Every year on April 22 we celebrate Earth Day! Observed since 1970, Earth Day is a great opportunity to reflect on minimizing our impact on this beautiful planet. Here are 8 great ways you can head out for adventures with your dog while treading as lightly as possible on the earth.
1. Pick up waste
Of course, we are going to start out with some poop-talk! Dog parents in snow country know that when winter melts away, frozen brown pup-nuggets are slowly revealed. Poop Season has arrived! How is it that even when you’re SURE you picked up after your pup every single day, some of those nuggets get missed? Poop Season is spring’s reminder that your dog has a bigger impact on the ecosystem than you realized.
How does picking up dog poop protect the earth?
- Left-behind feces run off into waterways and storm drains via rain and melting snow. This adds unneeded nitrogen and phosphorus that negatively impact aquatic plants and animals.
- Bacteria -- for example Salmonella, E. Coli, and Campylobacter -- exist even in the stools of healthy dogs.
- Gastrointestinal parasites like roundworm, hookworm, and whipworms are transmitted to other animals (including humans!) via eggs shed in dog feces. Both pets and wildlife will check out the pungent poop of other animals and can be directly infected.
Even if your own dog is relatively free of parasites, by leaving poop behind you are encouraging other pet parents do the same. That adds up to a lot of poop! Poop pick-up doesn’t need to add awkwardness to your walk. Cinch that full poop-bag to your dooloop dog-poop bag holder, and your walk will continue on as carefree as before.
2. Use compostable or repurposed bags
Compostable poop bags are a big improvement over regular plastic. If your compostable bag flies loose from your pocket, is dislodged from the back of a trash truck, blows off the surface of a landfill or is unethically dumped by an unscrupulous hauler, they degrade over 3 to 9 months.
Even plastic grocery bags can have an earth-friendly second life if you reuse them for poop duty or litter pick-up. Your dooloop can be used to secure all waste pick-up bags, not just poop-laden ones.
3. Buy local
Pet parents are business-propelling powerhouses. Every year, consumer spending on pet products leaps higher and higher, topping 100 billion/year in 2020.
You’ll reduce your pawprint on the earth if you buy from local, regional, or US-based pet-product or pet-friendly businesses whenever possible. They hire your neighbors as employees, pay taxes to fix the roads you travel on, and spend less on shipping their raw materials in and products out. Profits cycle right back into your own community where it has the greatest impact. You’ll also enjoy the unique atmosphere and personal contact at a local, owner-run pet store or grooming shop.
When shopping online, pause to check the product or business description before you hit “buy.” Businesses who are proud of their local and US roots – like our made-in-Maine dooloop! -- will be shouting it proudly on their product information or website.
4. Buy “stuffable” dog beds
Do you groan every time you throw away a dog bed just because the thin bottom material ripped out in your washer or your dog has pounded the thin stuffing into a pancake? When replacement time comes, purchase a dog bed with strong fabric and a sturdy zipper for a long life. Use old blankets, t-shirts, and other washable items you might otherwise discard to stuff your pup’s bed. When the bed gets soiled or flat, the dirty fabric innards can be reused. Just wash, re-stuff and fluff! If your dog requires a supportive orthopedic insert, these can be removed and rinsed by hand in your tub, and then set in the warm sun to dry.
5. Use non-toxic grooming products
Plant-based pet shampoos help keep your local water supply safe and of course expose your pet to fewer toxins. Let your groomer know you prefer plant-based products as well. Even if the groomer is already 100% committed to natural products, they’ll appreciate knowing their decision is valued by their customers, too.
6. Go low-impact
There are so many fun pet products out there that it’s easy to impulsively grab a gift for our dogs without much thought. Take a few deep breaths before handing over the cash or credit card. Is this a product you or your dog truly needs and will use, or will you be throwing it out within a few weeks? What is it made of, and how much packaging is involved? Our dooloop for example, is made in Maine with non-toxic, BPA free, biodegradable plastic, and we have zero-waste packaging. Check that label (and your impulsive gift-giving nature) before you buy!
7. Volunteer to keep your local dog programs safe and strong
If you and your dog use your local dog park, walking path, or nature area to exercise, now’s a good time to ask if there’s a spring clean-up day you can help with. It’s a great social-distancing project that will have you out in the spring air with other dog lovers and will help maintain local play and hiking options for you and your dog.
Your local animal shelter is a lifeline for your community’s dogs and cats when they become lost or homeless. They also offer affordable spay/neuter, vaccination, and microchipping clinics. Check out your shelter’s webpage and follow them on social media for opportunities to help them out when you can.
8. Obey leash rules
“Leashed Dogs Only” signs may seem unfriendly at first glance, but they are there to keep dogs, people, wildlife and your local ecosystem safe. On-leash rules prevent fragile wilderness areas from being trampled. One dog may not seem to have a huge impact, but a popular nature trail may have a hundred canine visitors in a single day! Even if your dog would never aggressively hurt another animal, they can injure or harass wildlife just by being curious. Dog parents who care about the environment will keep their dogs leashed or under proven voice control.
Enjoy the warm weather and this glorious planet in our care. By being thoughtful about our actions and our pet purchases, you can reduce the pawprint that you and your dog leave on the earth. And remember that spring, summer, fall or winter, every day is Earth Day.