Every January I go through the house and get rid of stuff. We’re planning for our next move to be into an even smaller house, so I’m trying to empty as many closets and drawers as possible. This year, the annual January downsizing coincided with a lot of reading about the environmental implications of trash, which has made it extra-guilt-inducing.

As part of this process, eventually I got to Silas’s stuff. And boy, is there a lot of it.

I won’t even list the number of coats and jackets and harnesses and grooming tools. We won’t talk about the mountain of food products that are either in use or sitting around because they caused an allergic reaction.

Instead, we’re talking about this:

Creating Less Waste With Pets

I’ll bet you have a similar box full.

What’s worse, this is just what was in the box. I keep some things down for Silas to use. (Too many toys out at once + dog with a problem relaxing = disaster.)

Silas still generates a lot of trash, even though I’ve been more careful lately, and most of it is really, really trash. Dog food and treat bags are almost always either a plastic/paper hybrid that can’t be recycled or plastic outright. Dog toys tend to be made of mixed plastic (like a “rubber” toy with a squeaker inside) or of unknown materials that are difficult to recycle. Color me a bleeding-heart liberal yuppie, but it bothers me to be filling up landfills with toys my dog didn’t even like that much.

So here are some things tips for cutting the trash and the clutter:

1) Donate used-but-functional leashes, collars, and harnesses to your local shelter, along with those gently-used toys that your dog just didn’t like. Check individual policies before you just show up with an armload. Some shelters particularly don’t want or need toys.

2) See if your friends have dogs that can take those leftover/rejected foods, or if there is a charitable organization in your area that will accept them. Maybe because it’s so hot here that food spoils quickly, but I haven’t had much luck. If your dog eats the same food all the time, consider buying a bigger bag, which usually has less packaging per serving. (Watch for spoilage, though.) Consider baking or dehydrating at least a portion of your own treats. (If I were really a hippy, I would tell you to make sure and buy your baking supplies from the bulk aisle. In reality, I’m skeptical of bulk shopping. Feel free to ask why in the comments–no room.)

3) Check before you throw those toys in the trash. Orbee/Planet Dog takes back cleaned toys for recycling. WestPaw’s Zogoflex toys (you’ll spot several in our pile) are “designed to be recycled,” although the website is unclear about how. 100% cotton rope toys can be composted, as can other natural fibers.

4) Repair things when you can. There’s no hope for a busted tennis ball, but a stuffed toy or dog bed with one bad seam is easy to resew.

5) Remember that your dog doesn’t have the most elaborate memory. Keep most of his toys put away. Once a month or so rotate toys. Look! A new toy! In-home recycling, if you will.

6) Most importantly, stop shopping. Dog stuff is so cute! It’s hard to leave in the store. But seriously, you probably don’t need that new water dish or eight Kongs just in case or a new collar with Santa on it. My own weakness is treats–I just get so excited when I find one that Silas can eat.

7) If you must shop, don’t buy junk. If a toy won’t last more than one or two play sessions, skip it. Also, remember that your dog carries his toys in his mouth, and there are real dangers to ingesting certain kinds of paints and plastics. Personally, these days I will only buy new toys from a few companies that I really trust. As a bonus, those toys tend to be well-made and long-lasting.

9 thoughts on “Wasteful

  1. Our toy box looks a lot like yours, but I’m afraid to get rid of something they might bring to me to play with in the next few days. I have relied on their dog memory to rediscover old toys instead of buying new ones. January is a good time for me to weed out my own closet where I think my clothes are reproducing themselves.


  2. Yep, we have a similarly large toy collection – I rotate through them, leaving only a few out at a time, and they’re always excited for their new/old toys. We don’t buy many, but still seem to increase our supply (probably also because they’re mostly kind to toys, especially Moses, and they last a long time).
    There are a few stores here that, if your dog doesn’t eat their food or has a reaction, you can take it in and exchange it and they’ll donation your opened bag to a rescue. It’s a great program! Dry food only, for obvious reasons, though.


  3. It’s my own things that I need to cut down on severely (Clothes, mostly). Elka’s toys are what we call a self weeding collection. There are the super fragile (mostly free and stuffed) toys that she can’t have unsupervised, most of which live on the fridge. There are the toys she can have all the time and doesn’t just outright destroy, but rather wear down over time (Gumby 4 just lost an arm). There are the tennis balls, which are pretty much single use items (if it’s a dog tennis ball, it’s more like 30 seconds- 5 minutes. A sport tennis ball might be a bit longer).


  4. So true about putting away toys. The dogs ignore all the toys in the yard but go nuts when I bring old ones out of storage. Which reminds me…there are remnants of last year’s snowman toy littered all over the lawn that I need to clean up:/


  5. Our toy box is fairly small, yet I still find toys about all the time. It’s funny with my guys. They will leave a toy alone for an eternity and then boom, one day it’s toast!


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