Deforestation, pollution, climate change. Today more than ever we are finally seeing more awareness of the problem and of the fact that each of us can do our small part to change this. It starts in our homes with small habits and responsible shopping choices, and this includes what we buy for our dogs. Going eco-friendly in the dog products you choose is easier than you think and in this guide, we dive into plastic-free dog products and sustainable goods to help you add to your environment-friendly habits.
7 eco-friendly plastic-free dog products and habits to save the planet
1. Ditch plastic poo bags (for an eco-friendly poo bag alternative)
On average, a dog may poo 3 times a day. This means using 3 poo bags a day: doing the maths, this makes it 1,095 poo bags a year. 1,095 plastic bags that will take some 10-20 years to decompose, breaking down into microplastics, further polluting the environment. And this is for one dog only…
For a few years now, we had started buying biodegradable poo bags instead. However, to my horror, I recently discovered that the label ‘degradable’ and ‘biodegradable’ does not mean that the bags are not made of plastic, instead that they simply decompose more quickly. Though as the plastic they are made of breaks down, it still creates microplastics that go to pollute soil, water and all living beings that eat or drink them. Not great, ah?
This shocking and disappointing discovery was luckily accompanied for me by the finding of a 100% plastic-free poo bags brand, just before lockdown. Since I started buying their bags, I have been feeling so good knowing that at least my dog contributes to zero plastic poo bags a year ending in landfill.
The brand is called, very aptly, Adios Plastic and it has a very cool branding as well. Lovely cornstarch pink bags (the colour is natural, their website specifies – and there is a grey alternative if you prefer) and the box is made of recyclable cardbox. They also produce a red Christmas version with reindeers, in case you are keen to make your poo picking a bit festive. In case you are wondering, the bags are very resistant and don’t leak (I can testify to this after all these past few months of use). I love the feeling at the touch they have and they are much easier to open compared to the plastic ones too (for some reason I am particular unskilled at opening new plastic bags, which becomes very annoying when on a dog walk on a very wet day).
You may also consider other brands, but don’t buy unless they clearly state they are made 100% fo cornstarch/sugar/other natural materials, as “with cornstarch” often means that there is still nasty plastics among the materials they are made of.
Another alternative is Paper Bag Co, which as the name suggests produces eco-friendly FSC certified paper bags of all sizes, types and for all uses. Among their product lines is a paper poo bag one. Originally designed for humans for wild camping and emergency situations (which sounds a bit odd), they are now considering dog needs too. We were recently sent three paper poo bags for Argo to try. The concept is definitely interesting, though in my view it would be good to see some tweaks to the product, namely providing more cardboards to scoop it (the three bags came with two cardboards only), producing smaller-sized bags (the current size is probably to be considered for larger dogs at the moment and taking a bit too room in your pockets), changing the designs printed on the bags, which are clearly for human needs.
2. Buy sustainable collars and leashes
Sustainable fabric collars
An easy step to be more environment-friendly is avoiding nylon and plastic for your dog’s collar and leash. One of the alternatives are fabric collars. Among brands that produce this kind of products and source fabrics sustainably there is a favourite of ours, Hiro + Wolf. Their products are handmade in the UK, with fabrics sourced from Africa and India at fair trade conditions – check out the videos of their travels where they go and meet African artisans on their Instagram page.
Above is a photo of the custom-made collar they gifted us earlier this year, with a modification for large dogs (more in our review here). Apart from their great ethos and attention for the environment, I love that their collars and leashes are so colourful and upbeat.
You can also look at vegetable-tanned leather (which has a much lower impact on the environment than chrome-tanned leather). Kintails is one of our favourite brands in this space. Their range of collars and leashes is very stylish and they use solid brass hardware which is a must have for large dogs like Argo.
Also leather dog goods brand Vackertass uses vegetable-tanned leather for their dog goods. In addition, to reduce waste, they offer a very interesting refurbishment scheme, where you can post to them your old Vackertass collar/lead and they will polish the hardware and re-use it for your new collar/lead, giving you a 30% discount on the price of the upgraded item (and free shipping).
3. Avoid plastic dog toys (or at least choose recycled or upcycled plastic alternatives)
Upcycled dog toys
Upcycled dog toys are probably the most ecological way to go, giving things a second life before they are disposed of.
For instance, you could find your nearest tennis pitch and go and ask if, instead of throwing balls away, they could give you some. Especially tennis schools throw away a large number of tennis balls once they don’t bouce as they do when new, so it’s a an eco-friendly (and cheap!) way to get your dog something to play with.
Canine enrichment can be really easy to achieve and often times what you already have at home is more than enough. Something as easy as a muffin tray, some treats and some balls, or an empty bottle and some sticks can do the trick. For plenty of ideas, the to go place is the Canine Enrichment Facebook Group.
Ecological dog toys
Rope tuggers, jute toys and non-stuffed sturdy fabric toys are the most ecological alternatives.
For instance, Goochap’s unbleached rope tugs or the Green & Wild’s jute toys are an environment-friendly choice (the latter can be easily sourced from Fetch or Ocado – their Funny Dog Bone is made of pure jute and split leather (price £5.95 on Fetch or Ocado)). We haven’t tried them, though.
Beco Pets has a range of toys made of natural rubber, hemp rope and recycled plastic. My personal choice would probably fall on the hemp toys, as I am not a fan of the fact that their rubber toys are scented (vanilla-scented to be precise). We used to have one of their recycled plastic stuffed toys, the parrot, which, was lovely but unfortunately didn’t last long with Argo’s powerful jaws and rough play.
4. Switch to plastic-free dog shampoos
According to a statistics website, on average 14 billion plastic bottles are used in the UK every year. It’s been a couple of years we have been buying soap bars for myself and my husband and switched bottled washing liquid for Marsiglia soap flakes in carboard bag (if you are in East London, Labour and Wait in Shoreditch is your to go place for for this that can easily last you over a year), but we hadn’t thought about ditching dog shampoo in plastic bottles yet.
Looking more into this, we found a couple of brands we particularly like the ethos of. We haven’t yet ordered and tested them, so this post may be updated later with our thoughts.
- Zero Waste Path dog shampoo bar (price: £5) – Zero Waste Path was founded by two Italians in the UK, studying conservation. The dog shampoo bar is made using 100% renewable energy with a 100% recycled, unbleached cardboard packaging that is recyclable and/or compostable.
- The Dog and I dog soaps (price: £4.50 for 100gr) – handmade in Dorset, UK, cruelty-free and only tested on humans (the founder is a dog groomer with a passion for sustainability).
- Funky Soap offers eco-friendly dog shampoos in three different formats: shampoo bar (120gr priced at £5.20); glass bottle of Tea Tree And Neem Oil Liquid Dog Shampoo (250ml priced at £7.50); Tea Tree And Neem Oil Liquid Dog Shampoo, Refillable Aluminium Bottle (300ml priced at £9)
5. Choose ceramic dog bowls
Ditch plastic and go for a handmade ceramic dog bowl instead. Our old time favourites are those from Fenella Smith’s dog bowls collection, which are designed in the UK and made in Portugal, so you are sustaining European trade as well. We own one and have given others as presents and absolutely love them. Designs feature dogs of various breeds (dachshunds, labradors, spaniels and more) as well as mixed dog packs.
Also Kintails, in collaboration with Kana London, sells ceramic dog bowls. At the moment there is a limited white glazed edition you can also customise with your dog’s name and get in time for Christmas.
6. Take it to the next level with eco-friendly dog beds
Digging for alternatives to dog beds made of synthetic materials/plastics, we found these eco-friendly (ethical and fair trade) hand-woven Ghanian dog beds collection by the Basket Room. The dog baskets are ethically and sustainably-produced in Ghana from sturdy veta vera grasses, by small community cooperatives. They are beautiful and come in a range of sizes, from small to large and extra large. You will just need to add a pillow or why not upcycling some old wool rugs to make it the perfect eco-friendly bed?
8. Switch to a sustainable dog food
Last year we were contacted by Yora to try their sustainable dog food, while we didn’t end up taking the trial and so can’t tell more about it, if you are willing to give it a shot, you may be doing something good for the planet (All About Dog food’s review about Yora dog food provides a nutritional rating of 76%)
Another dry food brand that strives to be sustainable is Goood, which offsets their CO2 emissions, planting trees and supporting projects to save forests; in addition they say they source ingredients locally where possible.
If you’d like to stay on more traditional paths, and are keen on raw food, you could consider local butchers or going really early at Smithfields Market on a morning. For a less messy option, smaller businesses such as Different Dog offer pre-made gently cooked dog food with ingredients that are 60% local.
7. Switch the car for public transport or get around on foot with your dog
Do you really need to get the car to get to that park or go on that trip? Can you walk there instead, or perhaps use your bike with a dog carrier? While during lockdown you shouldn’t really use public tranport for leisure trips, but once restrictions are lifted and life will go back to normal, is the tube, bus, or river link something you could consider instead of moving your car?
As proud Londoners who don’t own a car, we regularly use trains for our trips as well and while there may be some places where connections are not that good and you may need to resort to hiring a car, there are so many destinations where a train trip will allow you to see landscape you would miss from the motorway and save the planet lots emissions. If you fancy taking your dog cycling, check out our guide on how to get around London by bike with your dog, or consider hiring a dog-friendly cargo bike for your next London adventure.
If you are looking for inspiration for a trip (when lockdown ends), find plenty of options for holidays you can take without a car in our Travel section (from Edinburgh to the Jurassic Coast, Cornwall to Norfolk, to a longer trip to Italy, but also closer destinations such as Brighton, the Chilterns and more).
Transparency note: we have no affiliations with the brands mentioned in this post. We have previously received a gifted dog collar from Hiro + Wolf which we reviewed earlier this year and we received three paper bags from Paper Bags Co for our thoughts.