How Can Your Dog Protect the Environment?

Today, in honor of Earth Day and just in time for spring, I’m talking about going green with your dog.

Earth Day 2014

You may remember the article I wrote in January about lessening your dog’s waste. (As in, broken toys and plastic widgets, not poop.)  That’s still my most relevant post on the topic, and I highly encourage you to go over there and read it. Since I’ve already written that post, today I’m going to talk about a different facet:

What We Can Do In The Park and On The Street

People who own dogs take a lot of walks, and spend a lot of time in parks. This gives us some great opportunities to make an environmental difference.

  • Pick up an extra poop. You have the bag in your hand anyway, don’t just stand there and feel superior. Leaving it in the park contaminates local water supplies and gives dog-owners a bad reputation around town.
  • For that matter: your special biodegradable dog poop bags? They’re not going to decompose in a garbage dump. Nothing decomposes in modern garbage dumps, in part by design. (If you’re interested in trash, I highly recommend Garbology by Edward Humes, which was a fascinating read.) If you’re drowning in difficult-to-recycle plastic produce bags, don’t feel bad for repurposing.
  • But, while we’re at it, don’t get plastic bags at the store just because you use them for dog poop. If nothing else, the special dog poop bags are smaller and thus use less plastic. Or try a piece of newspaper, or any non-recyclable container that you’ll be putting in the trash anyway.
  • Collect some trash and recyclables while you’re out. My local park has millions of trash cans, but also a huge problem with litter, especially around spring and summer holidays. While your dog is sniffing a bush, grab that styrofoam takeout container and throw it away. Even recyclable items are better off contained in a trash bin than blowing free where they can cause more harm. Keep a special eye out for small pieces of plastic, like bottle caps, which are easily ingested by wildlife; and styrofoam containers and plastic bags, which blow in the wind.
  • Skip the disposable water bottle. Carry water for you and your dog from home, with a reusable bottle and bowl.
  • If you’re socially minded, get your friends together to make a concerted effort at park clean up.

I’m not saying that the entire park is your responsibility. You have a right to walk your dog without becoming the Earth Police. Little things stack up, though. If nothing else, cleaner parks stay cleaner. No one wants to sully a perfect environment, but if there’s already a chronic dog-poop and plastic cutlery problem, people don’t feel like “just a little” more will do any harm.

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6 thoughts on “How Can Your Dog Protect the Environment?

  1. I’ve talked about water quality and the importance of picking up dog poop for years. This year I have really but it into action and try to pick up abandoned piles of dog poo I find out on our walks. There is a part near our house that is one of the most popular in Seattle. People walk LOTS of dogs there. Most pick up their dog poop but some don’t and the park is pretty much a path around a lake. Yikes! There is a volunteer “litter patrol” that picks up trash there every Sunday. It’s on my agenda to start joining them once or twice a month and pick up dog poop. I want to get a “poop patrol. I pick up your dog’s crap” T’shirt made. Ha, ha.

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    1. You’re never far from *some* kind of water here, so I try to watch out. Fortunately the most water-sensitive of our parks also seems to have better-than-average scooping.

      I wish people would get over the idea that dog poop is “natural,” so it’s fine to leave. Although, nothing makes me crazier than people who put the poop in the bag, then don’t put it in the trash. Accept it, person, you’re going to forget to “come back for it as you leave the park.”

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  2. I use plastic grocery bags for poop all the time, mostly so I don’t have to buy poop bags. I had a non-dog-owning friend say to me once, “you mean people actually BUY bags for poop?” I thought that was kind of funny.

    I’ll take your advice and pick up an extra turd tomorrow. 🙂 There’s plenty around my neighborhood. Yuck.

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