Zero Waste Dog
Zero Waste Lifestyle
March 4, 2016 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on September 3, 2020
I love my pup more than anything. But, going zero waste with a dog has been challenging. I would like for you to meet my fluff ball, Nala.
We rescued her at one, and she has severe separation anxiety so we do almost everything as a family.
She comes to work, out to eat, and even to the movies! We like to go to the drive in theatre where she’s queen of the backseat.
zero waste dog food:
Buying dog food is one of the biggest zero waste challenges. Dogs love food. Well, most dogs.
Nala isn’t very food motivated, except when it comes to, ya know – our food.
When we rescued Nala, she was severely under weight and would refuse to eat so we like to mix a couple of tablespoons of something special in her kibble to entice her.
We like to add a few tablespoons of wet food which we buy in cans, drizzle some homemade stock, or mix in a little freeze dried food in and she loves it!
buy your dog food in bulk:
The only place that sells dog food in bulk, near me, is Rainbow Grocery in SF. I have heard that it’s excellent quality, but it’s not convenient for me.
I’m hardly ever in the area, and the train or ferry ride would make it a 2 to 4 hour trip.
And, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that Rainbow probably pours a 65lb bag into the dispenser and I could just buy that bag from a local pet boutique.
make your dog food:
I researched making my own dog food extensively when I first went zero waste, and the vitamins and minerals a dog needs is very different from humans.
A study I read asked 100 vets to come up with a meal plan to meet all of a dogs nutritional needs and only SEVEN had complete nutrition. SEVEN!
I came to the conclusion that I didn’t feel qualified or comfortable making dog food, and would rather leave it up to an expert.
buy it in a package:
My number one goal as a pet owner is to make sure my dog is healthy and safe.
I want to make sure my dog is eating high-quality food and that all of her daily nutritional values are being met.
The two sustainable brands I like are Nature’s Logic and Open Farm.
I won’t buy kibble with beef as the main protein because of it’s high carbon-footprint. Instead, I like to opt for animals with a smaller carbon footprint like chicken.
I am not comfortable feeding my dog a vegan diet, and I think if having a vegan pet is really important to you, you should get an herbivore like a rabbit or a guinnea pig.
sustainability & nature’s logic:
- Nature’s logic has a Clean Food, Clean Energy program, where they buy 1 kWh of renewable energy for every pound of food sold to help power the future.
- Their headquarters and manufacturing plant are powered by 100% renewable energy.
- All of Nature’s Logic Distinction(TM) bags are Certified Plastic Neutral – the very first brand in the industry to achieve this status.
- Their seafood is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
sustainability & open farm:
- Open Farm sources their ingredients from certified humane farms that are run with strict animal welfare standards and free of antibiotics.
- Their wild-caught fish is sourced in accordance to the most up-to-date sustainability standards by Ocean Wise.
- They created the first nationwide bag recycling program by partnering with Terracycle.
- They just launched freeze dried food in reusable tins through Loop.
zero waste dog treats:
Treats have been one of the easiest swaps for Nala. There are so many different options you can buy or make, and since Nala isn’t very food motivated she also appreciates a good belly rub.
treats in your fridge:
Everyone in our house loves a good carrot stick, Nala included. Dogs can eat quite a few raw fruits and vegetables that you might already have on hand.
Try chopping a few of these into small bite sized pieces and keep them in the fridge for a special occasion!
- apple – avoid giving them the core or apple seeds
- ice cubes
where to buy dog treats:
Most pet shops have a treat bar where you can buy all sorts of cookies and snacks in your own cloth bag. I would look for a local pet store, but most PetCo’s have a treat bar too.
Nala really likes the treats from Open Farm and Nature’s Logic, but we’re also a big fan of the local pet boutique’s treat bar which is HUGE and fully stocked with all of Nala’s favorite Peanut Butter Cookies.
make your own dog treats:
It’s really simple to make dog treats, but most spoil pretty quickly unless you’re dehydrating them.
While I like to make Nala treats for her birthday, I normally stick to the other options.
zero waste pet toys:
This will be really specific to your dog. I know Nala will destroy a stuffed animal in 3 seconds flat so I don’t buy them.
If your dog likes stuffed animals, they’re making some really cute ones from compostable fabric like hemp!
My mom, bought Nala a hemp squirrel which she surprisingly hasn’t destroyed yet.
Nala is a chewer, so we try to stick to tough-toys like femur bones and antlers. I’ve found both of these with minimal packaging at the pet store.
zero waste pet essentials:
Leash, Harness, Collar, Bowls, Kennel, Beds – My biggest piece of advice is buy to last.
We bought Nala’s harness, collar, and leash when we first got her, and I don’t plan on buying another one for the next several years.
If one falls apart, we will look for one made out of a compostable material. We have 5 bowls in total.
One stainless set for home and work (100% recyclable!!) and one ceramic water bowl for the bedroom at night.
Her kennel is made of solid steel and will outlast all of us. It should repair easily if anything does happen, and we’ll pass it along to another dog when we don’t have a need for it.
Her bed is supposed to be chew proof and dig proof. So, far it’s lived up to its claims. I’m really hoping it’s with us for the next decade.
Let me know if you’re looking for a post to round up-sustainable pet brands in all of these categories.
how to deal with dog poop in a zero waste way:
You cannot leave dog poop on the sidewalk so please pick up after your dog!
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect solution to this problem. We typically let her go in the backyard and then shovel it into a hole in the ground for it to naturally compost.
But, if she ever poops while we’re out and about, we always have a bag. Here’s are a few options.
Cornstarch: They say they’re made from a cornstarch polymer. I don’t know if they’re mixed plastic.
It claims to biodegrade. I’ve buried one to see what actually happens. (I’ll let you know in about a year!)
Flushpuppies: Made of a polyvinyl alcohol that’s supposed to be certified compostable and dissolve in water.
Anything left will be filtered out by the water plant like toilet paper.
I called the water plant to see if this was true and to get their opinion. They didn’t know. However, you cannot use these with anything too wet or when it’s raining because the bag can start to dissolve
Toilet Paper: I’ve heard some people take toilet paper on their walk and then flush it at home. Which wouldn’t be practical for me, but might work for you.
As a note: I want to say dog poop can be flushed, but you shouldn’t flush cat poop because our water filtration system is not capable of filtering cat feces.
How do you keep your dog zero waste? How do you deal with poop?
AWWW. I need to meet her soon!! (:
Yes! You certainly do!
I’m striving to live a more zero-waste life and, one day, I hope to have a dog. This post has great tips for when that finally happens. Thank you!
You can always try the company SF Raw for dog food. Raw diets are the best for animals since its a natural instict for them. SF Raw is based out of San Fran and you bring yourown containers and everything, they are awesome! Look em up your pupp may love it!
I will definitely look them up! I don’t think it’d be very sustainable for me to make the trip to SF every time I needed dog food, but I hope readers in SF will check them out! Thank you for the tip!
Vet here. Raw diets are very risky for your pet and for you. Dogs are not wolves. Wolves don’t live as long. Our ancestors ate raw food too. Do you want to or think it’s safe to do so?
I have heard of people using newspaper. And burying or putting the poop in the compost.
That’s a great idea! Thanks for the tip!
Your pup is adorable! Recently, I realized how much waste is JUST from our dog’s destroyed toys! It’s crazy! Before I buy any more toys, I’m going to try to re-purpose the squeakers from her old toys and some of our stockpiled, old t-shirts. Our dog has pretty simple tastes (does it squeak? can I tug on it?), so I think that keep her satisfied. I love your blog! Can’t wait to read more 🙂
Thank you! Yes! Nothing with a squeaker lasts more than 2 minutes in our house.
Hi Kathryn! We’ve been trying to find a good zero waste (or close to) dog food and I’ve come up empty – most of the bags are not recyclable that I’ve found. I’ve had some funny trips to the pet food store – the employees were really confused about my questions hehe. We tried Honest Kitchen which I like for a few reasons but while the outer box is recyclable, it unfortunately comes with a plastic bag inside. Would you mind sharing the brand of dog food you’re currently using that has recyclable bags? If you prefer to email, I’m at [email protected]. Thank you!
Hi Meredith! I just emailed you the info. 🙂
I am in desperate need of some dog food and trying to also maintain my goals of producing very little-no waste, would you mind also emailing me the info with the dog food you have found? I’m at [email protected]. Thank you!!
Hi Kathryn, thanks for going zero waste! I’m also trying to go zero waste in 2016 but it is challenging with dogs. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to get good quality dry dog food in a zero waste way. I have figured out a great zero waste dog poop disposal method though! Check out at: http://ecopractice.blogspot.com/2016/01/new-best-way-to-handle-dog-poop.html
Note that it works best if you have a convenient sewer clean out but you could flush as well (but that is more water). Perhaps you could use a neighbor’s if you don’t have one? I’m fine with any neighbors using mine.
Very cool, Tim! I’ve heard about that method, but haven’t seen it in action – neat! May be an clever idea for our future house!
Hi don’t know if you have had any luck with the dog treats but I buy liver and then dehydrate it in a low oven to make a kind of jerky. It seems to keep really well as long as they are fully dried out. If you have a freezer you could try making liver cake or sardine cookies and freezing them.
Dehydrating is great not only for meat/jerky, but also for baked treats to remove moisture for extra snap/crunch and a longer shelf life. You can also freeze many treat doughs and baked treats.
I started making our dogs’ treats a few years ago and it’s so easy, inexpensive, and healthy! There are some great websites and blogs with free recipes, like http://dalmatiandiy.blogspot.com/ 🙂
A couple zero waste dog items I’ve come up with are making toys for my dog out of old socks and tennis balls. If I have a sock without a partner or with a non-repairable hole, I tie knots in it so the hole is covered, then slip the ball in the sock and tie more knots to seal it. It makes a great tug toy. I should add that my dog is not a toy destroyer, so I’d only recommend it for gentle dogs!
Another thing I’ve been doing is dehydrating my kombucha scobys in the oven. Once they are dry, I cut them up into small pieces and feed them (sparingly) to my dog. Just be sure they are small pieces – I tried to do a whole scoby once and it came right back up!
Old pair of jeans make great toys too! Sweaters stuffed with old clothes make cat beds. Old blankets or sheets folded in half & sewn (or cut & tied around the edges) then filled with old clothes make easier to wash bedding without the plastic stuffing. I’m going to see if the dogs will lay on plastic woven mats to reuse more bags.
Do you know there are paper dog poo bags? They have cardboard ends so you don’t even have touch anything, works really well. I think they are even made of recycled paper, and of course completely biodegradable.
For dog treats, try fruits and veggies, my dog will do anything for bites of carrots, or broccoli and lettuce stalks. My dog isn’t crazy about banana, but I know other dogs who are. I keep veggie scraps in the fridge for a day or two before composting them, then just pull out the ends of carrots when it’s time for training.
Raw feeding is healthier and I think would produce less waste.
For dog treats, I like to mix 1 cup grated carrot, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup applesauce, and an egg, then bake until golden brown. My dog loves them, they keep for a long time, and they are so simple to make!
We use a Doggy Dooley for dog poo. It’s small poo composter that works great.
Curious about the bulk dog food. We use WINCO for bulk items. They sell 35 – 50lb bags of cat and dog food. I have seen them open these large bags to fill the bulk container. Kinda like just buying a big bag at the pet store.
Natural Planet Organics for both dogs and cats comes in compostable bags. I ordered the dog food on K9Cuisine and the cat food on Amazon.
What about bathing? This seems to be the hardest thing for me to find. I am attempting to go minimal/zero waste and would like to do it for my dog in some aspect
There are many companies that sell bar soap for dogs with minimal packaging. Or you can make it yourself. We use castile soap and dilute and add essential oils. Please make sure you know what you’re doing before using essential oils when in doubt leave it scent free. Or you can buy a groomers amount (by the gallon) and dilute it that way.
Old post but hopefully you’re still active! I live in a semi urban area. I pooper scoop my dog waste and then put it directly into the city’s waste bins to avoid the middle man of the compostable bag situation. What do you make of this? I like the lack of manual clean up or feel unsanitary but my gut says I’m probably still in trouble.
Please be careful about giving dogs antlers!! My dog fractured a tooth on one, and they wear down their teeth! I found a hard plastic chew that is tougher than Kong extremes, and has a warranty for the toys life! Super great toy http://www.goughnuts.com
Antlers are amazing for dogs that have healthy teeth and bones. Plastic off gasses many harmful chemicals and hormone disruptors. If your dog chipped a tooth look at the diet. Kibble is not good food.
Vet here. A healthy dog can and will break teeth on an antler or femur bone if they are hard chewers. You take a risk. If choosing antlers, choose ones that are split down the middle so at least the softer marrow inside is exposed. Also, never use real bones with marrow as the high fat content will cause pancreatits. Cooked bones splinter and cause real issues. I recommend Kongs frozen with goodies inside, the kongs last forever.
I’m trying to figure out how to be more plastic free with two small dogs, a cat and my birds (although I think i’m okay with the birds) At the moment, i’m living in an apartment and unfortunately there’s carpet and my dogs have gotten into the habit of holding in their pee =_= we have pee pads but don’t always make it. We try to walk them three times a day, if not for sure twice a day. My cat is the only one that actually pees on the pad which is weird lol Not sure how to go about this.
You can make pee pads from the pet food bags and old towels. Cut the bag so it lays flat, and fold the edges over a couple times to create a raised lip all the way around. Then place a few towels over it and wash the towels when there’s pee on them & wipe off the bag/ mat. If I don’t come home during my lunch break and it’s a long day, my dog will pee on the rug, never the hardwood. No splashing. Anyways, your dogs will probably prefer the towels since it’s more like a designated patch of grass with its textures. Instead of a low profile smooth pee pad. REUSING when you have to use plastic bags is important. Use them for trash, and when its almost full, clean the kitty litter & bird cages to top it off and toss it.
There is a brand called Nature’s Miracle that has recyclable cardboard litter boxes and then their litter is recycled corn cobs! If you’re specifically looking for a no plastic alternative for the kitty. For the dogs I would try coating anything they pee on in white vinegar to get rid of the proteins so they don’t reuse that spot.
So which brand of dog food do you use that was recyclable?
I love your blog! But one thing I wanted to point out is that dog poop shouldn’t be left in tall bushes either since it all gets washed down when it rains. We need to keep our watershed in mind since everything ends up in the ocean! 🙂
Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods sells treats in bulk!
Dogs are lovable pets who are susceptible to ringworm just as we are. Ringworm is an infection of the skin that is highly contagious. If your pet gets it, almost certainly you will.
A great bit of info for anyone that loves pets.
I buy Raw food directly from a farm, where I can bring my own containers. Raw fed dogs poop disintegrates MUCH faster than kibble fed dogs. I just leave it in the yard and it’s gone in a week, 2 weeks max. If we’re out I’ve been using poop bags from Earth Rated. For shampoo I use the same baking soda/vinegar trick that I use for my own hair.
For dog poop bags I would recommend the zero plastic eco poop scoop bag check it out http://www.k9clean.com 100% plastic free and most environmentally friendly compostable and organic poop bag around.
I work at a PetSmart and honestly your best bet for food is to go with a kibble that is the most responsibly sourced, because then your pet food is also doing the work of working with sustainability! The brand that comes to mind is Castor and Pollux Organix. Real expensive, but the bags are easily recycled and it is one of the best foods on the market and it is responsibly sourced ingredients, good ingredients. Only Natural Pet at PetSmart is also a carbon neutral brand! The bags are the type of plastic that is easily downcycled for this reason as well. Not perfectly zero waste, but definitely good brands to go to!
Only Natural Pet also makes dog poop bags out of their own recycled materials from scraps in the packaging of their foods, and they are packaged in cardboard, so those are what we use! Biodegrades faster as well.
There are many ways to REUSE feed (dogs, cats, chickens, etc.) bags, including making easy and strong reusable shopping bags , put a few together for a table cover or tarp. Put an old chair cushion inside and close it for an easy knee pad while you garden. Use it as a cover for your trunk when you have plants or dirty things. Save the intact bags to cover plants during a frost.
I agree with Jessie, supporting sustainable and responsibly sourced foods is a good compromise, as long as you REUSE the bags.
The unfortunate thing about a lot of biodegradable bags for trash is they often dont get exposed to the conditions necessary to decompose, jam packed in the trash pile. Not enough light, moisture, and air circulation. Regardless, it’s much better to try. Reading information on the costs of producing plastic grocery bags versus other bag materials, it’s becoming clear that REUSING thin grocery bags for home trash bags and poo bags or other projects like mats, is possibly the least harmful route (single use bags directly recycled into more bags is a waste of resources.) So I’m starting to gather bags from work, when people return items , they usually leave the bags and my store stopped recycling plastic because it was an inconvenience(attempting to convincethem to reinstateit). If reusing a plastic bag that’s already been produced & used is more environmentally friendly than buying new biodegradable bags, despite the plastic continuing to exist, then I’ll do it.
Do remember that it’s important to pick up pet waste from your own yard as well. Those dog food bags are good to use when picking up dog poo out side or cat poo inside.
I buy freeze dried chicken breast from Brandless and my dogs have gone nuts for it. As soon as I can figure out how to make it at home I will, until then they are simple and affordable for me.
You can actually flush cat waste but only if they’re indoor cats. Never outdoor cats due to the presence of toxoplasmosis (very harmful to marine life) if you use a wood based cat litter it also makes a great hot compost but again I don’t know if this is possible with outdoor cats
All our animal waste (cats, dog and meat [sorry] rabbits) goes into a dedicated "poopy vermiculture" set-up. Eventually that ends up in the gardens as castings.
I really want to invest in a biogas system one day, but I’m not sure we can do that in New England as it’s too cold in Winter. I’m still researching, but that would take animal waste and both meat and veg food scraps (sorry, chickens, you’ll have to share) and convert it into odorless gas for cooking in our outdoor kitchen. It comes with a one- or two-burner stove, and I think it’s just about the neatest idea I’ve seen.
nice plastic phone case
Please don’t use "green" or "biodegradable" bags like Earth Rated. These do not eliminate plastic from the waste stream and are often sprayed with chemicals the break the plastic down into micro-plastics. The best bag solution as far as I can research are true compostable bags that adhere to ASTM D6400 standards. They still require the conditions for composting but at least they aren’t petroleum based. I’ve used UNNI ones off Amazon (I know, not great carbon footprint) and Earth Rated does have a product line, although not promoted. Do your research but look for the ASTM D6400 standard.
Hi! I know this is an old post but I just wanted to say if you didn’t know already, please don’t bury the poop! It can be really damaging to local water systems. Your town’s water treatment may sanitize what they collect for consumption but ammonia and toxins can make it into the water table and mess with the balance of the ecosystem. If she reliably poops in your yard, an in-ground poop composter might be a good option for you. The doggy dooley is one but there are others you can look into as well, maybe even a upcycled option you could diy
I just recently changed my 2 year old lab to a raw diet. It’s amazing in so many ways and poop is a major one! It’s so much less to clean up! Like the difference between bratwurst and cocktail weiners! Honest! Really makes me feel she’s utilizing the food she’s getting. I’m using a premade frozen delivery service that’s soooeasy. I keep thinking that the huge dog waste issue would shrink incredibly if more folks went raw.. I love the difference it makes in poop patrol !
My dog is a super chewer too but we only buy stuffed toys on special occasions because they make him so happy! I would love to know the name of the brand that has compostable toys!
I live in Alaska, and have three dogs. We invested in two Green Cone Solar Food Digesters, one for meat, dairy, and bones, and the other for dog poop. Three dogs and a short summer were too much for one Green Cone, but in warmer locations a Green Cone in a sunny spot should be able to handle it. Just don’t plant an edible garden near it.