Zero Waste Life: 6 Pawsitive Practices For Pet Owners

Photo by Jonny Neuenhagen on Unsplash

Zero Waste Life as a Pet Owner

How many of you here have adopted a pet recently?

Well, you’re one of the many folks who have decided on being a fur parent right now. And maybe that coincides with your decision to adopt a more zero waste life.

Ever since the coronavirus brought our social lives to a halt, we’ve sought to create a warmer home life. What better way than to welcome a warm, fuzzy, and most times goofy pet to be our constant companion?

There’s a spike in pet adoptions. Statista reports that by December 2020, 10% of survey respondents in the U.S. acquired a new pet.

At the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, for instance, adoptions doubled with 10-13 pets being adopted each day. The same trend is happening on the East Coast. Animal Care Centers in NYC noted that a lot more people decided to adopt the dogs they are fostering.

How Much Our Pets Impact the Environment

New and experienced fur parents alike know that having a pet creates additional waste in the home. This is going to be an issue especially if you’re more conscious of the zero waste movement.

From litterbags, wipes, food cans, toiletries, not to mention their toys and accessories – pets do increase consumption in a household.

But by how much?

One study calculated that the meat eaten by all pet dogs and cats emits a total of 64 million tons C02 a year. That’s 25% of total meat consumed in the U.S. What’s astounding is that this is around a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million vehicles!

Even so, experts are still divided over the impact of pets in the environment. On the one hand, they do contribute considerably to the global meat consumption.

But on the other, our pets also encourage us to be physically active, walk outside and enjoy nature, and even think twice about high-carbon activities like traveling by air.

6 Zero Waste Life Hacks if You’re A Pet Owner

Having a pet is priceless. But what can we do about the waste that comes with it?

Let’s find out how to live a zero-waste lifestyle while we’re taking care of our beloved furry animals.

Make Pet Nutrition Zero Waste

When it comes to pets, food is the biggest source of their carbon pawprint. So this is where we can make some big adjustments if we want.

But we want to clarify: we are not in support of vegan or vegetarian diets for pets. While we recognize that some dogs can thrive on such a diet, we are firm in our stand that pets (especially cats who are obligate carnivores) biologically need meat to thrive.

There are ways to cut down on food waste and promote zero waste home recipes, but we are standing by our belief in including meat in our pet’s diet.

Now let’s discuss dogs.

Dogs are actually omnivores, meaning they have a pretty adaptable gastrointestinal tract and can be nourished with both meat and vegetables.

So instead of feeding them store-bought, industrial-made dog food all the time, you can feed your pups some leftovers right from the fridge. It’s one big way to lessen food waste and start a zero-waste movement right at your kitchen.

That bit of roasted chicken from last night’s dinner, or that lone bowl of pasta? Add some veggies (e.g. potato, carrots, pumpkin), a bit of broth and bring to a boil. Voila! Your dog has a delicious and nutritious meal. And you didn’t need to toss those leftovers away, too!

If you’re super dedicated about going zero waste and have the time, you could cook their meals yourself.

Just include these three elements in each meal and you’re good:

  • Protein – any animal part will be delish for your pet. It doesn’t have to be the choice parts that we humans consume. It could be the scraps normally thrown away at the butcher’s! The World Wildlife Fund advises that food byproducts are more sustainable than human-grade ingredients.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables – sliced celery, carrots, and apples are fine
  • Cooked vegetables – cooked broccoli, corn, and root crops like sweet potatoes are great source of nutrients

As you can see, dogs are primed to adapt to a more eco-friendly diet, it just takes a bit of creativity in planning what to serve them.

Of course, you’d want to check this list of what dogs can and can’t eat.

What about cats?

Unlike dogs, our feline friends are obligate carnivores – they need to consume meat as a main part of their diet to maintain their health.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t offset their diet’s paw print.

One way to do that is to swap chicken over beef. This applies to both homemade and manufactured cat food.

Here’s why: producing beef requires more than 10 times the resources and 20 times more carbon footprint than producing chicken.

If making homemade pet food is too much of a hassle for you, you could always buy in bulk or choose brands that offer recyclable packaging. These are still aligned with zero-waste life practices.

Use Zero Waste Life Hacks for Pet Litter

How can zero waste movement apply to litter?

Dog waste can be flushed or composted – whichever works in your context. Do remember that if you’re going to compost it, never use that compost with herbs and produce you intend to eat.

If you don’t do either, and instead use biodegradable bags, just remember that if it’s sent to a landfill, it’s not really going to degrade because there’s not enough oxygen and natural decomposers in landfills.

The only benefit to biodegradable or compostable bags is that you’re not using fossil fuel plastic.

Cat litter is a bit trickier.

First off, you can’t compost cat waste. It can carry toxoplasmosis, which can cause flu-like symptoms or worse, organ damage in humans. But you don’t want to flush it in the toilet either and risk contaminating water systems.

So how can you dispose of cat poo?

Swap the disposable trays and disposable liners. Opt for natural alternatives to litter. Examples include newspapers, reusable terry cloths, garden soil (that’s why your cat may contort into potted plants), sand, sawdust, and woodchips to name a few.

The best thing for litter is to have a separate compost only for pet poo – separate from the general compost pile!

Turn Pet Baths Into A Zero Waste Routine

Is your dog like you – owning several different bathing products? We got news for you: they don’t need much! Here’s another avenue where you can majorly cut down on consumption and start a zero-waste movement that won’t affect the wellbeing of your furbabies.

We’ve all been convinced that our pets need all kinds of shampoos and products. But it’s not necessarily true.

Pets (cats specifically) have a self-cleaning system. Washing them too frequently will just make their skin dry, flaky, and more prone to hair loss and skin conditions.

Of course, some of our furry friends love to get down n’ dirty outdoors. If dirt accumulates on your dog’s body, just wash with warm water and a tiny bit of diluted soap. You could also try dog shampoo bars like these.

Cats will definitely cut you some slack for not bathing them, as they loathe it!

Reuse or Swap Plastic for Grooming

How to reuse waste at home? Let your pets use some of them!

For instance, after bathing, you also regularly need to brush your pet. It keeps their fur shiny, free of fleas and irritation, basically helping maintain hygiene even for breeds that don’t have luscious fur.

Instead of buying a new plastic brush, use an old one that may be lying around your drawers. Even if it’s made of plastic, the fact that your reusing it is already a win for the landfills. And if you have to go buy a new grooming brush, choose more sustainable materials like bamboo or metal.

Use Zero Waste Pet Toys

We all know our pets love to be active and play. The great thing is, you don’t have to buy their toys – you can make them right at home.

Those stuffed toys lying around (just be sure there aren’t any parts that can choke your pet) can be reused. These may not be the most pet-proof toys, but both cats and dogs usually want something soft to cuddle.

Cats also love to reach for ropes and strings, so you can fashion any ribbon strip attached to a stick.

If your dog wants a chewer, opt for natural rubber like this one. Pack treats inside and make your pet even happier. Use your old cotton and fabric scraps to make recycled toys. Anything goes!

Not only will you avoid buying plastic toys that may have BPAs in them, but you’ll also save money and help the environment.

Swap Synthetic Beds and Plastic Kennels

Pro tip: Check your pet’s behavior (and needs) first before buying any form of bedding or housing.

Maybe your pup just prefers to sleep on the floor. That synthetic mattress you ordered will be useless!

If your dog stays outdoors, or needs an outside resting area, you could always opt for products that use more sustainable materials like recycled wood or bamboo.

And if you have the know-how, you could even build your own zero waste doghouse, made of reclaimed wood!

It’s pretty much the same for cats. If you need to contain them in a certain area (or else they’ll jump everywhere), use durable materials like steel or bamboo. Cats love quiet nooks and crannies, so you could use old boxes fluffed with recycled pillows.

Zero Waste Life: Try These Pawsitive Practices

As much as we adore our pets, it’s also very important that we align our own zero waste definition and mentality with our pet parenting.

We’ve learned that our animal companions, or more like our typical mentality towards how to care for them, contribute a whole lot to our carbon footprint.

These practices could be challenging, but will definitely be rewarding as you go on a zero-waste journey.

Do you have any favorite eco-friendly pet products you swear by? What other zero waste living tips for pet owners do you know? Let us know!

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