How We Reduce Waste With A Dog
In August 2020, during the pandemic, our dog Astro moved in. We call him our Pandemic Dog because he came to us when we needed a distraction and someone to love.
Astro was a street dog in Mexico; our friends found him outside of Costco. They fell in love with him but had a dog of their own who did not love Astro, so instead, Astro flew to San Diego, and we adopted him! He is a greyhound mix and is the biggest love bug—who knew we would have so much love in our hearts for another fur baby!
The one thing we didn’t think about until Astro got here was how we would reduce waste with a dog. People don’t often realize that having an animal creates its own share of waste. There are, however, many ways pet owners can minimize the amount of discard.
Pet Food Waste
Most plastic bag packaging for dog/cat food can’t be recycled. To decrease the amount of ready-mixed pet food you’re using, make a broth, and add leftover foods that include rice, pasta, veggies, and meat. Then, bring it to a boil for your pet to enjoy.
To help keep canine teeth clean, offer raw carrot sticks and broccoli. With a little effort from humans, dogs can live healthy vegetarian lives, but that doesn’t mean they should. Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting to make your own dog food.
Options for dog food with less waste:
Finding good zero-waste dog food is one of the trickiest parts of transitioning to an eco-friendly lifestyle with your dog. Here are a few options.
· Buy in bulk: We’re lucky enough to live near a pet store that stocks loose kibble in bulk, so we use our own containers when buying food.
· Buy food in recyclable packaging: Dog food comes packaged in everything from cardboard boxes and plastic-lined paper bags to steel cans. Some of these can be recycled. Be sure to check with your local recycling programs to see if you can recycle dog food packaging. Terracycle offers two programs for recycling dog food packaging that you can read about here and here.
· Buy food in larger qualities: If you can’t buy in bulk or recycle the packaging, the last option is to buy the largest quantity of food possible. Though single pouches of dog food are conveniently pre-portioned, they also generate much more waste.
It’s super easy to make your own dog treats! We make homemade pumpkin and peanut butter biscuits.
- ½ cup canned pumpkin
- 4 Tbsp unsweetened and salt-free peanut butter
- 4 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix pumpkin, peanut butter, vegetable oil, and water in a bowl.
3. Add whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon to the mixture. Stir until the dough softens.
4. Scoop out a small spoonful of dough. Roll dough into balls in your hands (wet hands work best).
5. Set the balls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten with a fork.
6. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until the dough is hardened.
Our dog Astro also loves dehydrated treats like apples, butternut squash, and pumpkins. Good news—they are super easy to make!
Time to talk about poo.
Picking up after our pets is not the most pleasant thing in a dog owner’s daily routine, but there’s no getting away from it. Luckily, there are two eco-friendly options for dealing with dog poo: compostable bags (side note: they don’t fully decompose in a landfill) or composting.
Here are the options for composting dog poop.
- Compost dog poop with a municipal service (check if this is allowed in your area). In this case, you can transport the poop in industrially compostable plastic bags.
- Compost it in a private composter in the garden. Paper bags can be used for this.
The main thing to consider about dog poop compared to a bunny or guinea pig is the possible contamination of crops with parasites on dog poop. For this reason, you should only compost dog poop in a garden composter or a worm farm. Then, you should only use the compost to fertilize your non-vegetable garden and lawns.
Check out EnsoPet kit or a Wormery for how you can turn your pet’s poop into compost.
Use a brush made of bamboo or metal for long-haired pets, or locate an old brush that is no longer in use. You can add the fur to your composter or green bin.
Make sure to choose metal drinking and eating bowls over plastic.
Most dogs love toys. A fabulous option is to make your own:
Tug of War Rope
The easiest thing you can make is a tug-of-war rope. Take a two- or three-foot length of cotton rope and tie a knot at each end, or use sturdy braids made of old t-shirts. You might be tempted to spend hours playing tug-of-war with your pup, but keep it limited to around 15 minutes to protect your dog’s teeth. This interactive game is a fun way to provide exercise for your dog (and you!).
Tennis Ball Rope
Old tennis balls are obvious toys. But you can also punch two holes in one and pull a rope through. Tie a knot at each end to secure. We use these for tug of war and fetching. Another fun option is to tie multiple knots to secure rings of dried sweet potato.
Take a length of fabric and tie a knot in the center. Then, tie another knot around the first one. Repeat until you have one big ball of fabric. These are great for chewing! In the heat of summer, you can soak it in water or beef stock and freeze it. Your pup will love chewing on the ice.
Make a homemade Kong out of a plastic milk bottle. Discard the top and put a few treats inside. Your furball will spend hours scratching at it, rolling around, and tossing that bottle until every last treat has been retrieved. You can do the same thing by cutting a slice into a tennis ball and inserting treats.
Or, shoot, just give them the empty milk bottle. That’s it. They LOVE carrying them around.
Have an empty (but not totally cleaned out) tub of peanut butter? Give it to your pup for hours of hilarity!
Take a small plastic soda bottle, discard the cap, and squash it. Place in an old sock and tie the end. Dogs love chewing it, and the crackling noise is irresistible—perfect for dogs who love squeaky or crinkly noises.
Here are more links for inspiration on how to reduce waste with dogs:
Working towards zero waste with pets
Dog Treat Resources: