I’ve got an informative guest post for you today from Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care.  Here Darcy discusses how you can provide eco-friendly dog care for your pooch.  Enjoy!

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Many of us go to great lengths to decrease our own carbon emissions by recycling, taking public transport, and buying organic fruits and vegetables.  However, few pet owners consider the enormous “carbon pawprint” their companion animal leaves on the environment.

Researchers in New Zealand recently found that the average medium-sized dog has a carbon footprint roughly twice the size of an SUV driven 10,000 kilometres a year.  Cats weren’t much better, occupying the same footprint as a small Volkswagen.

Between their meaty diets and the poop they leave behind, pets are big polluters.  There’s also all the treats, bedding, clothes, toys, and supplies we lavish on them.  Thankfully, there are easy ways to make your dog’s life a little more eco-friendly.  

The following tips on eco-friendly dog care are from my new book, ‘Greening Your Pet Care*’.  This provides simple everyday steps to lower your pet’s carbon footprint.  Both for the sake of their health and well-being, and the future of our planet.

My Top Eco-Friendly Dog Care Tips

green your dog ownership

1. Scoop the poop

A staggering amount of dog waste is created each year.  At least 97,000 tonnes of poo is left in parks in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada, alone.  It’s a massive environmental issue if it’s not cleaned up.  This is because the bacteria in faeces leaches into the ground and water sources.  This then contaminates lakes and rivers, drinking water sources, and hurts fish and other marine life.

The solution, however, is simple: clean that sh*t up.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, rain doesn’t actually wash it away.  Therefore, the environmentally-friendly solution is always to scoop the poop.

Conventional plastic grocery bags take anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to break down in a landfill.  Instead, opt for a “greener” option, like biodegradable or compostable dog poo bags.  These break down exponentially faster.  Look for bags that are naturally scented and created from non-GMO crops like tapioca and corn, like these ones* from Ethical Superstore.

2.  Don’t feed beef

In terms of eco-friendly dog care, it’s important to consider your dog’s diet.  Producing meat for pet food consumes vast amounts of land, water, and resources.  What’s more, cattle production is the most polluting and environmentally-draining of them all.  Lamb is a close second.  The UN estimates livestock production is responsible for 18% of all CO2 emissions worldwide.

Instead of choosing beef-based kibble or wet food, switch to a food that’s primary protein is something with a smaller carbon footprint.  Chicken, turkey, sheep, or sustainably-harvested fish are lower-carbon alternatives.  The same goes for treats.  Look for grain, cereal, or fish-based treats instead of those sourced with beef.

Making slight changes in your pet’s diet will go a long way to reduce how much they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.  With more than $23 billion spent on pet food last year, your individual choice can add up to a big difference.

darcy matheson dogs

Darcy and her dogs: Murphy Brown and Seymour

3. Ditch the plastic

Tonnes of pet products made from plastics end up being trashed in the landfill each year.  These non-renewable materials can also be a danger to the health of you and your pet.  Inexpensive plastic pet products, including toys, beds, feeding dishes, and clothes, can contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  This is a chemical classified as a human carcinogen and a danger to animal health by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For feeding bowls, opt for stainless steel, which is long-lasting and durable.  Look for toys and products made from natural and sustainable materials. Think organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and untreated wood and wicker.  Items made from canvas and natural rubber are also sustainable and tough, reducing the odds your pup will destroy it.

There are many great UK manufacturers making great strides to divert plastic from our landfills by creating stylish and eco-friendly pet products.  These include beds and plush toys, using recycled plastic water bottles.  For example, Beco Pets* has an eco-conscious line of dog toys and treats.  These are locally-sourced and made from environmentally-responsible materials, including recycled plastic. 

4. Go natural for chew toys

Plastic chew toys are great to keep your pups entertained and occupied.  This lets them satisfy their natural desire to chomp without destroying your shoes or furniture.  But if you’ve ever watched a dog rip one apart, you’ll agree most end up in the trash after being destroyed.  And plastic products like Nylabone can create dangerous intestinal blockages if large pieces are ingested.

For more eco-friendly dog care, opt for a tougher and longer-lasting “green” chew.  Made from natural rubber, Kongs* are a great eco-friendly solution for even the heartiest chewers in your life.  What’s more, they come in a variety of sizes.  They’re also great stuffed with peanut butter and treats, to use for crate training puppies and reducing separation anxiety in nervous dogs.

Antlers are another eco-friendly chew.  Unlike rawhides that are frequently sprayed with chemicals like arsenic and formaldehyde during production, antlers are naturally-shed from animals like deer and elk.  This means they are free of preservatives and additives.  They also give your dog’s teeth a great cleaning.  As your pup grinds down the antler to get more marrow, it massages their gums and cracks away plaque and tartar.  Another green alternative is getting some discarded raw bones from your local butcher.

5. Go green for grooming

The chemicals, synthetic colours, and fragrances added to most dog shampoos, conditioners, and grooming products can contain pesticides and suspected carcinogens.   These can cause major skin irritation for your pup.  This can include redness, painful hot spots, itchiness, and rashes.  These chemicals also hurt local waterways when they’re flushed down the drain.

Instead, seek out formulations that are biodegradable, free of parabens and synthetic fragrances.  Also, look for products that use organic ingredients wherever possible.  Avoid what I call the “foul four’: DEA (diethanolamine), SLS (sodium laureth sulphate), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), and synthetic colours and fragrances.

There are a wealth of naturally-scented products available now that work hard without putting your pet’s health and the environment at risk.

BONUS: Adopt, don’t shop

Tens of thousands of wonderful companion animals are euthanised each year in UK shelters, so by adopting you are saving that pet from death, while freeing up space for another one to be taken in.  Think of adopting as “the ultimate recycling.”

One of the biggest misconceptions is that there are only mutts and old pets in shelte.  The Humane Society says a full 25% of the shelter population are purebred.

Start your pet search at local animal shelters and rescues.  If you have your heart set on a certain breed, reach out to breed-specific rescues in your area.  These groups are focused on re-homing unwanted, abandoned, and homeless pets of a particular pure breed.

eco-friendly dog care darcy matheson

My new book, Greening Your Pet Care*, is full of great tips and tricks to help you provide more eco-friendly dog care. Both for the sake of your furry friend and the planet.

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