Cat and dog laying next to each other on the grass.

Sustainable Pet Products

Sustainable pet products are a healthier option for our furry friends and better for our planet. And there are plenty of options that don’t have to break the bank. Some items, such at pet food and cat litter, actually have quite a significant environmental impact, so this is definitely an area we can make a positive difference with our purchasing choices. Find a variety of eco-friendly pet products listed below.

Aquariums/Tanks

Sell, donate, or give away unwanted tanks. Recycle glass from broken tanks with other glass recycling.

Go Green: Use energy efficient electrical equipment

Try to find energy efficient heaters, pumps, filters, and other equipment for aquariums and tanks. Instead of fluorescent lights, use LED bulbs, which use up to 90% less energy. Read more tips and products suggestions from Bulk Reef Supply, which was a favorite store of mine when I had a saltwater tank.

What to do with old or broken equipment

Sell or give away via hobbyist forums. Recycle any broken or unusable equipment should be disposed of with other e-waste.

Eco-friendly pet beds

Go Green: Upcycle bedding; pet beds with natural, non-toxic materials

Go cheap and easy an upcycle old pillows or blankets for your furry friend. If you can sew, make a cover for pillows for easy cleaning. My mom sewed me a cover large enough to hold 2 pillows for a larger size pet bed.

Sustainable pet bed options include:

  • West Paw makes pet beds and blankets made with OEKO-TEX certified toxic-free materials. The filling is composed of recycled materials.
  • Brentwood Home makes pet beds that are Greenguard, Certi-PUR, and climate neutral certified.
  • Molly Mutt has an interesting idea for their bed: it is a 100% cotton duvet cover that you stuff yourself with old unwanted pillows, towels, or clothes etc, thereby keeping these things out of landfills.
  • The catcaveco makes hilariously adorable cat caves from ethically sourced wool. If I owned a cat, it would definitely have one of these.
  • Petique makes cat houses from FSC-certified cardboard; some also come with reversible scratchboards.

Pet bowls

Go Green: Upcycle a dish; use a non-plastic bowl

Eco-friendly cat litter

Go Green: Natural cat litter

Most cat litter is made from clay which, although a natural material, is not biodegradable or compostable—think about the clay pots archaeologists find from ancient civilizations. Once thrown in the landfill, cat litter will never break down. Furthermore, the mining of this clay, called bentonite, creates significant environmental issues. Two million tons of bentonite destined to become cat litter are mined every year with strip mining, a process where all trees, plants, and topsoil are removed to access the clay, resulting in dust, erosion, increased flooding, and loss of habitat for wildlife. Natural minerals are lost and sediments can get washed into, and thus polluting, bodies of water.

Crystal cat litter aka silica gel is also procured through mining processes with similar detrimental effects on the environment, and it is also not biodegradable or compostable.

Eco friendly cat litter options are composed of all-natural and biodegradable materials, obtained much more sustainably than mining. Examples of biodegradable cat litter include:

Apparently cats can be finicky about changing their litter. Therefore experts suggest mixing the ratio between the old and new and slowly increasing when trying a different cat litter.

Is cat litter compostable?

As mentioned, clay cat litter is not biodegradable or compostable. But even though the natural, non-clay cat litter options are, you should avoid composting for use near edible plants. I personally would not do it in any situation. Cat waste can contain bacteria or parasites that are harmful to humans, and these can contaminate both soil and waterways. Flushable cat litter should not be flushed, no matter what the package says. This is one waste stream I think is best to send to the landfill.

Eco-friendly dog collars & leashes

Go Green: Use collars and leashes made from natural materials

Synthetic fibers are fossil-fuel based and contribute to microplastic pollution. Learn more about sustainable fabrics here.

  • The Good Dog Company makes products with a blend of organic cotton and hemp, which are biodegradable. They sell collars for both cats and dogs, leashes, and harnesses.
  • West Paw makes collars and leashes from recycled plastic bottles, as does United by Blue.
  • Wagging Green Pet Shop has many choice of bamboo collars, leashes, and harnesses. In addition, they have a recycling program where you send them old, beat-up collars or leashes of any brand and they will reuse the hardware to make you a new one for 25% off and free shipping.

Pet carriers & crates

  • Petmate makes dog and cat crates made from 90% recycled plastic.
  • Petique makes many carriers for cats and dogs. They do not have any eco-certifications but report that their products meet ASTM Chemical Standards.
  • Safety 1st pet gate is made from bamboo and recycled plastic.

Sustainable pet food

Pets consume 20% of all meat worldwide, and this consumption is responsible for the release of up to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Go Green: Steer clear of premium foods; avoid beef as much as possible

Photo graphic: If our pets created their own country, that furry nation would place 5th in the world for meat consumption.

According to an article by Smithsonian magazine, pets consume about 25% of the meat in the United States; their diets generally contain higher amounts of protein than human ones. Cats do need primarily meat to survive, but dogs are omnivorous and can have plants mixed into their diet.

Premium foods aren’t necessary; many of them use meats that are even higher quality than that for humans, which creates competition with our own food system, which is already a huge environmental problem. I know we all want the best for our furbabies, but our pets don’t need choice cuts and are perfectly content and healthy when eating organ meat.

Some companies like Jiminy’s are using insects like crickets as the protein-source in their foods; Chippin also uses crickets but also adds silver carp, which is an invasive species in some areas. Catit is another company utilizing insects, especially for cats. They also include chicken or herring. Other companies like Wild Earth and Petaluma are going all plant-based, and others are currently researching lab-grown meats.

If you would like to do more reading about this broad subject, I suggest these articles from the The Guardian, The Conversation, and Time.

Natural pet treats

  • Shameless Pets makes treats for cats and dogs from upcycled food they save from being wasted.
  • West Paw treats are made with grass fed, free range, antibiotic and hormone-free beef. They also offer bison and chicken; all are additive and preservative free.
  • Petaluma baked treats are all made from organic, plant-based sources, packaged in compostable packaging.

Pet food packaging

Go Green: Buy food in bulk as able

Eco-friendly pet food packaging isn’t really a thing as far as I can tell, at least for national brands. Nearly all pet foods are packaged in plastic. The best way to avoid any packaging is to buy bulk pet food. Fill your own containers at a local pet store with bulk offerings or grocery store like Winco.

Recycling pet food packaging

If you can’t tear the paper holding your pet food, it can’t be recycled with your regular recycling. If the pet food bag is labeled plastic #2 or #4, you can recycle it with your other plastic film recycling. Metal/tin cans are recyclable.

  • If you live near a Pet Supplies Plus and Wag N’ Wash location, they accept all brands of any species of pet food and snack packaging for recycling through Terracycle.
  • Terracycle does have a handful of free mail-in programs for certain brands, click here to see if the brand you use is one of them. If not, they sell a zero waste box to recycle any brand and size of pouch, bag, box, or container used for packaging pet food, treats, and vitamins.

Pet medications

Go Green: Donate unused pet meds or dispose responsibly

Where to donate pet meds

Check with local animal services, shelters, and vets to see if they will accept unused pet meds (non-controlled substances) and supplies.

How to dispose of unused pet meds

As with human medications, you should not throw expired or unused medications in the trash or down the sink or toilet because they contaminate drinking water. To get rid of unwanted or unused medications, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends local disposal options.

Check for periodic take back evens in your community, or find one of the many locations that offer fixed drop-off collections. These include many pharmacies, such as Walgreens or CVS, and other controlled substance drop off locations. If you are nowhere near any drop off locations, follow these instructions for safe disposal.

Read more from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Non-toxic pet grooming

Go Green: Skip plastic products & packaging whenever possible

Eco-friendly pet brushes

It’s probably not something that you’ve ever thought about, but fur and hair can be composted. So when you clean brushes out or clean fur off of your clothes or furniture, you can put it into the compost bin. You can also donate hair and fur to an organization like Matter of Trust, who uses it to make mats that soak up oil and other petrochemicals from waterways.

Natural dog shampoo

  • Mighty Mutt makes pet shampoos from all-natural, plant-based ingredients.
  • Wild One Rinseless Shampoo – vegan, hypoallergenic, 99.4% natural, and paraben and sulfate (SLS) free. Made without artificial colors, fragrances, or chemical detergents
  • Puracy Pet Shampoo is 99.5% natural.

Plastic-free dog shampoo options are minimal. Your best best is to go with a pet shampoo bars, such as the plant-based soaps made by Ethique.

The only plastic-free liquid soap I have been able to find is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap. One of its 18 listed uses is pet shampoo. Make sure you are purchasing their newer refill carton option rather than the plastic bottle most of their products are packaged in.

Eco-friendly pet toothbrush

Petique has a bamboo toothbrush that can be composted at the end of its life. Other toothbrushes can be recycled with human ones through Terracycle’s free programs. Read more about toothbrush recycling here.

For eco friendly dog toothpastes, see this article by Treehugger.

Fur & Hair remover tools

Say goodbye to those wasteful tape lint rollers and get yourself a reusable fur remover.

Plastic-free lint roller options include:

Pet hair/fur is compostable.

Pet stain remover

Plastic-free pet stain remover

Paw Sense Pet Stain & Odor Remover – a great natural pet stain remover composed of enzymes and a lemongrass scent sourced from 100% essential oils; packaged in a glass bottle

Plastic-free all-purpose cleaners that list carpet under their usage instructions:

Biodegradeable dog poop bags

There are many compostable dog waste bags out there, or at least ones that claim to be. Make sure you read what they are actually made from. A few good choices are Greener Walker, G.A.S., and Sir Waggington’s. They are made from cornstarch, plastic-free and compostable, with recycled paper cores and packaging.

To hold your compostable dog waste bags, check out United by Blue‘s cute mini-backpack dispenser made with recycled plastic. Or G.A.S. has a cotton canvas bag with stainless steel attachments and velcro made from recycled plastic.

Potty training

A friend who fosters dogs, as well as owns a dog walking company, swears by Pet Parents Washable Dog Diapers.

Eco-friendly pet toys

Go Green: Buy toys made from natural materials

dog chewing on West Paw bone

West Paw is a certified B Corp company based in Montana that makes toys from recycled materials, among other products. When your dog is finished with one of their toys, you can send it back and they will sanitized it, and grind it up and create a new toy from it.

My goldendoodle, Lola, approves.

Another company that creates toys from recycled materials is TAGdogtoys, which makes toys made from repurposed fire hoses.

The best toys for your furry friend to chew to on are made from natural materials–which basically means no plastic. It seems obvious, but I never really gave this any thought before. Buy I realized as my dog was destroying her Nylabone, she was most likely ingesting tiny pieces of plastic. Gross!

Betterbone is a fantastic plastic-free alternative to Nylabone. These bones only have 2 ingredients, which are food-grade: PEFC sustainably forested wood flour and renewable sugarcane oil.

Other amazing plastic-free pet toys include:

  • Hemp rope toys from The Good Dog Company.
  • The familiar red Kong Classic is made from all natural rubber.
  • Beco has dog and cat toys made from bamboo, hemp, or recycled materials.
  • Oregon Antler Works sells elk antler chews, sourced from naturally shed antlers.
  • PetFusion has cat scratchers made from recycled cardboard. Petique‘s cat scratchers are made from FSC-certified cardboard.
  • The Pawsome Pet Toys shop on Etsy has dog and cat toys made from hemp and other natural materials.
  • Purrfect Play shop on Etsy is another great source for natural dog and cat toys.
  • Tall Tails has toys made from natural rubber or natural leather.

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