Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Zero Waste Pet Care Ideas

My good friend, Katie, and I were discussing our dogs' poop. As you do.

Well, yeah, that is a big part of a doggie's life. But how do you handle things in a zero waste way with your furbies? That's a good question because trying to address the world's garbage crisis affects ALL areas of our lives. I am so glad that I chose to give up single-use plastic for Lent because I have taken more seriously my commitment to simply TRY; to really make the effort and not cut corners. It has caused me to give more than just a passing glance at alternatives.

Also, there was THIS story that showed up in my Facebook feed and that I just can't get out of my mind. The idea that this beautiful, majestic whale had a stomach full of plastic and that its belly was hard as a rock with it and that it likely suffered a long time before it eventually began bleeding to death has shaken me to the core.

It is stories like these (and believe me, there are so many others) along with my desire to be a good steward with what God has so graciously given me that I am trying to give not just AN effort, but my BEST effort. And that includes the kinds of things I purchase for my pets.

Here are some of the things I am trying and what I am thinking about:

Pet waste: Yep, back to the poop. My practice with my dog's waste has been to use old plastic bags from bread, stores, etc. But while it does give ONE more use to the plastic bag that has made its way into my home, it is a pretty terrible option, really. As Katie mentioned, the waste is biodegradable but only if it is not tied up in plastic. So, what are the alternatives?

Well, some companies would like to sell you something for your pet's waste and so they market "biodegradable" plastic. These often seem to be made from some sort of plant cellulose that will break down over time. But the truth is that these bags, just like biodegradable utensils, only begin to break down under pretty perfect circumstances: hot compost, requiring lots of oxygen. If pet waste in bags - or degradable utensils for that matter - get buried in a landfill, they are going to sit there just as long as the other kinds of garbage around them.

The better choice, I believe, is paper. Here's what I'm planning to do. I am going to carry a small paper bag with me instead of a plastic one on my walks. Inside of it I will have some sheet of paper - like newsprint - that I can pick up the waste and then put it into the bag. This seems SO easy and I am excited to put that into practice. Honestly, if you have a big enough sheet of paper, you probably wouldn't even need the bag. I mean, I don't think I would for my shorter evening walks with Seiji.

For picking up waste in your yard, you could do what I did tonight and just put it into a grocery bag. Handles, in this case, are most convenient and it made for a very easy job! Likewise, try dumping cat litter into a grocery bag too. We use pine pellet cat litter that, when cleaned of solid waste, is compostable. That said, when we had multiple cats,  the sawdust that the litter dissolves into ended up being just too much "brown" material in our personal compost bin. You need to have a good mix of brown and green material and the wood bits just overwhelmed that balance eventually and since then we've just had to throw it away.

Pet Food: I can't afford to feed my dog a completely canned diet; I mostly rely on dry food with wet food for treats, which I'll get to in a minute. It occurred to me, as I neared the end of Seiji's dry food yesterday, that I would be needing to get him a new bag. And then I was reminded at how many pet foods are now sold in, you guessed it, plastic bags! *sigh*

So, I called ahead to our specialty pet food store, Chuck and Don's, and asked if they sold any dry dog food in paper bags. The woman on the phone said they had one brand in "paper-ish" bags, so I headed over to see what they had to offer.

Two brands had plastic bags that sported a TerraCycle logo. This means that they have a partnership with TerraCycle to recycle their packaging with them. I think TerraCycle is a pretty good alternative if you live in a rural area or town that doesn't offer a municipal recycling service. Some TerraCycle programs are free and others require you to pay to purchase a special TerraCycle bin for the items. There are programs ranging from the recycling of contact lenses to, well, dog food bags! Essentially, it makes for a sort of loyalty program for the item, the idea being that you will continue to purchase their brand in order to have it recycled. Of course, this also means that the consumer continues to agree to buy the plastic bag without asking them to stop using plastic packaging instead.

 And this is why I didn't choose those brands.

Again, for years we have had dog food sold to us in paper bags, but now they are all smooth plastic. It looks shiny or matte, feels smooth to the touch, probably improves the shelf-life of the food, and is probably cheaper to produce. It is the rare customer who challenges the pretty packaging. And add to it a partnership to "recycle" the bag (the plastic that never will be able to completely decompose, instead just turning into microplastic in the environment), and you've got a recipe for pet food success.

I ended up buying a bag of dog food that is paper on the outside and plastic-lined paper on the inside. I bought a larger bag because the smaller bags were plastic. And the sales woman told me that the company is planning to transition to all plastic bags soon. So, yes, I bought that bag and now I am going to send an email to the company requesting that they not make that shift. My hope is that with sincere, respectful letters, the people in the company who produces the food, will dare to be leaders in their communities by changing back to all paper.

Pet treats:

I know that Pet Smart and Petco sell treat in bulk bins usually near the front of the store near the checkouts. I got a couple of these for Seiji tonight at Chuck and Don's who have their own selection of bulk treat items: some harder dental chews, about .80 each. The only other treats I've been giving Seiji lately are his Kongs filled with a couple of tablespoons of his wet dog food, frozen in the freezer. The Kongs are made of incredibly tough rubber and I expect that if we don't lose one, we'll have two for a very long time.

Occasionally, I will make a little frozen container of purchased chicken broth with a few frozen veggies thrown in.

Using frozen food, whether it be prepared dog food, vegetables, or broth, is something Seiji loves and is economical too.

So, these are the things I am trying right now. I am willing to flex and bend, however, if need be. It will feel good to find sustainable alternatives for my pets year round! I continue to hold the memory of that whale in my heart as I continue question producers and seek out alternatives to what has been contrived to become "the norm."

Have you made any changes or thought about the ways you provide for your pets?


Bentleighvet said...

Good post.:)

Bentleighvet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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