For some of us, dogs are the best part of our lives. They are our best friends and part of the family. But with dogs, comes waste, and I’m not just talking about doggy doodoo. I’m talking about plastic food bags, chewed up plastic toys, and yes, I’m talking about poop too.
Did you know almost every single dog food bag is non-recyclable in most cities? Think about the amount empty food bags from homes, veterinary offices, animal shelters, and pet stores that end up in the landfill each year. It’s unfathomable.
Photo Credit: https://www.dailydogstuff.com/
Why are dog food bags so hard to recycle?
Similar to long-shelf life packaging in the grocery store, the cartons that sometimes contain soy milk, almond milk, even juice, pet food bags are very difficult to recycle, and most communities do not have the facilities to process them. Why? Because the bags are lined with a layer of paper AND plastic, and separating the two materials requires specific equipment.
So, how do we feed our fur babies while still being as sustainable as we can?
Check the Packaging Carefully: Some zero waste websites have said that specific brands of dog food have compostable packaging. I did not find this to be the case with any of the brands they listed, or on any other dog food bags I could find. The specific brand mentioned repeatedly on one site very clearly states, “#7 recyclable where facilities are available. BPA FREE” right on the front of the bag. Although #7 symbols can sometimes indicate compostability, it’s very unclear.
Home-Cooking for your dogs is also an option, but this also comes with challenges, especially if this is something you plan on doing long term. In other words, a home cooked me here and there probably isn’t a big deal, but dogs have very specific dietary needs. What may seem like normal meal proportions for you, might not be balanced for your pet. Dogs require a lot of protein, and get a lot of their nutrients through meats. Most name brand dog foods ensure that amount in their daily feeding guidelines. I’ve seen a lot of malnourished dogs come into the vet with the most well-intentioned owners wondering what went wrong, they were feeding their dog chicken and rice, and their dog was not putting on weight. Well, of course not, there’s no fat in those substances. Balance is VERY important. However, if this is something you are committed to, talk to your dog’s veterinarian. Foods are breed specific. Like humans, dogs have allergies and intolerances, too. Get the vet’s opinion on what foods in what proportions would make a well-balanced dinner for your pup. *Note* Any quick transition to a new food can cause GI upset in dogs, so make sure to transition slowly, adding a bit of the new food each day, until the original food has been swapped out.
*Remember* It’s always a good idea to check with your vet before making any major changes in your pets diet.
So, I recommend this: find your favorite brand of dog food, a quality brand with ingredients you are comfortable with. Next, send that company a letter encouraging them to switch to more sustainable packaging. In the interim, buy the largest bag possible that you can safely store: less packaging = less waste. Finally, collect the empty bags, maybe over the period of a year, and send them to a company that CAN recycle them, like Terracycle.
TerraCycle: CAN recycle your pet food bags.
Zero Waste Pro Tip: Start a collection with other patrons at your local dog park and inspire others to consider their waste habits.
Now we’re talking! Treats/cookies/biscuits/nomnoms WHATEVER you want to call them, are definitely something you can make at home and reward your four-legged buddy with. Here is my favorite dog-approved, vet-tech approved recipe that is gentle on their tummies:
Make your own dog treats!
I have come up with two recipes for dog treats that are fairly similar but look a bit different:
(named after my dog, Gogo Gadget)
(because you bake them the same way you’d bake brownies, just with dog-friendly ingredients. NO CHOCOLATE!!!)
Yes, they exist! Surprisingly, farmer’s markets and local pet boutiques usually have a package-free treat section that you can spoil your dog with. Also, many Pet Food Express stores and Petcos have bulk treat bins where you can fill your own bags with mix-n-match cookies, just make sure to bring your own reusable bag! And make sure to check the ingredients of each item to make sure they meet your and your dog’s standards!
What about doo-doo? 💩
We know this isn’t a super pleasant topic, but it’s important. Did you know you can compost dog poop? You don’t want to add it in with your vegetable compost, but we found a guide! Zero Waste: Dog Poop
Did you know biodegradable poop bags are really bad for the environment?
Want to know what the EPA recommends you do with dog poop?
All these questions, and more, are answered here: Zero Waste: Dog Poop
if you think of something not listed, shoot me a message and I will do my best to find out the best solution!
What about Dog Shampoo-poo? 🐩
I found this plastic-free dog shampoo bar at Whole Foods, it works and smells great on my flufflepuffs! I am in the process of developing my own zero waste dog shampoo, but in the interim, this works like a charm, and the $8 bar will last for at least 15 baths on a 15-20lb dog. Bargain!
This is my other dog, Fizzgig. He hates bath time.
Zero Waste Dog Tips:
- When the water bowl gets yucky, but there is still water in it, use it to water your plants (or even flush your toilet.) Slobber water has made my garden happy.
- Make your own dog treats using the recipes listed above, or buy bulk treats. I have found bulk treat selections at Pet Food Express and Petcos across California.
- Buy non-toxic toys made out of sustainable materials. boneandbites.com has a great selection!
- Collect your dog food bags and recycle them at Terra-cycle. Make this a group effort, get co-workers, classmates, neighbors and friends involved.
- Buy leashes and collars from second hand stores, they have a ton. Just make sure to wash them before use!
- If you dress your dog up, purchase their clothes at second hand stores. Yes, they have dog clothes. Some thrift stores support animal shelters directly, BONUS!
- Compost dog fur and nail trimmings!
- Get all the facts on dog poop.
- Donate extra towels or blankets to your local animal shelter or vet office. (Just call first to make sure they don’t have a surplus already!)