Being one-half of a person-pet relationship can be an incredibly rewarding experience. The promise of companionship, unconditional love and guaranteed smiles on the daily is invaluable. And having a dog or cat bounding around the home has even been shown to benefit human emotional and physical health.

But what about the health of the planet when it comes to our companion animals? Caring for a pet does require resource input in a variety ways and that obviously stands to leave a negative impact on our environment. This is especially true when it comes to plastics.

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If you’re a human that belongs to a furry critter in your home, surely you’ve come across plastic pet products. From plastic bags for food and treats to plastic food and water dishes, plastic toys, and even plastic waste cleanup materials, caring for a pet can certainly hurt your chances of living a plastic-free lifestyle. But there are still ways to be a pet carer without it requiring massive amounts of plastic in the process.

Poop Patrol

Like people, pets make messes that need to be cleaned up. Whether it’s picking up after your dog while out on a walk or cleaning out your cat’s litter box, plastic bags are often used to dispose of pet waste. And if you’re averaging, say, a plastic bag a day to dispose of pet waste, several hundred plastic bags are ending up in landfills every single year in the process. Not cool!

Luckily being a pet parent doesn’t mean you have to toss out plastic every single day of your pet’s life – there are more eco-friendly alternatives. If you’re cleaning up dog messes outside, you may want to consider getting a pooper-scooper from the local pet store, or even devoting a shovel you have in the garage to the task. And if you’re out and about where carrying around your own shovel is inconvenient, you may want to consider investing in biodegradable bags to keep plastic out of the situation. While they’ll still have trouble breaking down in an oxygen-less landfill, they won’t require petroleum to manufacture like plastic bags need.

Quick and Dirty Tips To being A Plastic-Free Pet ParentCarlos Castro/Flickr
 

Another option that will depend entirely on your local water and sewer provider is flushing dog waste down the toilet without bringing plastic disposal methods into the equation. According to the NRDC, the wastewater treatment plant your sewer is serviced by should be able to treat the waste as it does human waste. It is not recommended that cat feces be disposed of in this matter given the risk of spreading certain parasites that can survive the wastewater treatment process and go on to impact humans and wildlife. Your best bet with cats is still to dispose of litter in the garbage. Maybe another good use for those biodegradable bags in order to nix the plastic habit?

Let’s Play!

Pets love a good time and toys are a great way to keep your furry friends mentally and physically fit. Unfortunately, many pet toys are manufactured with plastic which, in addition to being nasty to the planet, can also be downright unhealthy for pets given the toxins and BPA they can contain.

Quick and Dirty Tips To being A Plastic-Free Pet Parentnathanmac86/Flickr
 

When looking for a good time for your dog or cat, look for various plastic alternatives including canvas, natural rubber, hemp, rope, and cotton. One Green Planet has already put together a list of some sustainable dog toy options on the market, as well as some project ideas for plastic-free gifts for both dogs and cats that you can make at home. What cat wouldn’t love a scratching post and what dog wouldn’t love a rope toy made exclusively and lovingly for them by their favorite person?

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Plastic-Free Noms

Pets, like their human companions, typically love to eat! And, like human food, pet food has the potential to introduce a sizeable amount of plastic to our waste-stream. Of course, there are ways to skate around this issue with a little thought and creativity.

First off, you’ll want to consider ditching plastic in your pet’s food and water dishes. Alternative options in stainless steel and ceramic abound, so this should be a pretty easy switch to make.

Next, if your dog or cat’s diet allows for some exploration, consider purchasing pet foods that either don’t come in plastic packaging at all, or are sold in bulk so you can minimize plastic packaging used. You may also be able to purchase treats from a treat bar at your local pet store and tote them off in a cloth bag or glass container, avoiding plastic packaging altogether.

Quick and Dirty Tips To being A Plastic-Free Pet ParentGeorgie Pauwels/Flickr
 
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Cooking for your pet on a regular or semi-regular basis is another option for minimizing plastic waste. Grains like rice can be purchased in bulk and veggies like carrots bought without plastic bags to make a great base for homemade dog food. Meats, poultry and fish for both dogs and cats may also be purchased at your request without plastic packaging and placed into your own containers brought from home. And how about baking your own dog treats from home and storing them in a glass or stainless steel container? Both your pup and the planet will feel the love.

Get To It!

Having a four-legged family member in a world where plastic seems to dominate is no reason to let this destructive waste win. It may require some thought and flexibility, but you can achieve a more plastic-free status as a pet parent. It’s a great way to show your love not just to the environment, but also to your beloved canine and feline kids as well.

Lead image source: reader of the pack/Flickr