How to live zero waste with pets

Updated: Sep 24, 2020


Eco-friendly poop bags:

I am new to picking up dog poop since we used to live in a rural farmhouse growing up. We didn’t have a need to pick it up. I felt so guilty using plastic bags to get the job done. I would only use it for a few seconds and that bag would be on earth longer than me. So, I did a lot of research and found some amazing bags! I wanted to find the perfect one and I think I did just that. You can read my full review here or watch it on YouTube.

Also, don't use a bag to pick up your cat's poop. If you don't just place it right in the trash can, use a grocery bag you probably already have lying around. If this still isn't good enough of an option, try a small bin with a lid next to your cats litter that you can use only for cat poop and then empty it when it's full.

Find a sustainable collar and leash:

There are a lot of brands out there that make animal accessories out of sustainable and plant-based materials. Unfortunately I do not have one (continue reading why in #4), so I don’t have any recommendations, but these sites have lists of awesome brands you can choose from:

Make your own treats:

There are a ton of simple recipes on the internet. Everything from biscuits to cupcakes. This can save you a lot of money and is much healthier for your pup so you’re not feeding them a bunch of artificial ingredients. Plus, they can be fun flavored, fun to make, and you just get that pleasure of knowing you created something special for your fur baby. Other simple treats that don’t require making anything are:

- Carrots

- Bananas

- Apples

- Blueberries

- Celery

- Cucumbers

- Etc.

Make your own dog toys:

Making toys for your critters is super simple, you just have to know what your pet likes. Cats tend to like bells, feathers, string, and other things of that nature:

- Tie a bunch of yarn or string to a stick for them to play with. Add some feathers if you already have some, try to avoid buying new items

- Turn some of that yarn into fluffs/puffs. Loop the yarn around your hand maybe 20-40 times, tie a string in the middle and cut the loops to make it into a puffball. Add this to another string to attach to a stick

- If you have old bells or beads, you can tie those to a string as well

Dogs tend to like balls, socks, and other things they can chew and tug on. I have even gone to my local sports complex and found old tennis balls lying around so we don’t have to buy new ones. Denahi is also pleased with old socks, sticks, and frozen carrots make great chew toys as opposed to rawhides (and it’s vegan!):

- Cut up an old T-shirt and braid the strips together to make a rope that your dog can tug on

- Put tennis balls in the bottom of two large knee socks and tie the open ends together. Now you have a toy for them to tug and chew on!

- Find old stuffed animals at the thrift store, just made sure they don’t have beads in them!



There are a couple options to make your cats bathroom routine more eco-friendly:

  1. First, with regular litter, don’t clean the litter box once and throw away an entire bag that is barely full. Instead, place the bag somewhere where the smell won’t bother you (the garage, patio, etc). Then, you can use this bag until it is actually full instead of wasting a whole bag

  2. There are actually flushable cat litters. You just have to make sure it is actually toilet safe and not regular litter. Most flushables litters should say so on the packaging. This way you avoid plastic bags entirely!

  3. Of course, you can train your cat to go outside. Cats we used to have at my mom’s growing up were part inside cats, part outside cats. This way we didn’t even NEED a litter box which saved so much time, money, and waste.

  4. Lastly, though probably not feasible for everyone, though it is possible to train your cat to be potty trained. This way they just do their business in the toilet and you can avoid all litter and bags!


Please, never buy your cat a toy! I say this mainly for two important reasons: one, toys are cheaply made and are not made to last and two, cats play with legitimately anything! Sure, you can just toss them a scrap of yarn and they’d be entertained for hours, but if you want to create your own more aesthetically pleasing cat toys, here are a few options:

  1. Old hair ties: they can be used as is, tied to a string attached to a stick, or strung together to make a really long hair tie rope

  2. Scrap yarn: turn it into little puff balls that you can throw for your cat

  3. Scrap fabric: cut old t shirts or rags into strips and tie them to a stick for your cat to chase around

  4. Old socks: you can stuff old socks with other scrap fabric and sprinkle some cat nip in there. Sew the sock closed and let your cat go crazy.

  • You can do all of this with just about anything, but here are some other materials you can upcycle into zero waste cat toys:

  • Shoelaces

  • Ribbons

  • Lanyards

Cat tree/shelter:

Cats love their shelter and privacy, but thankfully it can be easy to DIY a safe space for your cat, or, better yet, look second hand!

  1. DIY cat tree. This is a project, but can be so worth it. We made this cat tree completely ourselves with upcycled cans, wood, and fabric. You can also use old PVC pipe or sturdy cardboard tubes depending on the size of your cat

  2. You can find one second hand using places like Facebook marketplace, ebay, second hand stores, and more.

  3. Another DIY option is a cardboard castle. It doesn’t have to be anything intricate, just a simple upside down box with a hole cut for a door will make most cats happy


Adopt don’t shop:

One of the most sustainable (and ethical) ways to choose a pet is to adopt one from the pound or shelter or even from a friend. Avoid breeders and pet stores as they are not sustainable or ethical. They breed dogs unnaturally and the demand for these new and more expensive dogs just means that more and more animals are going to be on this earth. More dogs that need food and water and more dogs that will be put down when they begin to be too much for shelters to take care of. Don’t contribute to this demand, choose a shelter instead.

Don’t buy new products unless you need them:

Like I mentioned above, we did not buy a new, sustainably made collar and leash for Denahi. He doesn’t need one. His items are still in great condition and work just fine. Yes, buying sustainably made items it much better than synthetics, don’t buy new items unless you need them. Just because they’re not sustainable does not mean you should throw away perfectly good items. Wait until you actually need to replace an item!

Not only should you just buy items when you need them, but also avoid buying random things for your dogs: sweaters, bandannas, toys, etc. Sure, they are cute, but try to remember why you are living more sustainably. Buying knick-knacks for your pet is quite frankly a waste of materials and money.

Other supplies:

Other things you might need like food and water bowl, litter box, litter scoop, and so forth can easily be found second hand. Check out the places I listed earlier and others like Buns, and so forth.

If you can’t find these things second hand, make due with what you have. You can probably thrift small dishes at the thrift store that might not have been intended for a cat food dish but would work just perfect for one. If you have a random tub in your home, use that as the litter box, and so forth. Cats don’t care how aesthetically pleasing their supplies are.

Lastly, if neither of those work for you, try to find better brands to buy from. Buy high quality items when buying new so that they last. If you can find them made from materials like stainless steel instead of plastic, even better.

When buying new, aim for sustainable materials:

Metal water and food bowls, leashes and collars made out of natural fibers, cat trees out of wood and natural fabrics, etc. Try to avoid plastic even if you have to buy new, this one seems pretty obvious.

Your pet doesn't need to be fancy:

What I mean is, your pet doesn't need the largest bed or cat tree, they don't need a retractable collar or a poop bag holder on their leash, and they don't need automatic feeders. Not only are these products usually very expensive, but they are almost always made out of plastic. I understand that some of them are very convenient, but think about the costs on a larger scale for a want versus a need. You pet just needs the basics to live. And as long as they get love and play time, I am sure they will be happy with whatever you have for them, even if it is the bare minimum.

Plastic-free packaged food:

Now this can get tricky for animals. But, one easy way is if you buy wet food for your cat or even puppy, get the stuff in a can versus a tiny plastic cup. Just remember to rinse it before you throw it in your recycling bin. If you can, try to find a brand that comes in paper or even has a mission to reduce their waste as much as possible. Now, I am not going to get into diet (feed your animals how you see fit), but you can buy and prepare food for your animals which means less packaging. Just make sure you consult a veterinarian so that your pet is still getting proper nutrition.