How to raise a zero-waste pet

Living Well | Jenna Meade | Posted on 10 June 2020

Help your fur baby be kind to the planet. Here’s how to be a sustainable pet parent. 

A zero-waste lifestyle doesn’t have to end with the humans in your home. You can equip your best mate with the best intentions for a waste-free world too. 

Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world, with the RSPCA reporting there are more than 29 million pets in Australian households. And while the cute companions bring positive effects to our happiness, they can also have detrimental effects on the environment when it comes to waste.

Whether you’re one of the 40 per cent of households who own a dog, or one of the 27 per cent who house a cat, here are simple changes to your four-legged housemate’s food, toys and health that can help lighten their impact on the earth.

Cat sleeping on a mat

Simple changes to make to be a sustainable pet parent

Make over your mealtime

The food bowl is the perfect place to start on your war against pet waste. Consider making your pet’s food yourself to cut down on plastic packaging. Be sure to do your research, however, because dogs and cats have a range of differing nutritional needs in their diets. 

Alternatively, buy the food in bulk. Ask your pet store if you can fill up your own container, or opt for the biggest bag of food they have so you’re minimising packaging.

Use poop power

You’ve made your own bathroom zero waste, now do the same for your furry friend. Rather than bagging and throwing your pooch’s poo in landfill, compost it and use it as a sustainable fertiliser. You’ll need a dedicated pet-waste composting system, which will break down specific parasites and prep the poop for normal composting use in about a year.  A word of warning here: don’t use composted pet waste to grow vegetables or fruit for human consumption, and don’t include waste from unknown dogs or those showing signs of disease.

For an earth-friendly on-the-go option, invest in biodegradable doggy bags or use an old newspaper for kerbside clean-ups.

While cat poo isn’t compost-friendly, there are environmentally friendly kitty litter options available to keep their toilet time clean.

Dog playing with a rope
Cat drinking from a bottle
A dog in its bed

Buy to last

Save waste, and money, by bypassing flimsy chew toys and investing in quality accessories. A good collar, made from compostable material, should see you through a few years of beach walks and park plays. 

Think stainless steel or ceramic for food and water bowls, a chew-proof bed, and toys made from natural materials such as cotton, hemp and wool that will break down naturally. 

Be sure to check out your local thrift shop for good-quality second-hand toys, blankets and accessories.

Perfect the pamper

Forget messy plastic bottles of soap and shampoo, and opt for a handmade pet shampoo bar instead. You’ll not only be cutting down on waste, but also cutting out synthetic ingredients and palm oil. 

Swing by the sea or lake at bath time to save water. A swim in natural waters, followed by a thorough towelling down, will give your pal a good pampering – and save you the dirty looks when you try to bathe them at home. 

While bedding will need regular washing, you can stretch out sessions and eliminate smells in between by sprinkling blankets with baking soda and giving them a good air out.