Your pet is a huge part of your life, and you want to include them in your zero-waste lifestyle. Luckily, there are simple things you can do to help shrink your pet’s carbon pawprint.
When you’re working to reduce waste as a pet parent, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Start with a few easy changes that work for your routine. Just like people, pets have unique needs. You may not be able to eliminate all waste, but everything you do makes a difference!
Whether you’re a parent to a dog, cat or another animal, here are five ways you can start becoming a pro at zero-waste pet care.
1. Choose Sustainable Pet Food
You care about giving your pet quality food they enjoy. After all, food is just as important to our pets as it is to us! (All the sad-eyes our dogs give us during dinner attest to that.)
Unfortunately, many pet food brands come in packaging that’s difficult to recycle and use unsustainable manufacturing practices.
Look for reputable brands that work to lower their carbon footprint. One solid option is Open Farm Pet. They create high-quality pet food with ethically sourced, humanely raised ingredients. And they partner with TerraCycle so you can send empty bags in for recycling! Once you find a food your pet likes, reduce packaging waste by buying bigger sizes.
2. Pamper Your Pet With Zero-Waste Pet Treats
You can also make simple, healthy treats that your pets (and your wallet) will love. Unlike store-bought treats, these create no extra waste.
Zero-Waste Pet Treats for Dogs
Since dogs are omnivores, there’s a huge variety of natural treats you can give them.
Some human foods like almonds or avocado are harmful for dogs, so double check before feeding new treats.
Vegetables and fruits make quick, easy treats for dogs. Carrots, pumpkin and cucumber are some of my dogs’ favorites. Kale stalks make a great indoor chew, or you can make dried sweet potato chews for them to gnaw on. Fruits like apples and berries are also good for an occasional sweet treat. My dogs love chomping a few frozen blueberries to cool off in the summer heat.
A few other treats dogs enjoy are natural unsalted peanut butter, lean meats like chicken or turkey and small amounts of hard cheeses.
Zero-Waste Pet Treats for Cats
Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores and need meat as their primary food source. However, there are still plenty of options for homemade treats they’ll love.
Small pieces of meat like chicken, turkey or fish are always a hit with my sister’s cats. They can sense it the second we take it out of the fridge! Cats can also have small amounts of cheese and cooked carrots.
You can also grow your own catnip and wheat grass and let your cat experience nature in their own home. Plant seeds in a container with good drainage and let them grow to at least 3-5 inches before letting your cats explore. Some cats like fresh catnip, while others prefer it dried.
3. Source Plastic-Free Pet Supplies When Possible
Pet toys, food bowls and other supplies are a big source of waste. (Especially if your furry friend has a gift for destruction.) When buying new pet supplies, look for durable options that will last. And when you can, choose products made without plastic.
Sourcing plastic-free collars and harnesses and sustainable toys helps keep plastic out of the landfill. It also protects your pet from harmful chemicals found in some plastics. You can make your own zero-waste toys for dogs and cats with items you already have around the house. Old socks or clothes make great chew toys for dogs. And tying dried catnip into a pouch makes a simple toy for cats to bat around.
Another quick zero-waste swap is to choose a Dog Shampoo Bar instead of a plastic bottle. It’s gentle on their fur and doesn’t strip away natural oils. And since it’s free from harsh artificial fragrances, it’s easier on their sensitive noses too!
4. Dispose of Pet Waste Safely
Unsurprisingly, a major source of waste for pet parents is pet waste. In the United States alone, pet dogs create over 10 million tons of poop every year.
Cleaning up dog waste helps prevent it from entering waterways, where it can spread harmful bacteria and encourage algae growth. Dog parents can choose a poop bag designed to biodegrade in landfills. These bags from Doggy Do Good are made from corn starch and break down in just 90 days.
Many cat litters are made from a clay base that comes from unsustainable strip mining. Cats are notoriously picky about their litter boxes, but you can experiment with sustainable options by sprinkling some on their current litter to see how they react.
Catalyst litter is made with wood fiber captured from sawmills. It’s four times as absorbent and lasts twice as long as conventional litters. Catalyst also chooses #4 recyclable plastic for their bags and collects ocean plastic to offset their plastic impact.
5. Experience Nature With Your Pet
One of the most rewarding parts of being a pet parent is spending time with your pet. Getting outside together helps you both unwind and make happy memories.
Take your dog on walks, hikes or even trips to a local river or lake. Soaking up new sights and smells is sure to get their tails wagging. For an extra dose of sustainability, bring a bag and a pair of tongs to pick up litter as you go.
Cats can also learn to walk on a harness and love to sunbathe, chew on grass or spy on neighborhood birds. If your cat is a Houdini-level escape artist, you can set up a bird feeder near a window so they’re free to enjoy nature from a safe distance.
Living Zero-Waste With Small Pets
If you’re a parent of small pets like rodents or birds, you can use many of the tips above to make your care routine more sustainable. Your pet may be small, but they can have a big impact on the planet. A few ways you can start reducing waste are to:
- Choose bedding made from recycled materials
- Source supplies like cages second hand (remember to clean well before use)
- Make toys and hides from items you already have
- Supplement their store-bought food with fresh fruits and vegetables
From gerbils to German Shepherds, animals are one of my favorite things about the planet. And by making simple changes, you can help keep your pets happy and the environment healthy.
Love Your Pets and the Planet
As a lifelong animal lover, I’ve seen how big of a role pets play in life. They keep us active, make us smile (and sometimes make us shake our heads in exasperation).
Reducing waste in your pet’s life doesn’t have to mean reducing fun. So we hope these tips have inspired you in your quest for zero-waste pet care. Choose a new idea or two to try out this week!
Do you have any favorite sustainable pet supplies or DIYs? Share them with us in the comments!