How to Keep a Zero Waste Pet

How to keep a zero waste pet is a question that stumps even the most experienced zero wasters. There are lots of questions: What do I do with kitty litter? Can you even buy dog food without packaging? What about meds?

As with any situation like this, it’s important to remember that zero waste (though it contains the word zero) is not about perfection. Rather, the goal at its core is to severely lessen the amount of garbage we send out into the world. Reducing, reusing, composting and recycling are all tools we have at our disposal! Make the best of those tools, and we’ll all be a lot closer to zero.

Now, back to the problem at hand: how to keep a zero waste pet. The biggest issues for most eco-conscious pet owners are 1) feeding, 2)†waste disposal, and 3)†entertainment. Here’s how to tackle it all!

Puppy eating

Zero Waste Pet Food

Buying zero waste dog and cat food can be a challenge. I’ve been to several health food†stores that offer pet food in bulk, but I have to say, it’s pretty rare (but if you find it, stock up!).

Should you be unable to find kibble in bulk, your next best options are to make your own (who’s brave?) or buy a product that comes in recyclable packaging†ó not technically zero, but not†very wasteful either.

Here are a few†options that do:

  • Guardian Pet Food Company†offers a mail-in solution†for recycling through TerraCycle. A number of other brands have started doing so as well.
  • Open Farm†also offers a mail-in recycling option.
  • Wet food†comes in steel cans which are easily recycled in the U.S. But keep in mind that they are often lined with BPA.


Waste Disposal

Disposing of Dog Waste

Most of us are used to picking up dog doo doo with plastic baggies and tossing it into the garbage. In a zero waste household, this is less than ideal. The first thing you can do is start picking up dog waste with newspaper.

Disposing of Cat Waste

This one’s tricky. Our backyard compost bins are unable to process cat waste in a healthy manner, but it’s possible that your local city compost program can. Call and ask! Some might.

Cats usually take to new litters quickly, so introducing something like sawdust, mulch, or dirt from your local nursery can be a great way to go. To reduce the smell of cat waste, sprinkle some baking soda into the mix and let it do its work.

Cat stalking his feather toy

Zero Waste Bedding, Bowls and Toys

Whenever possible, this is a fantastic opportunity to go shopping secondhand. A bowl is a bowl! If you are unable to find what you need in thrift stores, purchase products that are made from sustainable materials†ó†for example, a stainless steel food bowl or organic cotton covered dog mattress.

There are also a multitude of sustainable toy options out there, for both dogs and cats. Look for toys made from 100% natural rubber, jute, or other natural materials. (Here are some favorites I rounded up for Care2 earlier this year!) And, don’t forget, a cardboard box always works too!


Chad A
Chad Anderson8 days ago

Thank you.

Marija M
Marija M13 days ago


Angeles M
Angeles Madrazo16 days ago

Thank you

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez17 days ago

This has been interesting. My dog is far more zero waste than my cats are, because she poops in the back yard, and the dog-food bags get reused for other things. The kitty litter is a problem, but we are researching new ways of dealing with it. As far as toys are concerned, we entertain them with whatever is handy, and bedding, well, they sleep with us, so that's taken care of. Thank you for the article.

Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O21 days ago

Some very interesting comments from pet owners. I cook for my dogs and I collect their motions each day and they go into a composting hole. Cats would be more of a juggle though with their requirements. Just your best and I agree very much with the dry food and cats, especially for male cats so risky. Raw offal is the real diet of dogs and cats in the wild mixed with cereal grasses and berries.

Teresa A
Teresa Antela23 days ago

Thank you

Melanie St. Germaine
Melanie S23 days ago

Thank you!

Leo C
Leo C23 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Nita L
Nita L24 days ago

Thank you.

Daniela M
Daniela M24 days ago

Thank you for this. I have often asked myself how to minimize waste with 3 cats. Cat litter is definitely the most problematic. I opt for small aluminium cans for food as aluminium is a close-looped recyclable material; much much better than plastic pouches but still would love to have better less wasteful options especially with litter.