Being a friend to the environment is important to everyone at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists. We work hard to do our part to protect the environment and were the first veterinary hospital in the state to earn LEED (awarded to buildings with low environmental impact) and PACE (recognizes leaders in the business community who are setting the standard for environmental sustainability) certifications. To learn more about how we stay green, visit our website.
Earth Day was April 20. To celebrate, we compiled a few tips and tricks to help pet owners stay green when it comes to one particular environmental hazard: your pet’s poop.
The poop problem
Animals poop. The joys of pet ownership are mitigated by this inevitable, smelly fact. For the environment, this amounts to a large volume of unfriendly waste. Each of the United States’ 90 million dogs produces close to a pound of excrement every day, which adds up to more than 11 tons every year. Most of this waste is diligently picked up, wrapped in a plastic bag, and taken to the landfill. However, for the 40% of dog owners who report neglecting this task, the result is more than just unsightly. Dog feces contain dangerous bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which can then infect other dogs or humans and contaminate surrounding areas. Abandoned poop can take up to a year to decompose, which is especially problematic if the waste is left near water used for swimming or fishing.
Here’s what you can do to properly dispose of your pet’s waste:
Tip 1: Pick it up
This tip is unnecessary for many pet owners, whom we thank for doing their due diligence. Once picked up, the bagged pet waste goes straight to the landfill, where it stays enshrined in its little plastic coffins for thousands of years. This waste accounts for approximately 4% of landfill contents—an issue that needs improvement. Pet waste bag companies have capitalized on the problem with compostable bags, which sounds good superficially, but composting requires air, light, heat, moisture, and the right microbes, an environment that landfills simply don’t provide. In fact, when these bags partially break down, they create methane gas, an unwanted greenhouse gas. So, what can we do to prevent all this doggy-do from getting to the landfill?
Tip 2: Compost it
Composting is the most environmentally friendly option for taking care of dog waste. Owners can incorporate their pet’s waste into their backyard compost of lawn clippings and other organic waste, making sure the compost is not used to fertilize vegetables for human consumption. Apartment dwellers can participate by using small, specifically designed commercial compost bins, and then using the compost to fertilize houseplants that reduce indoor pollution. For more information, we recommend The Pet Poo Pocket Guide: How to Safely Compost and Recycle Pet Waste. Most importantly, the waste you use must come from a healthy dog, so have a veterinarian examine your pet before you begin any composting project.
Tip 3: Repurpose old bags
If the thought of using your dog’s waste to fertilize your ficus leaves you squeamish, you can still green up your routine. Instead of buying pet-waste bags that will only be used once and then thrown away, use old grocery sacks, empty bread bags, old newspapers, or cardboard packaging that often accumulates around the house. Do not be tempted to flush the evidence, because municipal water treatment plants cannot handle that load. In addition, kitty litter may not be flushable, and cats’ feces can contain the Toxoplasmosis parasite, which regular treatment can’t kill, so using the trash is still preferable.
Tip 4: Less in, less out
Feeding your pet a calorie-dense, high-quality food will reduce both the amount you have to feed as well as the waste that is subsequently produced. In addition, keeping your pet in ideal body condition will not only help to ensure long-term health but also the smallest amount of excrement possible.
Owning a pet doesn’t have to be bad for the environment, and all pet owners can help lower their pet’s environmental impact. Contact our veterinary team if you have questions about staying green.