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Making our pets zero waste: the dog

Posted by on Friday 23 July 2010 in frugal, green, zero waste | 4 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about drying ox heart and other offal to make dog treats for our springer spaniel, Lily.

We adopted Lily from the Dogs Trust in March and she very quickly made herself a core member of the household – and here, that means being green and frugal :)


As first time dog owners, we accepted the Dogs Trust’s recommendation of a certain type of dry food, with water – or whey or gravy, when they were available. Following feeding advice online, I tried feeding her veggies too – mixing them in with her food or giving them to her like a treat – she politely took them, because she’s a very polite well-mannered dog, but then gently dropped them to the floor and gave me a look. If you have animals/children/beloveds who you regularly try to deceive and betray by handing them a carrot when they expect beef, you know that look.

So, anyway, her food is very low waste: the dry food comes in giant paper sacks = recyclable. And because it’s biscuits, they don’t go off like meat does, so there is no food waste.


Oh my, we spoiled her rotten in the first few months. Partly finding out what she liked but mostly because we’re big softies and she has big brown saddest-dog-in-the-world eyes. Some of the bones from chain stores/supermarkets came shrink-wrapped in plastic; more specialised places had them unwrapped or maybe a paper-barcode band around them. The latter are obviously way more preferable from a waste reduction point of view.

We also used to buy her expensive purpose-made treats – the ones I mentioned in the other article which cost more per kilo than steak. They tended to be packed in little hard to reuse/recycle plastic bags. Another reason why making our own is better. Getting pre-packaged offal from the supermarket has a packaging footprint – but they tend to be in plastic trays which are easier to clean and reuse.

We, unfortunately, don’t live near an independent butcher, else we’d use them for offal and fresh bones instead. From the butchers we have spoken to, fresh bones only seem to happen on certain days in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them manner so we might have to get ourselves better organised for that — and we’ll have to try to convince the butcher to use our own wrapping/containers too.


We were told by the Dogs Trust that Lily doesn’t like toys and that is true in some ways – she doesn’t seem to understand the game of fetch – but she does like possessions. She carries around her (not fresh) bones for weeks before eating them, and if the cats (or anyone she doesn’t quite trust) moves between her and her things, she sneaks over to reclaim the item(s) and then give the cat/person the look I described above. That look gets a lot of use.

Anyway, aside from bones, she does have a few toys – her squeaker, her oinky (a hilarious pig-shaped squeaky toy), a throwing ring, a ball on a rope, a couple of nylabones (hard inedible chews), and a Kong. Aside from the rubber Kong, they’re all plastic (vinyl or hard nylon, in the case of the nylabones). From a waste point of view, they’re all ok – they came with little cardboard labels and that was it – but all those petrochemicals aren’t exactly very green. She’s not a destructive dog so hopefully she’ll have them for a while – but I’m now conscious not to add to her collection of oil-derived playthings.


Her waste is, unsurprisingly, her biggest waste area – and is something we’d like to reduce. Since a cork will probably just postponed the problem, we’re looking at other options. At the moment, she sends a couple of poo baggies to landfill every day – that’s not good.

Our neighbours, who recently got a puppy, have installed a (bottomless but lidded) bin at the bottom of their garden to be a poo composter (regularly treated with septic tank-ish chemicals). The Cottage Smallholder is trying a dog poo wormery, which produces compost and liquid fertiliser for use on herbaceous borders (NOT veg gardens). Both are those are options for us to consider.

Lily mostly poops while out on walks so we’d still have to get it back home somehow. It’s pretty stinky so a simple bucket and spade would put a somewhat aromatic crimp on our woodland walks – perhaps a lidded bucket would work. The other option is biodegradable baggies – but the only ones I can find are more than twice as expensive as the ones we use now — a lot of money just to throw away.

Do you have any zero-waste dog tips or advice to share?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Judy

    Perhaps brown paper bags and newspaper would be an option for transporting the poo. Both are biodegradable, and could easily be tossed into the composter. I suggest lining a small paper bag with newpaper and using it in that manner.

    • louisa

      Definitely an idea worth exploring – thanks Judy. We’re going to explore the different options for in-garden poos – probably get a dedicated wormery – paper bags would work well with that I guess.

  2. Jan

    Watch out as Dog poo can be quite strong stuff and would need a year or two maybe of decomposing, to be honest I probably wouldn’t use it for growing food on myself.

    BTW my biggest composting success was 2-3 years ago. I made a 3/4 in-the-ground wooden box. I used some old wood from a skip, fat beams about 1 inch thick, it had been painted several times so it will hopefully be more resistant to rot. I just cut them to length nailed them roughly into a box shape and stuck them in a big hole I dug. I lined the bottom with more of the same wood. The result was a box that sticks up by about 20 cm that I cover with a very rough wooden lid. it goes down perhaps about 2 ft. It composts about 2-3 times quicker than normal ! I think it is because it stays ideally damp and the worms and bacteria from the soil can come and go between my badly made wooden planks. The result is that my parents allotment makes much much more compost. The final trick is my Chicken manure which last year meant that we seem to be able to manufacture more manure than I can be bothered care to carry to the allotment.

    You would probably be best just dumping the dog poo some local woodland, although I understand that it is so strong it can have an effect on the types of plants that grow there.

    • louisa

      I wouldn’t use dog-poo compost on growing food – I probably wouldn’t even use it in the garden in case I reused that bed/container for food the following year, just in case. (I don’t think the soil would be contaminated forever, but I think I’d want a few years to pass to be on the safe side.)

      In the same way I advocate people composting if they don’t have a garden, I’d just like to compost the poo as a way of keeping it from landfill – I’m not interested in using the output.


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