We all love our furry friends. They get us out and about in the fresh air, even when it’s raining or blowing a gale. They love us unconditionally and teach us to value the simple things in life. They even help to lower our blood pressure!
But a quick look around most dogs’ living rooms and feeding areas reveals a lot of plastic and synthetics that could be avoided. Read our handy guide to find out how to be an owner who’s just as kind to the planet as you are to your dog!
Although plastic dog bowls should last a while, they’re still plastic that has to be dealt with at some point down the line. If your dog doesn’t need to use a plastic non-gulp bowl (yes, they’re a thing) they could try instead ceramic or metal bowls – like this ceramic one from Jollyes in Perth, or this stainless steel one from Alan’s Pet Shop in Perth or Crieff.
If your ceramic one eventually cracks it could be broken up and used in the bottom of plant pots. Even if it ends up in a bin, it won’t leach chemicals like plastics do. Metal dishes should last for many years, so you can use them again and again – if you ever find you don’t need them you could use them as a planter, donate them to a friend or pass to a local dog shelter.
A lot of poop bags claim that they’re “biodegradable”, which makes us think they’re made of earth-friendly materials that won’t do harm. Unfortunately all it usually means is that they break down … into smaller bits of plastic! As microplastics are one of the biggest issues troubling the environment today, these are to be avoided.
Luckily, EcoVibe make a 100% plant-based bag made from corn starch, which means they’re completely plastic-free, compostable and biodegradable. They've also got a low carbon footprint. When you think of the number of plastic bags that must end up in landfill or get burned every year just because of us dog owners, we think you’ll agree it’s time to make a change.
I’ve been guilty of buying my dogs lots of synthetic dog toys over the years – you know, those fluffy octopuses, rabbits, ducks and monkeys that they love to cuddle – and so many plastic bones and chews. We’re not suggesting you ditch them right away – we don’t want a canine riot on our hands! – but that you mix in some more natural choices. How about trying:
• antler chews instead of plastic chews (made from discarded antlers, not causing harm to the deer)
• natural rope toys instead of synthetic rope
• natural wood dog chews (that don’t splinter!)
• bone chews made from natural rice husk instead of plastic
• jute tug toys instead of synthetic 'fur' ones
If your dog’s anything like mine, they’ll get through a LOT of dog biscuits and treats every month. But there’s no need to buy a lot of plastic too!
Bring your own tub, reusable mesh bag, or an old plastic bag such as a bread bag, to your local pet shop, and fill that up instead of the ones they offer.
Many local pet shops also sell dental chews and other big chews singly, so you can avoid plastic and support a local business at the same time.
If you’re thinking of switching food, or you have a brand-new puppy, consider a food brand that uses paper bags rather than plastic bags (but only if it suits their needs of course!). Or, if your dog’s favourite brand comes in plastic, email the company and ask them to use paper instead. You’re the customers and you can get them to change!
Talking of food, have you heard about the dog food that’s made of insects? If you currently feed your dog meat- or fish-based food, you may be interested in Yora, which claims to be “the world’s most sustainable dog food” – check out these stats comparing land use, greenhouse emissions and water use.
It’s more expensive than most 'normal' dog foods, so if it’s over your budget you could use it for dog treats and occasional snacks, or mix it in with your regular food. Read Little Green Ways blogger Naomi’s post on Yora dog food.
As tempting as it is to spoil our four-legged friends, one of the best ways to help the planet is not to buy new but to make it ourselves or buy second-hand.
As tempting as it is to spoil our four-legged friends, one of the best ways to help the planet is not to buy new, but to make it ourselves, or buy second-hand.
I recall my mum making mattresses for her labradors from folded-over single duvets that had seen better days but were still great for the dogs.
My friend, who has an adorable cocker spaniel, made one of those 'dog robes' (that are normally quite pricey!) from an old towel.
You could also buy used cuddly toys from charity shops instead of new ones from the pet shop (do check the material is suitable, eg make sure they’re not stuffed with plastic beads or have loose plastic bits, and always check them regularly for stuffing coming out).
We have occasionally bought toys, or even beds, for our dog that he just doesn’t take to, for some reason known only to him. But other dogs that we know have loved them. So don’t throw out that squeaky toy just because your dog doesn’t like it – check with your friends’ dogs or a local dog charity and pass them on!
Here are some pet shops, organisations and charities in the Perthshire area. You can get lots more doggie information, find non-plastic and long-lasting items for your dog to try, or pass your unwanted items (eg beds in great condition, bowls, ramps) on to them, so give them a whirl!
• Alan’s Pet Shop – Crieff & Perth
• Dog-Friendly Perthshire
• Jollyes – Perth
• McCash’s Country Store – Perth
• Perthshire Abandoned Dogs – Forteviot (contact them first if considering donating items)
• Pets At Home – Perth
So now you’ve read our guide, we’d love it if you try to “think non-plastic” the next time you’re treating your canine chums to a new toy, chew or bag of food. Remember, any change to help the environment is positive, so give yourself and your dog a pat on the back for what you do already.
And if you come across a business that is doing its bit for the planet, please say thanks to them and tell others.
For a little green inspiration, or if you have any ideas you’d like to share with us, please do contact Little Green Ways. Look out for our next blog for Small City in September!
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