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How to live a greener life with your dog

You recycle. You turn of lights you’re not using. Maybe you even adjust your thermostat to help conserve energy. You may think you’re on top of things, being eco-conscious and making sure you’re taking steps to reduce your own carbon footprint. But our furry companions also can make quite an impact on the environment. Dogs and cats cause a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture. That’s a pretty sizeable number.

As devoted pet owners, Working or Service Dog handlers and lovers of the environment, there’s a lot we can do to minimize the impact our animals have. Here are some ways you can make sure you’re reducing your dog’s carbon footprint.

“Dogs and cats cause a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Get The Biodegradable Waste Bags

They may be a little more expensive than your usual waste bags or the plastic grocery ones you use after making a trip to the store. But they go a long way environmentally. Plastic bags are one of the items that take the longest to decompose in a landfill. And considering you’re probably picking up your dog’s waste at least once a day…that’s a lot of plastic bags to be throwing away.

You also can’t just leave the waste sitting around. Though feces is, of course, biodegradable, if you’re leaving Fido’s out in the open, there’s a chance of that contaminating water supplies or other things. It’s also just inconsiderate, especially if you’re frequently walking your dog in public places where people could step in what gets left behind.

Biodegradable bags are designed to break down much faster than the normal plastic bag and are often made out of compostable materials like corn. If you’re throwing them in the trash, they’ll break down in that landfill much quicker than other materials. However, these bags can also be utilized in other ways.

Some of these bags can be flushed, but you have to check guidelines to see if you’re able to in your area. If you’re into gardening and have landscaping or plants that are solely for decoration, you could start a composting bin with pet waste. As long as it’s not used on edible plants, it makes for great fertilizer and is beneficial to the environment.

You also may have the option to take the pet waste to an industrial composting facility that accepts pet waste. This ensures that it’s being utilized and it’s helping the environment instead of harming it. Composting is one of the best ways for waste to be repurposed.

Shop Smarter For Dog Toys And Accessories

Dogs come with specific needs ­­– you’re definitely going to have to buy things like toys, collars, leashes and beds. There’s no avoiding it. When you purchase these items, though, start going into it with an eco-friendly focus.

For dog beds, there are a bunch of options. Look for ones made from materials like hemp or recycled materials instead of synthetic fibers. There are also options to get a duvet cover exterior that you can stuff with your old blankets, clothes and towels – killing two birds with one stone. With that option, you can also give your dog the comfort of laying on something with your scent, which can help soothe them if you’re away.

When it comes to dog food and water dishes, plastic is tempting because it’s cheap. Your dog isn’t going to care about anything fancy. However, look for something that has a bit less of an environmental impact. Plastic is probably the worst material for that category. Bamboo is a great material as it’s biodegradable and is made from all-natural items. Other good options are recycled materials like glass or something that can be repurposed later.

Dog toys come in eco-friendly varieties too. Look for toys that are recyclable so that they go to good use even after your pup rips them apart. Many toys are also made from things like hemp, recycled plastic bottles and other reclaimed materials. Even if your dog is brutal on toys, there’s a sustainable option for even the toughest chewers.

Hemp and recycled plastic bottles are popular materials for eco-friendly leashes and collars as well. Even if you’re picky, you’ll definitely be able to find a sustainable collar that also fits your sense of style.

Donate Instead Of Trash

If you just got your dog a fancy new collar, don’t throw the old one in the trash. Animal shelters can definitely use donations, even if it’s a bit worn. Shelters and rescues are constantly in need of items, so donate anything in decent shape that you’re no longer using. They’ll definitely appreciate it — and so will the dogs that get to play with the toys you donate! Shelters can also use things like old blankets and towels, so you can donate those along with the other items.

You can even give some hand me down pet items to a friend or family member that’s just starting out with a dog. Dogs can be pricey, and things like a starter collar and leash or the dog bowls you don’t use anymore can help a lot with a new dog owner. It’s always nice to be able to help someone else out.

For Working and Service Dogs, the equipment can be expensive and eco-friendly options may not be as easily accessible for everyone. Although a Service Dog will need equipment for their entire life, post-retirement you can use the equipment for you next Service Dog. For other Working Dogs, if you no longer need the equipment, you can donate it.

Try Out Upcycling

You can turn some of your old items that you were going to donate or throw away into items for your pet. Various household items, as well as clothing, can be turned into projects that give your pet something new. This helps you guarantee those old items will have a new life and eliminates any waste that would have been generated by you throwing those items away.

Old or broken dresser drawers and suitcase bottoms can be turned into a comfy dog bed. Any old blankets or towels can also be used for your pooch to keep them comfortable. For smaller dogs that don’t pull on the leash much, grocery bags can be made into a dog lead. Get creative and try to find new purposes for your old things that your pet will love.

Change Up Their Diet

One of dogs’ biggest impacts on the environment is due to their meat-heavy diet. Worldwide livestock production makes up 18 percent of humans’ greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than cars, trucks, motorcycles, motorboats, jetliners and cruise ships. Meat makes a pretty large dent on our carbon footprint.

We do not suggest moving to a vegetarian diet or vegan diet for your dog, but there are ways to work in non-meat protein sources. Eggs are probably the best protein alternative for dogs, providing the most biological value.

You also want to make sure you’re not giving your dog too much food. Overfeeding is very common and you may not even realize you’re doing it. Vets say almost half of their patients are overweight, yet only about 17 percent of pet owners think their pets are. Discuss with your vet to make sure you’re only giving your pup the exact amount of food they need. This also reduces the footprint by using up less material.

However, if you own a Working or Service Dog, your dog will need 1.5 to 2.5 times the amount of food for a house dog. Their intake of protein and carbohydrates will also need to be more monitored than the average dog, especially on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Make sure you discuss proper diet with your veterinarian to ensure your Working or Service Dog is receiving the proper nutrients.

If you’re still planning on giving your dog meat, make sure that you’re getting quality products. Make sure a solid protein like chicken or lamb (no byproducts) is one of the first ingredients. It’ll probably cost more than the cheaper foods filled with corn and additives, but more protein means your dog will eat less of it. That means less pet waste and lessening the footprint!

Get Your Dog Fixed

Working and Service Dogs need to be fixed, but it’s an excellent option for your pet as well. Even if your pet is mainly kept indoors accidents can happen. Shelters are already overrun with adoptable animals and an accidental litter of puppies means more animals impacting the environment. Dogs that aren’t fixed also tend to want to mark their territory more, meaning a lot more chemicals and cleaning products to clean up your house whenever that happens.

Cut Down On The Car Rides

For Service Dogs — and some Working Dogs — cutting down on errands or trips from one place to another isn’t really an option. But for pets, even though your dog may love a good car ride and feeling the breeze on their face, consider avoiding taking unnecessary trips just because you can’t deny those puppy dog eyes.

Walks and runs of course are always good, especially if you have a high-energy dog. It may not give them that wind in the face feeling that a car ride does, but they’ll still love it. Plus, a bit of exercise is beneficial for both you and your pet, and this is a great way to spend some quality bonding time with your pup.

Bike rides are also an option, no matter the size and activity level of your dog. For smaller canines, they can easily fit into a basket or something you can put on the front of your bike. Senior dogs and others that tire easily have the option of a pull-behind trailer that you can affix to the bike so they can still hitch a ride. And high-energy dogs can run alongside with a leash connected to the bike so they don’t get too ahead of you.

Of course you don’t have to completely eliminate car rides. Bring Fido along on trips to the store or to visit friends if they have pet-friendly households. If you live in a more urban area or just want a change of scenery, take a ride to the local park. That way your dog gets some car time while still having a jaunt outdoors.

Having a dog is one of the greatest joys in life. Take note of these tips and try to make sure your dog’s life isn’t just beneficial to you, but helps out the environment as well.



  • Anna Sakila March 26, 2018

    Great article! I think proper nutrition is very important to maintain a pet healthy. We usually buy pet food that is made from organic, sustainably-raised or grass-fed animals, and non-GMO grains.


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