a certified B-Corp and use minimal, recyclable packaging. If the toy does get destroyed, they will take it back and turn it into another new product!
The Kong: A staple chew toy, especially for puppies who need a distraction during that super important ZOOM meeting (I know you can relate!). Although sustainability is not the company’s focus, a kong lasts forever and lets you get creative. Koda loves a mix of peanut butter, blueberries and goat kefir.
Used toys: Online shopping for used toys is also a sustainable option, and very accessible.
Keeping this list short as I really believe not much is needed!
Each dog will have different grooming needs, but here are a few items that all dog parents can relate to:
Lint brush: Redecker has a great reusable option. Rather than purchasing rolls upon rolls, all this takes is one investment. The brush is made out of rubber that creates static, helping the hairs easily bind.
Biodegradable shampoo: Keep our lakes and rivers clean! Find groomers that only use non-toxic, planet-friendly products. This also helps to avoid skin problems down the line.
Hair brush: I would go for a used option here. There are also small shop owners that can be found on Etsy, helping to support local businesses. Bamboo brushes exist, but it’s worth finding out if the bamboo was sustainably sourced.
This part applies to all of the above! There are so many ideas out there; here are just a handful that we found make a big difference:
Pet fur: Did you know our furry friends hair is compostable? It can be added to worm bins, used for bird feeders, or to re-stuff old toys and beds.
Coconut oil: This oil can be used on its own to brush your dog’s teeth! No unnecessary packaging needed. Feel free to check in with your veterinarian for this suggestion!
Shampoo: Here are ingredients for a DIY doggie shampoo! Low-waste, non-toxic, and budget friendly (source: @nonlocal.joy):
2 cups water
1.5 tbsp baking soda
4 tbsp castile soap
Treats: Treats are often hard to find without packaging, so why not try your own! Here is just one recipe to start off with!
We have also sewn Koda’s ripped harnesses back together, used old bed sheets for bed stuffing, and even made our own paw balm! With a bit of creativity, the sky really is the limit.
6. Pet Waste
Although dog waste will decompose, it was never meant to be part of the forest or water ecosystem. While it makes sense for wildlife waste, it doesn’t for our fluffy friends.
There is a super in-depth article right here behind the reasoning for picking up our pet’s waste, even on those trips to the woods!
Here’s how to make your dog’s waste less wasteful:
At home: If you have a yard, compost the waste, away from the veggie garden. For puppies, try to avoid pee-pads – they are not only wasteful and expensive, but they also make house-training a tougher experience.
On doggie adventures: Poop and scoop! There are biodegradable bags now available, but be selective, and find out how to properly dispose of the waste in your particular area. If you’re like us and camp overnight – collect what you can with a scoop and add it to that thunder box!
7. Donate What You Don’t Need
Rescues and shelters are always in need of items for their four-legged residents. Make sure to contact them before you arrive for a list of what they are currently accepting.
8. Adopt, Don’t Shop
Last but not least: try to find your next pup at a local shelter or rescue. This helps to support local charities as well as lessens the often overwhelming number of strays and abandoned animals in your own backyard. This can also avoid funding non-reputable breeders who may not put animal welfare first.
Being an eco-conscious pet parent isn’t easy, but it also isn’t impossible! Let us know what other ways you have made your paw-print smaller :) Tag @zero.waste.collective and @savour.the.detour on Instagram to share your ideas!
Written by Ana Olteanu | @savour.the.detour
Please note that this is not a sponsored post for any of the brands noted.