How can a dog be bad for the environment? Aren’t they part of it? Although they may be animals, our dogs aren’t like wild wolves. They aren’t adapted to the natural environment, but rather to human needs and desires which, as anyone concerned about the environment know, can often get out of control in our consumer driven culture.
From their eating and play habits to their elimination cycles, humanity’s best friend can take a serious toll on the planet. Here are 8 meaningful first steps you can take to begin greening your dog’s environmental pawprint now.
1. Dutiful Pooper Scooping
Zoonotic—animal-borne—diseases have afflicted humans and the environment since we first began domesticating critters several thousand years ago. There’s a reason it’s important to pick up your dog’s pile and remove it from the environment. But that’s not all. If you’re one of the many who tucks it into a plastic bag for disposal, consider using a pooper scooper rake to transfer the mess to the trash. Plastic bags are awful for the environment, even the so-called biodegradable ones.
2. Animal Waste Composting
Animal waste composting is a positive step in the right direction, although it could be a bit difficult to implement, depending on your living situation. If you have the means, composting your dog’s dump is an eco-friendly alternative to numerous unsustainable waste disposal methods. It’s a way to skip the landfill and save waterways by turning hazardous remains into safe, fertile mulch. The USDA has good information on how to begin composting dog waste.
3. Upcycle Dog Toys
Why are many dog toys colored bright red when canines cannot see that color? Because the toys aren’t marketed to pet dogs; they are being marketed to the human owners. Dogs don’t have our sensibilities; they don’t care about fashion, and they don’t discriminate between new, brand-name toys and ones upcycled from ordinary stuff lying around your house. Landfills are filled with the former. Here are some starter ideas for upcycling your dog’s next accessory:
- Rope toy: tie an old T-shirt into knots.
- Chew toy: stick a plastic bottle in a sock.
- Puppy sweater: use old kid’s clothes from the attic.
4. Don’t Overfeed
It may not come as a surprise that the obesity problem facing many humans is also weighing down our pets. Pets are being fed up to 20 percent more than is necessary, according to the latest research. Too much food means unnecessary food waste, which extracts more from the environment. It doesn’t do your pup’s health any favors, either. By the way, it is a myth that domesticated canines are good at regulating their own food intake.
5. Green Flea & Tick Treatments
Often, what’s good for the environment is also good for dogs’ health. You may have heard that common lawn pesticides can kill your canine, but what about the ones in Fido’s flea collar? Conventional flea poisons include pesticides that inadvertently sicken and kill thousands of pet dogs a year. Organophosphates are the main problem. Do you have to use hazardous chemicals to kill the fleas and ticks infesting your dog’s body? Thankfully, you do not. There are several non-toxic alternatives, like soapy water, Diatomaceous Earth and electric flea traps.
6. Little Dog, Big Dog
It has been suggested that bigger dogs have a greater impact on the planet than small dog breeds. How big is the difference? The ecological footprint of a medium-sized dog is about .84 gha, in one estimate; for a large dog, it is closer to 1.0 gha. These figures are comparable to the least impactful people on the planet, although they are greater in impact than a luxury SUV, as a New Zealander couple notoriously claimed a few years ago in the book Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.
7. Avoid Beef and Lamb
The biggest impact of most dogs is the amount of food they eat, notably all that meat product. The impact of meat production on the planet is exorbitant. You can reduce the load on Mother Nature by investing in grass-fed animal products, which require less carbon for their production. Also, not all meats have an equivalent impact. Eliminating carbon-intensive lamb and beef from the menu would be a substantial step in the right direction.
8. Recycled Doghouse
Whether you are thinking of buying a new doghouse or plan to build your own, you can be environmentally sensitive. If you are building your own, there are many ways to access free reclaimed wood. Building a DIY doghouse can also be much less expensive, and more so if you have access to common construction materials. If you purchase a commercial doghouse, however, try to buy one made from recycled, if not biodegradable materials.