Dealing with doo… it’s one part of loving a dog!
ICYMI: Part 1 was all about how to dispose of cat litter the “green” way! In part 2, we’re tackling all things dog waste with an emphasis on dog poop because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of it, and it can be a big problem.
Dogs generate a lot of waste.
Let’s start with urine: Think about all the wild animals going in the wild… that stuff gets filtered through the ground and run into natural water supplies… which is one reason why you generally shouldn’t drink water straight from a natural source, but before we get further off-topic the main point with urine is there’s an issue with quantity.
Dogs kill plants and grass largely because of how much they pee, not because of the pH of their urine. We want plants to thrive to mitigate the myriad other environmental problems, so when it comes to dog urine, the best offense truly is a good defense.
Here are 3 environmentally-friendly ways to manage dog urine:
- Plant hardier grass. The same goes for plants, shrubs, and trees. Find varieties that can withstand the onslaught. They might take longer to root, but it’ll be worth it long term.
- Pick a pee spot. Train your dog to go in one place consistently. Here’s a tutorial on the training basics. Then, you can craft this space to be environmentally responsible with specific plants or special gravel to filter the urine. This also comes in handy with managing poop, which we’ll get to in a minute!
- “Dilution is the solution to pollution.” Trite, yes, and over-simplified, sure. And, in this case, it works. Water where your dog goes to dilute the urine. Piece of cake if you have a pee spot! This is also a great chance to use up your gray water if you have dog bowls you empty out, leftover suds from washing your pup in a basin, and so on.
So, you have your pup’s pee under control! Way to go! Now, let’s move on to the bigger issue…
Eco-Friendly Solutions to Dog Poop
OK, so dogs poop. Well, everybody does, but not everybody goes outdoors. Or in the quantities that dogs do. In fact, the quantity issue is a big one (pun only sorta intended).
Because there are a LOT of dogs in the world, and–if trained properly and not medically restricted–they all go outside. A lot. And, if left behind, dog poop contaminates groundwater. And, if picked up in a plastic bag, dog poop sits encased in plastic in some landfill for all eternity.
So, there are three main disposal options to cover with some pros and cons of each: composting dog poop, throwing it away, or flushing it. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Is dog poop compostable?
If you’re a composter (yay! go, you!) you’re probably bristling about the idea of tossing in dog poop. Here’s the thing: Dog poop is compostable BUT it needs special treatment. You definitely don’t want to scoop the poop and toss it on your regular compost pile. Dog poop contains pathogens that can contaminate a regular pile that you don’t want to then use in your garden.
Instead, there are two good ways to compost dog poop:
- Purchase a specific pet waste composter. You dig a big hole, “plant” the system, then you add your dog’s poop and a digester to break it all down. A few key points: It needs to be buried far from any edible gardens, and it needs to be far from natural water sources. That makes it challenging for many people because it requires a specific yard. However, it’s quick, easy, and effective once installed.
- DIY composting. This PDF from the USDA has literally everything you need to start composting dog waste, including some of the risks, a ton of additional tips, and even a printable tracking sheet to monitor your compost pile. Even though their thorough advice provides everything you need to know, it’s important to remember that this compost still can’t be used on crops meant for consumption. This is just for soil, decorative beds, and so on.
Can you flush dog poop?
According to the EPA, flushing dog poop might just be the most eco-friendly way to handle it. However, there are concerns about wastewater treatment plants not being able to process the pathogens found in dog poop. The EPA says dog poop is no worse than human poop, so there’s that.
I strongly suggest you Google your town’s policies or give ’em a call. I googled my county’s policies, and they actually had a fact sheet readily available that suggested flushing the poop (their top suggestion) or burying it in your yard with specific instructions on how to do it. Barring those options, the third recommendation was to scoop and toss.
Of course, there is a drawback: You can’t flush the bag, so you either need to scoop it into a bag on your walk, then dump it into the toilet to flush (and toss the bag, of course) or scoop it from your yard in toilet tissue, which… could be… problematic for the handler.
Biodegradable poop bags FTW?
So, what about scooping in a biodegradable bag to toss?
That’s a better option certainly than scooping in a plastic bag where it’ll just sit forever in a landfill, but… it might not be much better.
In fact, several years ago the FTC warned of mislabeled poop bags citing 20 manufacturers for labeling bags as biodegradable that weren’t.
Bottom line: Biodegradable poop bags are a convenient option, which sometimes you just need. If you’re out backpacking or walking or visiting friends, you might not be in a position to compost or flush the waste. In those cases, a biodegradable bag made from corn is the best possible solution. And, TBH, it’s the one we rely on in our house.
A few other things to consider:
- Accidents. They happen. Even if it’s not a poop or pee accident, dogs puke. So, how do you deal with indoor messes? Follow the same protocol as outlined above, but be sure to use tree-free paper towels for clean-up. Then, make sure to clean up any mess left behind with something safe for your pets and the planet.
- Your city might help. Progressive cities and states offer solutions for eco-friendly dog lovers. Check out this list to see if your state or town is represented or call up your city council (that’s what they’re there for) to ask.
- Volunteer. Animal shelters generate lots of waste. Sign up to walk dogs (or scoop litter boxes) and ask if it’s OK to bring your eco-friendly poop bags!
- Be the poop fairy! Make a tremendous difference in the health of your local groundwater supply by picking up errant poop you spot while out walking. I make an effort to scan the area where my dog goes for extra piles while I have a bag open (there’s always at least one, unfortunately).