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Want to make a dog-loving environmentalist’s heart sink? Collect dog poop in non-degradable plastic and pitch it into the garbage. Or worse, leave it; uncollected waste is not only a source of bacteria, but also may contain chemicals from canine medications that can be washed into local waterways. Luckily, there are other options.

Consider installing an underground pet-waste digester. These devices, such as the Doggy Dooley, work like small septic systems and involve minimum hassle. Find step-by-step instructions for making and installing a DIY version at TheBark.com/green. City dwellers without yards might want to try flushable poop bags, reportedly safe for pipes or septic systems. Once flushed, dog waste is processed along with human waste in your local sewage-treatment facility.

Some municipalities do their part. If you live in a progressive enclave like Cambridge, Mass. (and someday, Gilbert, Ariz.), your dog’s poop might be converted to methane and used as a power source. The Tompkins County off-leash area in Ithaca, N.Y., provides bio bags for collection and a poop-composting program.

Reduce: Avoid products with unnecessary packaging and skip disposable products altogether. The petproducts industry is filled with a disappointing array of convenience items, from food-bowl liners and shrinkwrapped chews to toothbrushes pre-loaded with toothpaste for one-time use.

Think durable. Skip the plastic flea comb that breaks easily and choose a metal comb that will last. Saves money in the long run.

When traveling, carry your dog’s water in your own aluminum or stainless-steel container. Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour, but recycle only one in five.

Reduce pet overpopulation: Spay or neuter your dog.

Reuse: One man’s trash is one dog’s treasure. For example, take the humble but worn-out yoga mat. It has many uses beyond keeping you from sliding out of position in downward dog. Cut out a square to use as a placemat that will catch splashes and keep dog dishes in place; roll it up as a draft stopper (your old pup will thank you); or slice it to create safety treads for slippery stairs.

Convert old dishtowels into dog toys by tying a knot at the center.

Old inner tubes (and waterproof tape) are all you need to create cheap waterproof dog booties — a reuse idea hunters employed back in the 1970s.

Recycle: Of course you compost or recycle food containers — paper, aluminum and recyclable plastic, but remember to clean them well first. Food contamination of recycled goods is a major contributor to these materials ending up in landfills.

Look for manufacturers of beds, collars and leashes who incorporate second-life materials, such as reprocessed cotton filler or fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.

Seek out companies with proven commitments to recycling packaging materials and waste products on the production end. (A helpful starting point for research is Goodguide.com, which rates the safety, environmental sustainability and sourcing of nearly 150,000 consumer products.)

Collect your dog’s fur and spin it into yarn, then make a sweater — 40 ounces will do the trick. Or felt it and make a dog collar from it. Or just leave it outside for birds to pick up for their nest-building.

“Recycle” a dog: adopt a rescue or shelter pup!

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 66: Sept/Oct 2011

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