Navigating the plastic jungle of pet care

By Helene Shore, co-chair, 350 Fairfax

We love our pets. I know my dog, Tucker, couldn’t be more precious to me if he were my human.

But here comes the dilemma: How do I keep my plastic footprint as low as possible and still have a happy, healthy pet? If you have a bird, hamster, cat, dog, or other pet, what can you do?

Luckily, there are more options on the market today than there were in the past. Manufacturers are listening to consumers and are supplying us with some real options.

Guinea pigs are cool too.

Food: Instead of plastic food and water bowls, go for stainless steel ones. They last forever and are healthier for your pet and the environment.

Buy food in bulk if you can. If not, choose the largest size bag of dry food available. Or make your own pet food using ingredients you can carry out of the store in your Plastic Free shopping containers.

Treats: I know in the past I have succumbed to plastic bags filled with treats. But now I buy treats that are completely unpackaged. Unpackaged treats are available at all pet stores. I often use veggies and fruit as treats. Tucker is a fan of broccoli, carrots, apples, and melon. Check with your vet about what treats are suitable for your pet.

Dog and cat amuse themselves
–no need for plastic pet toys!

Toys: So many plastic toys fall apart easily and end in the trash. Here again, there are great alternatives. Several companies are making pet toys from recycled materials. There are toys made from old fire hoses (these last forever) and plush toys made from recycled fabric and materials. There are toys made from hemp that last considerably longer than most other toys and create less plastic waste.

Equipment: You can now find leashes made from soy, bamboo, and recycled materials. Collars and harnesses made from everything from recycled bike tubes to bamboo can also be found easily. Naturista and Wagging Green are a couple of companies that manufacture these items.

Beds: Make your own pet bed! A few companies make pet bed cases that you can stuff with whatever you have on hand: used sheets, comforters, blankets, clothing, fabric, etc. The whole thing can go in the washing machine (with your soap nuts!) for cleaning. Or if you are handy, you can make your own pet bed casing.

Waste: Now, this is a challenge that is hard to talk about. Dog owners can use up to three plastic bags a day picking up after their dog. Lots of plastic waste there. Thank goodness dog owners have options. Flush Doggy is made from completely biodegradable material, and you guessed it, it flushes down your toilet. I do not recommend it if you have a septic tank, though.

Going for a long hike or traveling with your dog? There are lots of dog waste bags made from recycled or biodegradable materials. At least no fossil fuels were used in making the biodegradable options.

How cute is this bunny?!

If you have hamsters, guinea pigs, or rabbits, the straw or sawdust used for waste can go into your home compost.

Cat waste is a much harder problem to solve. If you research how to dispose of cat waste in the most environmentally sustainable way, you’ll turn up lots of conflicting info. I’d suggest buying litter made from recycled paper, using biodegradable litter bags, and doing your own research.

And if you have Plastic Free Pet suggestions, share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #PlasticFreeDMV.

Enjoy your pets and find Plastic Free alternatives that work for you.

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