If you’re trying to be an environmentally-responsible person, your plan has to include making changes when it comes to your pets. These are not complicated changes and they will not break the bank. More on that coming up, but first some background!
When I was a fifth grader at St. Ann’s Elementary, we did a unit on the ozone layer. At the time–this was in the 80s–the hole in the ozone was the topic of the day: how big it was, what caused it, how it was expanding, and so on. I remember being aghast. Truly horrified.
I decided to do something about it, so I started the Save Our Planet club. I organized the other fifth graders to help me pick up trash on the trails in our town, and we wrote and produced a play for the kindergarteners about recycling. To be honest, the club fizzled out after lackluster reviews. Plus, the other kids decided that picking up trash was no fun, but it sparked something in me that sustained.
Now, three-ish decades later, I’m a freelance writer and pet blogger, and it finally occurred to me: I need to combine my passion for pets with my love for this planet.
Here’s how that realization struck me:
First, I’ve always been a recycler. And I’m that person who nags everyone else about recycling. I’ve been known to email a company to ask them about their manufacturing process or to request recycling information on their package components.
Second, I write about pet products a lot. For more than five years, I wrote two columns a month for a pet industry trade magazine, and much of my data came from product manufacturers. Over those years, it became clear that pet product manufacturers were way behind the times when it came to sustainable practices.
Finally, I started researching zero-waste lifestyles. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs. I checked Pinterest and joined Facebook groups. I devoured as much content as I could find and started to implement the practices I was learning.
Then a lightbulb went off: None of the available info covered pet care.
The only thing I read, sadly, was that to achieve a truly zero-waste lifestyle, you couldn’t have a dog or a cat. That came up often enough in my reading to be disheartening–at first.
But, I was able to quickly combine these three elements–my knowledge of eco-practices, my expertise in the pet industry, and my passion for learning more about zero-waste lifestyles–to create a new project for myself.
That’s how The Zero-Waste Pet was born!
It emerged from my frustration with the lack of positive, helpful information available, along with my desire to help other pet parents lessen their pet’s “carbon pawprint.”
I will grant that “zero-waste” in the title might exaggerate things a bit. I’m not yet convinced that zero-waste is entirely possible for pet owners, but I am thoroughly convinced that a low-impact lifestyle is available for every pet and every pet parent. All it takes is small, consistent steps every day to make an enormous, positive impact on the planet.
Let’s break that down a bit further:
Why Zero-Waste Might Be Impossible
Dogs and cats consume epic quantities of meat. The world already faces a food crisis. We pet lovers want the best for our pets, and that includes feeding them species-appropriate diets. For dogs, they’re omnivores like us, but cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat to survive. That means their diet probably won’t even allow pets to be truly zero-waste because producing meat–at least as it’s done now–devastates the planet.
My family put our heads together to come up with ways to offset that impact for our dog and two cats. For instance, we humans eat six vegan meals each week, and we make vegan swaps in other easy ways (like, vegan mayo instead of regular or Quorn-brand meatless crumbles instead of ground turkey).
We also mitigate our pets’ impacts on the planet in other ways. We purchase their food in recyclable packaging. We use biodegradable pick-up bags and a non-GMO grass seed litter. When we brush out the pup, we leave his fur in a big pile near the trees in our yard so birds can scoop it for their nests.
One of my big projects when I first launched The Zero-Waste Pet was to pull together everything I could think of for the beginner, and in the process I learned a ton about our habits and lifestyle. We made a few simple swaps, and I outlined it all in The Beginner’s Guide to Zero-Waste Pet Care. Ultimately, the bottom line for me was progress, not perfection.
Which leads me to…
Small, Daily Actions
If you want to write a book, the fastest way to fail is to focus on the book and its final deadline. Why? It’s too big of a project! It’s overwhelming. Our brains can’t process the complexity of “I will write a book in three months.”
Instead, you set small goals. I will write 500 words a day. I will research the query process the second week of January. I will outline Chapter One by Friday.
The same thing applies to going zero waste. It’s daunting and confusing to tackle everything at once, and it’s so easy to give up when you feel overwhelmed.
Start small. Pick one thing to work on at a time. The easiest is to adjust your shopping habits. Let’s look at some examples:
- Buy the largest possible package of your pet’s food.
- Check Terracycle for brands that have a packaging-mail-in program, and talk to your vet about switching your pet to one of those brands.
- Swap your kitty’s clay litter for a natural option, like grass seed, newspaper, or corn husks. (Just make the switch slowly… you don’t want any litter box rebellions!)
- Avoid toys and treats wrapped in plastic.
The very best place to start, though? Get your pet to a healthy weight!
Over half of all pets in the United States are overweight. Meet with your vet to talk about weight-loss strategies, but some options are swapping out a bit of your pet’s regular kibble for fresh vegetables to cut significant calories (and meat consumption!) or to change brands (again, check Terracycle for options) or to get more exercise. Whatever the answer for your pet, an animal at a healthy weight not only consumes fewer resources, but also lives a longer, happier, healthier life.
Every Effort Matters
No matter what small steps you can take, take them! And be proud!
Each and every little action adds up to massive change. A clean planet means we all live better. Your steps are meaningful, so thank you for each eco-step you take!
If you want to learn more, definitely check out The Zero-Waste Pet! It’s a judgement-free zone designed to encourage and empower anyone to make a positive impact on the planet. If you’re looking for a little more direct guidance, I also have a free seven-day email challenge that delivers a ton of easy, affordable (usually free), action steps you can take to lessen your and your pet’s impact on the planet. Each day comes with bonus materials, like recipes and eco-friendly cleaning guides.
Or, you can always connect with me direction on social @thezerowastepet!
Thank you so, so much, Rebecca, for inviting me to share this project here on your amazing blog. I’m so honored to have this opportunity, and I’m so grateful to all of you for coming on this journey with me!
Note from Fetching Apparel: Thank you, Maggie!! If you don’t already follow Maggie’s blog, please do so now. And please comment here with steps you are already taking to help reduce your pet’s carbon pawprint!
Featured image courtesy: Joyful Exposures