Minimalism, sustainability and our impact on the environment have fascinated me for years. There are so many articles, books and blogposts to explore online about these topics. Low waste swaps that are commonly suggested online tend to only apply to humans. Since adopting Woody, I’ve been eager to live as minimally and sustainably as possible with him. Fortunately, I’ve discovered plenty of low waste swaps for you and your dog. Today I thought I’d share with you some of our favourites!
It’s no secret that plastic is killing our marine wildlife. Documentaries such as A Plastic Ocean on Netflix and the BBC’s Drowning in Plastic reveal the heartbreaking impact our plastic consumption is having on wildlife, coral reefs and oceans worldwide. Thankfully, there’s plenty we can do at home to help combat this problem. I’m a firm believer in taking responsibility for our own plastic consumption. It’s easy to blame big corporations for injecting plastic into everything we use. However there are plenty of swaps we can make, at home, to help reduce waste and our reliance on virgin resources.
Low Waste Swaps for You and Your Dog
Plastic Free Soap and Shampoo*
There are plenty of plastic free cosmetics readily available on UK high streets. Companies like Lush offer a variety of packaging free products from soaps to shampoos and bath products. Unfortunately, I’ve got very sensitive skin and despite my best efforts I haven’t been able to use their shampoo bars without coming out in a rash. I’m not giving up hope yet and my search for packaging free shampoo continues. I’m excited to give the Giggle bar from Conchus Life a go. It’s a hair and body bar that’s designed specifically for sensitive skin. It sounds right up my eczema prone street!
When it comes to grooming Woody, I’m very minimal. I trim his hair at home once or twice a year. I’ve been using a standard Pets at Home shampoo for months, he only gets bathed if he’s rolled in something nasty. When I discovered a plastic free alternative to Woody’s usual shampoo, I was delighted.
The Dog and I* are based in Dorset and create beautiful, handmade natural grooming products with minimal packaging. I was kindly sent some of their plastic free soaps and nose, paw and skin balms to try and I am incredibly impressed with these low waste swaps. It’s really reassuring to look at the back of the label and to have heard of every ingredient in the products. They offer a whole range of grooming products via their website and use recyclable cardboard packaging for their orders too.
Loose Leaf Tea
I’ve never been a huge tea drinker, the thought of mixing boiling water with a splash of milk put me off for years. However, once I discovered tea without milk I could really see the appeal. A cup of tea is the perfect way to warm up after a crisp morning walk and has become a regular part of my daily routine. I recently swapped to loose leaf tea. It’s nothing fancy, just a supermarket own brand, however it uses considerably less plastic compared to tea bags. Tea bags are often made using plastic, particularly to seal the leaves inside. It’s estimated that the UK drinks 60.2 billion cups of tea a year – now that’s a lot of plastic!
There are plenty of ways to drink loose leaf tea. I use a trusty infuser with every cup. I bought my spaniel infuser on Etsy. It’s made by a small business called Pride in Detail, who are based in Sheffield. They have a range of dog breed infusers available, as well as other animals too. It’s simple to use and easy to clean. I use mine with my Leach Pottery mug by Seasalt Cornwall and store my loose leaf tea in a secondhand glass mason jar.
Collars and Leads Made with Natural Fibres
It’s common for dog collars, leads and other accessories to be made from Nylon and other plastics. Indeed they are durable materials, however they aren’t the kindest to our planet. Woody doesn’t own a vast array of accessories by any means. Just a couple of collars, leads, a harness and his equafleece suit us fine day to day. He does have a few other pieces, like his backpack and life jacket, however they’re more specialist items that we use for our bigger adventures.
Woody’s leads are by Mable and Merryn. Jenny creates the leads by hand and is based in Stithians, Cornwall. She uses hemp, which is a more sustainable material as it’s natural and uses less water compared to other fibres such as cotton. Jenny creates an array of slip and clip leads in a variety of thicknesses to suit all breeds.
Plastic isn’t the only resource negatively impacting the environment. The Fashion industry is the second largest polluter worldwide after oil. Fast Fashion is largely to blame for this shocking statistic, as well as our throwaway culture when it comes to clothes. I highly recommend reading Lucy Siegle’s book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? (affiliate link.) In each chapter, Siegle discusses the impacts of our consumption of clothes. Exploring issues fibre by fibre she uncovers shocking statistics about cotton, leather, wool and a range of manmade materials.
I would also recommend watching The True Cost on Netflix, which explores the human impact of the fast fashion industry. Countless men, women and children work tirelessly in factories to create our clothes for next to no pay. Health and safety protocol are often non-existent, resulting in catastrophic fires, building collapses and tragic deaths each year. Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets explores similar topics and has become a catalyst for change in recent weeks.
One solution and another of our fashion low waste swaps is to shop more sustainably. There are plenty of ways a brand can be sustainable when it comes to clothes, from the fibres they use, paying fair wages to their workers and investing in projects to give back to the environment.
The Distinguished Dog Company sells a variety of accessories for both humans and hounds. I love their Walkies collection, which uses from Earth Positive clothing. The t-shirts and jumpers are made from 100% organic cotton and used renewable energy sources in the production of the garments. If you’re subscribed to my YouTube Channel you’ll know that I wear my jumper almost daily.
I’m also in love with my sea glass jewellery from Cleeglass. Jade creates beautiful bespoke pieces using sustainable sterling silver and pieces of glass that have been weathered and washed up on her local beaches. No two pieces are ever the same, which just adds to the charm. I think it’s an ingenious way of reusing old materials.
Sustainable fashion isn’t always an option, particularly if you’re living on a budget. As much as I love supporting sustainable businesses, sometimes my purse strings just won’t stretch. Fortunately there are more cost-effective low waste swaps for you and your dog, including shopping secondhand.
I love finding hidden treasures in local charity shops. I’ve purchased a significant proportion of my wardrobe secondhand. Woody has had plenty of secondhand pieces himself, including leads, bedding, towels and toys. In fact, when I adopted Woody, he came with a selection of items from his previous owner. Not only did this save me some money, using what we already had saved good quality items from landfill.
One tip I love sharing with dog owners is to buy your tennis balls secondhand. Tennis clubs can’t use them after a while because they lose their bounce. They’re still perfect for games of fetch with your dog though and are often higher quality than the ones you can buy new in pet shops. Another of our best-loved low waste swaps, as you’re saving perfectly usable tennis balls from being dumped in landfill. You can purchase them in bulk from websites such as eBay, as many as 100 at a time. There’s no such thing as too many tennis balls, right?!
Another of our favourite low waste swaps is to find recyclable alternatives to plastic packaging. While most plastic bottles are recyclable in the UK, the majority of bottle caps are not. Zero waste shops are popping up across the country, where you bring your own reusable containers and buy products in bulk. Our local shop is a 10/15 minute drive away. I’m not sure if it’s more sustainable to visit compared to our local supermarket, which is just down the road. Nevertheless, whenever I do shop for food, I try my best to avoid unnecessary plastic and look for more recyclable alternatives instead.
Woody’s been eating Guru’s Surf and Turf Cold Pressed Food for nearly a year now. One of the reasons I swapped his food, aside from his month long hunger strike, was because of the plastic packaging. When you’re buying food in 14+kg bags at at time, it quickly adds up! Guru packages their food in recyclable paper bags. It doesn’t get much better than that and it was an easy swap for us!
Eat Play Bark sell treats in recyclable pots. They’re handmade in Looe, Cornwall, so the food miles are low too. Woody goes crazy for his Eat Play Bark peanut butter bones and it’s reassuring to know that the packaging won’t end up rotting for decades in landfill.
Supporting Small Businesses
I thought I’d save arguably one of the best low waste swaps until last. Supporting small businesses has become incredibly important to me since owning Woody. There are so many awesome people across the UK creating incredible products and services for you and your dog. While they may seem slightly more expensive, I love using my money to support individuals rather than big corporations. I think supporting small businesses through buying their products is great for local economies, as well as the creatives and their families behind the scenes.
Some of my favourite small businesses that I haven’t mentioned yet include:
The Cosy Canine Company, who create beautiful dog walking bags that can be personalised.
Equafleece, who create drying coats for dogs. Woody lives in his during the winter months, it’s a great way of drying him and keeping him clean without having to use a towel!
Cornish Dog Bandanas, a shameless plug I must admit! We create made to order bandanas inspired by our favourite Cornish walks. Creating pieces made to order reduces waste, as we only create the products as and when we need them.
Praise and Paw, a behaviourist and trainer based in Cornwall. Kayleigh provides expert programmes to help you overcome a variety of different problems including aggression, anxiety and poor etiquette.
Let’s Go Canicross, another Cornish based business. Lara and her dog Tilly are passionate about promoting the benefits of running with your dog. They lead workshops in Bude where you can give Canicross a go, try out specialist equipment and receive expert coaching.
What are your tips for reducing you and your dog’s impact on the environment? We’d love to hear your suggestions for low waste swaps in the comments!
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