A friend asked me about pets up here – she said she was reading this blog when her cat interrupted her by scratching around in its kitty litter, which made her wonder how the heck you would deal with pet-related-things if you were trying to live waste-free.
This is a very good topic. I don’t have any pets, so I can’t personally speak to the solutions, but here’s what I’ve heard:
On dog poop: There is a school of thought that asserts people should NOT pick up their dog-poo with little plastic baggies and put them in the trash – that in fact, your dog’s excrement is much better off being rained into the ground and becoming part of the natural cycle of things (or being baked dry and crunched into dusty smithereens). This is an interesting point, but when I’m walking on a sidewalk in the city or trail-running in a park and my foot lands in a pile, I really don’t see anything naturally cyclic or life-giving about it.
There is a more community-friendly alternative, if you happen to have a small piece of land (I’m talking 4 square feet). You can get a “solar cone” which is an airtight, insulated, cone-shaped composter. It comes in two pieces – a perforated basket that you dig into a hole in the ground (surrounded by chicken wire if you have a local tunnelling rodent population); and a top cone whose lower lip also gets buried a few inches underground. The airtight lid on the top of the cone allows you to dispose of typically non-compostable waste like cooked and raw meats, bones, dairy, cooked breads & veggies and … pet poop. Once the basket is full and the contents sufficiently decayed, you dis-assemble the cone, dump the basket contents into the hole, fill it in, and make a new hole. Your cone may only need to be moved after several years, depending on the water content of the waste you put in it.
On pet food: There’s a lot to say about pet food and waste. There’s the conversation about the trashy contents of most pet food, and how if you really really love your pets you will either spend lots of money on higher quality food, or even make your own.
I’ve got two northern examples for you on ways to avoid paying the very very very expensive price (financial and health-related) of manufactured pet food in the North.
When I asked about these two seal that had been sitting below the high tide line for at least 8 hours, I was told that
bearded (actually Harp seal, thx for the edit, Clare) with dairy-cow like patterned fur as opposed to the favoured ring seal with lovely spotted fur, are only good for dog food. [the person who told me this was not looking at the seals, which brings me to wonder which seal it is that he thought was "only good for dog food - harp or bearded?] Some people feed their sled-dogs with seal. That’s pretty low waste – a couple of spent bullets and less fuel in the outboard than is used to fly bags of dry food made in Asia up from Ottawa.
If you’re more of a lover than a hunter, you can do what Ms. Muise in Qikitarjuaq does for her lucky dogs: make your own dog food! Keep an eye on that blog for more experiments in canine cuisine.
How do you deal with pet-related trash?