Curb Your Pet’s Carbon Pawprint!

By Doreen Pollack, Intent

Going green in all aspects of your life is more than just driving less, buying local and recycling. We often experience health benefits when we change the products we use or the ways we bring these products or solutions into our lives. Our pets can benefit as well. Since they often live in the same environments as we do (same house or yard) they are also affected by the decisions we make about cleaning products for the home and body, and the quality of water and food we provide.

So as you become a green pet owner, consider the positive effects this will have on the health and longevity of your pet’s life! Many of the ways to be a green pet owner are the same ways you treat your health and body. Pick ONE area to change each month and before you know it, Fluffy will be just as green as you!

1. Food – Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk will reduce trips to the store and cuts down on gas consumption. But some pet foods may not be the healthiest options for your furry family member. Buying organic pet food is an option, but often the cost is too high. In this case, what’s even better? Making your own pet food.

Even Better: Make your own pet food. Many vets advocate a raw food diet for domestic animals claiming it’s healthier for the animals. Just be sure you provide all the nutrients your pet needs. While ratios of protein, vegetable, and carbohydrate in homemade pet food recipes tend to vary, generally the rule for a good balance is 40% proteins, 30% vegetables, and 30% carbohydrates. Once you have found the right balance and consulted with your vet to ensure that the nutrients your pet is receiving are adequate, you can mix up a couple of batches a week and store them appropriately. Many pet owners who make their pets’ food at home report astonishing improvements in the health and vitality of their animals, after even a short period of time on home-cooked food. Here are some books on the topic.

2. Pet waste – Use biodegradable doggie bags and kitty litter. Flushing it down the toilet may be an option, but then we are only contributing to the use of water to get rid of waste. Tossing it in a landfill in a plastic bag means it stays in the bag until the bag decomposes and that can be years.

Consider purchasing products that decompose and break down along with the waste. Many bags on the market are now made from corn products, yet sturdy enough to use. The park in my neighborhood has a dispenser with biodegradable pet mitts for picking up the dog poop. BioBags are made from corn and are compostable, so you can feel good about using them while out walking the dog in your neighborhood. You can even bring this home and toss it in your pet waste composter.

For the cat in your life replace the clay litter (which is bad for cats’ health and doesn’t compost or breakdown) with kitty litter made out of recycled newspaper or corn. I use Feline Pine which has a scent of fresh pine and lasts a long time. You can scoop the solid waste out and just scatter the wet litter around in the pan until you need to change it. You can find these products in your local health food store and online.

Even Better: Make a pet waste composter. By composting the waste right in your yard, you are eliminating it from going to a landfill or getting into a waste water treatment plant. Plus if done correctly, you can use the humus created from the compost to fertilize your ornament plants and bushes. Instead of buying a pet waste composter and contributing further to the production of more products and the resulting carbon footprint, consider making your own!

Or maybe you live in a place where you rent and do not want to dig into the ground. In that case, you can purchase one already made for you! The Doggie Dooley is a special waste container designed to prevent health dangers and minimize odor. It’s a great way to make your yard more beautiful while also protecting your shoes from dog poop. You need a separate waste composter because animal droppings often contain harmful bacteria, such as e coli, salmonella, and giardias. In a compost pile, these pathogenic bacteria will mix with helpful bacteria and they can disrupt the composting cycle. Find the Doggie Dooley here.

Tomorrow’s post will cover issues of pet cleaning and health.

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Doreen Pollack owns Down 2 Earth Gardens, a garden consulting business in Phoenix, AZ. She is also a Permaculture practioner, author, speaker and educator. provides content and community for who you aspire to be–personally, socially and globally.


Nona E.
Nona E4 years ago

Good suggestions, and I applaud efforts to make life good for living creatures. However, this one point - please! At this point I don't care if it's plastic (hate plastic bags) or biodegradable -- if you walk your dog, carry something to clean up!!!! I see it every day - people who would never dream of dumping baby's diaper on my lawn think nothing of letting their dog sniff for his favorite spot to "leave fertilizer" and then walk on. Inexcusable.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Chris Monahan
Chris Monahan7 years ago

Raw is a nice idea, but they can spread bacteria from it to humans through their saliva, so you have to be careful who your dog is around. I visit people in the hospital with my dog, so I stopped feeding raw to be safe.

Carol Cowbrough
Carol C7 years ago

Interesting. Thanks.

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Laurie T.
Laurie T8 years ago

There are quite a number of online instructions on how to make your own pet waste composter. I found my instructions on a government created site in Canada. Although I have as yet to find a way to compost my cat's leftovers(ahem) my dog's composter consists of a plastic garbage can..bottom removed and holes drilled in the sides. I followed instructions that include finding a sunny spot in the yard, burying the can 7/8 deep, and adding some gravel to the bottom. Then a shovel full of grass clippings and/or leaves and plant trimmings went into the bin...then the doggie doo. Another layer of greens went on top, followed by septic starter (found in hardware stores) I do keep an eye on the temperature increases in my composter, using a long pronged food thermometer(reserved for the compost only!!) as the decomposing temps can get pretty hot! If they go above 450 f, the bin gets cooled down with cold water. Within a few days the remains are completely broken down. I have as yet to use this composted material on ornamental plants but the Canadian Government website reassures me that it is fine to use around ornamental plants.just not around food plants. I will look through my bookmarks and post the site's address if anyone is interested in the many ways one can recycle dog waste.
Now, how to compost cat waste?? I use paper based cat litter, but I think composting safely is still in the works!

Claire Cochran
Claire Cochran8 years ago

The doggie dooley is the best think invented. Quick cleanup and no waste in the land fills for 100 years. The bigger the bulk the better on the purse. Unfortunately, our older mini schnauzer is on vet prescribed food so we cant get it in bulk. But....we get all the 'kids' meds, food and litter in one trip once a month. If we all pitch in we will make it.

Jenny Weeks
Jenny Weeks8 years ago

My dogs and cat eat a higher end food...and they eat less because they're getting the nutrients they need, so though the cost is more...I buy it less frequently...I have no vet bills and I'm prolonging their lives...They're all happy, healthy and energetic...and seniors, though you'd never know it! I order it online and it's worth EVERY penny!

Julie van Niekerk

I became vegetarian too, but my dogs are not. They are designed to not be vegans.