With more information coming to light about the impact that our daily consumption and waste is having on the planet, I feel it is important to consider how we can change our dog ownership and product purchasing habits to also be as planet friendly as possible. It is estimated by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association that there are 9 million dog owners in the UK at present. By making more conscious, eco-friendly choices in our everyday dog owning habits we CAN collectively make a difference! Below I have put together some top tips to help you to make small, simple changes that won’t take a lot of time or cost a lot of money but WILL make a difference to our beautiful planet earth.
CHOOSE SUSTAINABLE PET FOODS AND PRODUCTS
It may sound simple, but how often do you actually check the packaging and consciously make this choice? Even choosing to buy toys and products made from recycled or recyclable material 50% of the time is better than not at all. Often these products are of a high quality, not much more expensive (if at all) than their non eco-friendly rivals.
Think also about the packaging these products come in. Again, products that come in recyclable packaging (think paper, card, recyclable plastics) can also be a good choice. As are products you can buy loose without any packaging at all.
This also extends to food items. Many local pet shops and supermarkets have a section where you can purchase ‘loose’ treats, bones and chews. Take your own reusable or paper bag when purchasing these items to cut down on waste further.
BUY IN BULK
When purchasing food, buy in bulk. Although the packaging will be bigger, there will be less packaging per kilo overall. Try to also purchase items from local pet shops to avoid unnecessary delivery packaging also. Even if the cardboard packaging that the item comes in is recyclable, it is still better to have no waste at all! Bigger quantities also mean that you will need to buy the product less often, reducing travelling and carbon emissions (from either you or the delivery company!)
MAKE YOUR OWN TREATS
Not only can this be cheaper and mean you’ll know exactly what is in them, this also of course avoids unnecessary packaging and transportation of goods. You can make a selection of yummy goodies for your pooch from everyday items such as oats, bananas, and peanut butter (check there is no xylitol in your peanut butter though as this is poisonous to dogs!). If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also experiment with making treats containing ingredients such as liver. Your dogs will thank you and so will the planet!
SELECT LEADS AND COLLARS MADE FROM EITHER NATURAL OR RECYCLED MATERIALS
There are some fantastic products on the market now that are not only good for the environment but are also extremely fashionable and beautifully made. One company I was particularly impressed with recently is Two Dogs & Co who make items out of material such as cork and hemp. They even have products made out of a material named ‘pinatex’, created from pineapples. Pinatex is described by Two Dogs & Co as:
a natural and vegan alternative to leather made from the leaves left after the pineapple harvest. No extra land, water, fertiliser or pesticides are required to produce the raw material. Piñatex also provides additional income for farmers while creating a vibrant new industry for pineapple growing countries’
Beco Pets also has a range that I particularly love, making items out of recycled plastic bottles. Ingenious!
USE BIODEGRADEABLE POO BAGS
It is important to note that there are two types of biodegradable dog poo bag, and one which is in my opinion far superior to the other! Many of the dog poo bags you can purchase are labelled as biodegradable, however the majority of these break down into micro plastics rather than fully disperse and disintegrate. You probably didn’t know this did you? I certainly didn’t until about six months ago! This means that tiny plastic particles make their way into the earth, the sea, and even into our food chain. It is not known as yet the impact that these microparticles will have on our health and the planet’s health long term, but this surely cannot be good.
Although these bags are undoubtedly still better for the environment and our wildlife than those that don’t break down at all, there is now an alternative on the market – bags made from natural products such as cornstarch. These bags are fully compostable (don’t put them in your compost heap or food waste bin with dog poo inside however!) and fully break down, leaving no particles behind and no waste. Two companies that I have found who make such bags are Beco Pets and Adios Plastic. They can be purchased online and, now, many pet shops and supermarkets. Consider these next time you need to purchase those little bags and the fact that it logically does not make sense, and is in fact seems very silly when you think about it, to put something that would break down naturally in the environment into a bag that does not!
WALK YOUR DOG WITH WILDLIFE AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN MIND
Dogs can be a direct threat to wildlife either as a result of their natural hunting instincts and behaviours or by disturbing wildlife as they run through natural habitats where wildlife might be resting, living or breeding. In some parts of the world dogs can carry disease and compete with vulnerable animals for prey. Keep your dog under control and preferably on a lead in areas where your dog may disturb wildlife. Our little remaining wildlife areas in the UK present enough challenges to species never mind our dogs then chasing or disturbing them.
Remember also that a ball can be a very useful tool for you as a dog owner. A ball to a pet dog can help to stimulate and fulfil their hunting instinct. This can reduce their need to ‘self-hunt’ and disturb wildlife, keeping your dog happy and also the wildlife happy. Be mindful, however, of where you are throwing the ball and playing this game!
LITTER PICK AS YOU WALK
If it is safe to do so, pick up litter whilst you walk your dog. Think about how many of us walk our dogs each day, if everyone picked up a piece of litter whilst walking in parks, towns and countryside our entire planet would be a much cleaner place!
TRAVEL MORE MINDFULLY TO YOUR CHOSEN WALKING SPOT
If possible, make your regular walking spot close to home. If you can, go green and walk to the park or chosen area. This will reduce pollution from cars and public transport as well as perhaps give you both a little more exercise!
BE MINDFUL OF CHEMICAL PRODUCTS
When choosing products to keep our dogs clean, the items they use clean, and also our homes clean from the mess our dogs can make, try to use products that are environmentally friendly and not likely to cause harm to our environment, water ways, and aquatic life. Even if you do not live near a river or the sea, your waste water with these chemicals in could still make it to these destinations. Check labels carefully, you’ll be surprised at the everyday products you might find that pose a risk to our planet and our wildlife!
CREATE OR LEAVE WILDLIFE FRIENDLY AREAS IN YOUR GARDEN
I personally love to use long vegetation to hide treats in and create a fun game for my dogs. As a result, I purposefully leave such ‘overgrown’ areas in my garden. This type of area could, for example, simply be a patch of long grass. I also like to plant wild vegetation and flowers in these areas where possible, so you could also consider this when next undertaking the gardening! These areas will not only help you to create a fun game with your dog, they will also provide good cover for insects, birds and small mammals. Of course, before you play such games in such areas, please do check there aren’t any animals such as nesting birds that will be disturbed with your fun!