Can You Have A Dog and be Zero Waste?

Can You Have A Dog and be Zero Waste?

My husband and I have been wondering about adopting a dog for a long while. The shelters are full of unwanted animals, and we felt that we now have the energy, time and space to give one a loving home. Having never had a dog before (the only pet I had as a kid was a hamster) I wasn’t sure what the reality would be.

How do you prepare for something you’ve never done before, and make such a commitment?

Then we came across greyhound fostering and adoption. Despite greyhound racing being banned in many countries across the world, it is very much happening in Australia (New South Wales announced recently that they will be banning it – it is being appealed, of course). Greyhounds are overbred to increase the selection pool, and bred solely to run fast. Those that aren’t fast enough, or won’t chase, are disposed of. In fact, 17,000 healthy dogs are killed ever year in Australia.

Greyhound rescue charities exist to try to take some of these dogs and rehome them. Some more conscientious trainers will arrange for charities to take unwanted dogs; other times it is the vets that pass these dogs on to spare them. These rescue organisations don’t have kennels of their own so the dogs go straight from the racing kennels to foster families.

Sometimes there is less than 24 hours notice that a dog will be needing a new home.

My husband and I decided that fostering a greyhound might be a good way to see if our home and our lifestyle is suitable for a dog. We have a small fenced-in yard that wouldn’t suit a lot of dogs, but greyhounds (surprisingly) don’t need much space. They need walking, of course, but 30 minutes a day is adequate. They are indoor dogs as they feel the cold.

They are different to other rescue dogs in that they are used to human contact and other dogs (although, only other greyhounds). They are gentle, calm and unfazed by most things, plus they are toilet-trained.

It happened really fast. We called to say we’d installed a gate so our yard was secure, but we still had a few things to source – like a bed, food bowls and food. The next thing was, they called to say they had a dog and we could expect him the next day. I’m sure you can never be totally prepared, but my, did I feel woefully underprepared!

Hans arrived at 6pm last Tuesday. He’s 3 and a half, so we think he’s been racing for 18 months. We don’t know much else about him. He’s calm, placid and settled in quickly.

Of course, I want to keep things as waste-free as I can. But is it possible?

Hans Greyhound RescueHans Side ViewHans

Is it possible to have a dog and be zero waste?

Bedding, Bowls and Toys

Zero waste and plastic-free living is important to me. I’ve spent the last 4 years living like this, and I can’t just undo it or not think about it. Even the idea of buying things new really stresses me out, let alone wrapped in or made from plastic.

We’d hoped to source the food bowls second-hand and use a second-hand cot mattress for the bed, but there were none on Gumtree at the time and with less than a day to find something, we had to buy new. We found 100% stainless steel bowls (one water, one food) and a mattress covered with hessian, which I could replace with upcycled hessian coffee bags if need be (our local cafe sell their old ones).

We’re using old bedding on the mattress to extend its life – the bedding is washable, whereas the mattress isn’t. Fortunately none of these things came with extra packaging.

We found a toy made from 100% rubber, but all the soft toys were polyester. It is possible to buy natural ones on the internet, but after being given a soft toy by a colleague we’ve discovered that any soft toy will not be worth the investment – it will be gone in 5 minutes! Greyhounds don’t really play, so we’re not too worried.

Dealing with Dog Poo

I built a dog poo worm farm in the back yard using a white “builder’s bucket” donated to me by my local bulk food store (it previously had washing powder in it). Worms will eat dog poo provided there is no other food in there.

I won’t be adding the castings to my veggies but it will break down into nutrients and go back into the soil – better than the bin. It’s safe to do, and I have plenty of friends with dogs that do this. (Here are the instructions if you’re interested in how to make a DIY dog poo worm farm – I realise it’s a niche area!)

Digging In DIY Dog Poo Worm Farm
White “builder’s bucket” with the bottom cut out, dug into the ground with 2 inches showing on top.
Worms for DIY Dog Poo Worm Farm
Adding worms, and shredded paper to the dog poo worm farm.
DIY Dog Poo Worm Farm
The finished dog poo worm farm. If I could be bothered I could paint the lid – I could even stand a plant on top. It could be very discrete : )

I pick up the waste with newspaper. If we’re out and about I can put in dog poo bins – there are a couple close by – and we are lucky that the domestic waste in our suburb actually gets put through an industrial composter.

In fact, as Hans had worming tablets when he came, I can’t use the worm farm for two weeks, so I’ve been putting it here. No, I’m not keeping it for my waste jar!

Food and Treats

The lady that placed Hans with us brought dog food with her, so it was one less thing to worry about. At least, it should have been. But I’ve realised that as someone who doesn’t buy meat because I don’t want to support industrial agriculture, I’m going to struggle with this.

I’m also going to struggle with the packaging, and the “processed” nature of dog food.

Kangaroo meat is a possibility here as it isn’t farmed, it’s wild. But do I want to cook and handle it myself? I’m aware that dogs have thrived on vegetarian and vegan diets but it takes sound management and doesn’t work for all of them. Racing dogs are often fed cereal (cornflakes and Weetabix) with milk for breakfast, and pasta for dinner -greyhounds will eat most things. But should they?

They need a complete food, and to be healthy. A local bulk store is looking into stocking dog kibble – it will contain meat but there will be no packaging. Lots of options, but none are perfect.

I don’t have the answer, but I have enough kibble here to spend some time looking into this further.

The Stuff I Didn’t Think About

After three sleepless nights, we learned that leaving the light and radio on overnight is necessary to maintain calm. I am someone who never leaves unnecessary lights on! Whilst I know that it’s negligible in terms of waste, it still stresses me a little, and it’s another adjustment I have to make.

I also didn’t expect to be thrown into a whole new world. The last week has been eye-opening, stressful…and emotional. I’m not talking about my lifestyle now, I’m talking about the world of greyhounds, and greyhound rescuers. To have met so many people who are completely dedicated to saving these beautiful animals has been humbling.

They open up their homes and give up their weekends to try to find forever homes for these dogs.

They are all volunteers. They are doing everything in their power to save as many animals as they can.

Whatever my personal dilemmas are about waste, ethical living and sustainability, clearly none of this is Hans’, or any other greyhounds’ fault. They are part of a broken system that breeds dogs simply to make money and provide entertainment for a few, and then discards them when they no longer perform.

I’d never really given greyhound racing much thought before, but having seen and read what I have in the last ten days, I’m appalled. For all the dogs that are rescued, many more won’t be. In Australia, it’s estimated 50% of dogs are destroyed. I hope that the NSW greyhound racing ban remains, and that it is the start of the end for racing dogs in Australia.

Stuff shouldn’t be wasted. Resources shouldn’t be wasted. Lives shouldn’t be wasted, either.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever fostered or rescued a dog before? What was your experience? Do you have any tips to share? Are you trying to live plastic-free or zero waste with a pet, and what have your successes been? What about your dilemmas and struggles? Are you vegetarian or vegan with a pet, and how have you made your choices regarding the food you give them? Did you know about the reality of the greyhound racing industry before, or was it something that you never considered? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

81 Responses to Can You Have A Dog and be Zero Waste?

  1. We feed our dogs, at least partly, on raw organic minced offal, If you can find a local organic butcher, whey are likely to be happy to sell it to you as there’s little demand by humans. In the UK one alternative is wild rabbit since they are shot as pests.

    • I think feeding dogs and other animals meat that isn’t desired by humans (like offal, chicken necks etc) is a good compromise. I think kangaroo meat is the Australian equivalent of your rabbit – they are shot as pests, I think it is regulated by the government. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Hans is so beautiful thanks for sharing. We have 2 rescue dogs 1 rescue cat 1 rescue rat and 4 chooks (i tried rescue chooks but they didnt lay then got sick and died). Honestly i have failed in this area. I spend so much time trying to reduce waste personally i have struggled with the pets. I tried buying kangaroo mince and cooking with pasta/veges but my two xlarge breed dogs eat so much i found i didn’t have the time to keep up. I was exhausted and if i am too hard on myself i get depressed so this is the area i have stopped stressing about. I dont know where to buy dry dog food without wrapping. If u find somewhere let us know!! Then there is the regular worming, de-fleaing which comes in packages. Please let us know how you go with this because i hope to learn from your experiences. Thanks, Linley

    • Pets don’t need regular worm treatments, only when they are a puppy, very sick or pregnant; just when they are vulnerable.
      There are good combs to catch flees if your dog has problems with it. Avoid the poison!

    • Thanks for your comment Linley! I’m still unsure on cooking food – I need more time to read up on it, and our freezer isn’t very big, and I don’t want to be doing it all the time. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could make, blend and dehydrate into biscuits?! Not that I have a dehydrator but isn’t that what the pet food people must do? Or bake it, even. Anyways, small steps at a time!

      The Wasteless Pantry will be stocking pet food. They’re thinking about going with Black Hawk, and thought it might be available from 4th August when I spoke to Amanda – but it wasn’t confirmed. I’d be interested to know whether they are still buying the 20kg bags or getting an even bigger wholesale one – of they are I’d buy it there.

      When Hans arrived he came with flea treatment, worm tablets and painkillers but I think they were all in a ziplock bag – they must have split a bigger pack. They had 6 foster dogs they’d placed so maybe that’s why. As we live in the city and he’s indoors a lot, and not in the bush when outdoors I presume we’ll have less need to worry about these things than if you have a big bush block?

      I will be sure to keep you updated! : )

      • Thanks! I will be sure to ask wasteless pantry next time im there. Yup lots of fleas up here in the bush, and they can be horribly irritating for our boys. Picking out the adults never get the eggs so we do resort to treatments. Best of luck with Hans and enjoy the company. Animals are so good for physical and mental wellbeing.

  3. Gosh I didn’t know quite how bad the greyhound racing dogs have it, those stats are horrible!
    My good friends adopted an ex racer and he was beautiful, surprisingly calm and gentle for a big dog.
    I’ve never even considered a worm farm for my cat, what a great idea! I assume cats are similar to dogs and it will work the same but I’ll do a bit more research :)

    • I don’t know if it’s like that everywhere Amy, but I found it quite alarming. I don’t think WA has the same issues as NSW and Queensland, but to be honest I know very little about it all. And some of the reports I’ve seen about Florida…

      I think cat faeces are more dangerous than dogs (although what that means I’m not sure) but I can’t see why not, as long as you put it away from anything you’ll eat. I have a friend who composts hers and has for years. Let me know what you discover Amy!

      • Cat feces can carry toxoplasmosis, which is highly toxic to humans (this is why pregnant women shouldn’t even change cat litter boxes!). You need to be careful with dog waste as well, but the worm farm system (which looks to me like a fancy spin on the classic digester or green cone) is responsible as long as you’re not growing food next to it. Cat waste I would suggest to treat with at LEAST as much caution. However, if you have birds, guinea pigs, rats, hamsters, rabbits, etc. – their waste should be fine to put through your regular composting system and put the finished product on a food garden. If you’re not sure? Check whether your pet species has diseases that are zoonotic – that is, transmissible to humans. (For example, I believe you would need to exercise caution with some reptiles due to the risk of salmonella).

    • I have an ensopet waste system (like the worm farm but with the bokashi mix) for my cats. Unfortunately it can’t cope with the amount of litter we go through (we use the recycled newspaper pellets).
      I do add the poo I find in the garden, but it’s not enough to maintain the system.
      Instead we have a newspaper lined bucket we put in the waste bin. It’s the best we can do, without having a big garden to dig the waste in all the time.

  4. Congratulations on your new baby Lindsay!

    A friend of mine fosters Greyhounds and all the dogs he has had are just normal everyday dogs.

    I’m Vegan but I think caution is required feeding a dog a Vegan diet.

    I get wet dog food from Homestyle Petfoods
    They deliver to the door (I get mine every fortnight). The 1.5 kg and 4 kg come in re-useable plastic tubs. I just put out the clean empties on delivery day.
    The owner’s name is Mike and his number is 0419 969 846.

    Wasteless Pantry were trying to source dog biscuits but I don’t think they had any luck.

    • Thanks for your comment! I saw a vegan dog food developed in conjunction with a professor at Murdoch Uni Professor, and thought it sounded interesting, but I don’t know enough about it. I agree, you need to know what you’re doing, and how to tell if your dog is struggling – and these are things I wouldn’t know.

      Thanks for sharing the link. I was advised to feed dogs dry food as it’s better for their teeth by a vet, but goodness, it makes their breath stink!

      I spoke to Jeannie from Wasteless Pantry as she seemed to think they’d have dry food from August! Fingers crossed…

  5. It has been such an enriching experience to have animals in our lives! Our little Pip (Border Collie x Corgi) is a rescue dog. We cook large batches of food for her (rice, offal/mince/or something like chicken necks, diced carrots) and freeze in week-sized portions, defrosting as needed. This is supplemented with some dry biscuits, and her “treats” are dried animal bits which are sold in bulk without packaging. Her favourite toys have been rubber bouncey balls, any old stick that she finds on the ground, or “raggy”, which is usually a knotted strand of old socks or clothing that can be chucked into the washing when required. With a little sewing ability one can create other toys, bedding, or protective garments from second-hand clothing. If anyone knows of a source for bulk dry biscuits, please share!

    • I was going to ask you what you do about food Debra! Although I assume you have far more freezer space than I ; ) I was also wondering – how do you cook chicken necks? I went to the butcher to look at them and was weirded out! Apparently dogs can eat them raw but a few people told me they can also choke on them – not so keen on that.

      Ooooh, love the idea of socks. Hans has tried to kill the two soft toys (donated by Glen’s work colleague) but he is partial to a sock. Except he saw my black socks the day after he tried to kill the black mouse soft toy, and almost tried to kill my socks! Maybe underpants are better! ; p

      Mundaring Pantry are looking into bulk biscuits. I’ll let you know!

  6. Whilst I think we should all strive to be Zero Waste- life is about balance. From the tone of your post, it sounds like you are getting far too stressed out about the minutiae. You just need to chill and enjoy your new pet. This world is not perfect and neither are we. Honestly, I think there are more important things to worry about! I buy the largest sacks of cat biscuits I can (10kg) and recycle the packages. My cats both have different health needs (one has persistent hairballs and the other has IBS) and top brand, veterinary food is the only thing that keeps them well. Even if they did’t need that – I would be extremely concerned that my pets weren’t getting the right nutrition if I cooked them food from scratch. Let alone the time, effort and expense it would take! We bought them wicker baskets that should last a lifetime and cushions can be washed, recovered and replaced. They don’t need fancy bedding or mattresses- get some old duvets or towels from Freecycle!

    • Haha, it’s not so much about getting stressed out – I just thought it was interesting that things I hadn’t thought about came up. Little things like leaving the light on – when you’ve conditioned yourself to never leave a light on, it just feels a little strange! Most people wouldn’t even notice or think about this stuff – but I did!

      Of course, if I truly cared about achieving 100% zero waste I wouldn’t have considered fostering a dog at all. I completely agree, life is all about balance : )

      From what I’ve read it seems that dogs are more adaptive and more likely to thrive on home-cooked food than cats. That said, you are right that it is a lot of time and effort! But I do care where the food I buy comes from, and i guess that extends to animals. I never had to think about it before. But if I believe we shouldn’t grow mass produced chemical laden food or industrially farm animals, can I then justify feeding that to a dog? I don’t know the answer. I do know that lots of things that are very healthy for dogs (carrot, sweet potato) are easy to grow here, so it is an option to explore.

      I totally agree with you about the bedding. We had some spare towels were but I will be visiting the op shop should I need to buy more! No need for “pet” ones : )

      • Yes, dogs are omnivores and you can get them to survive on a vegetarian/vegan diet, but cats are obligate carnivores and unless you’re committed to supplementation and regular urine testing, it is irresponsible to try to make THEM vegetarian or vegan!

  7. We have a rescue dog, who we initially fostered, but then didn’t want to see her go. She is such a beautiful dog, we are lucky to be her forever family.
    We are yet to find a plastic free solution for all her food. She has kangaroo mince ( in plastic pre portioned from pet store) then offal and sometimes chicken from the butcher that is plastic free. She doesn’t get dog biscuits any more. She also has eggs , all her meat is raw and she gets the stalk from broccoli, cauliflower cooked with some other veggies that may not get eaten by the humans.

    Congratulations on being a foster parent, dogs are so wonderful. Our dog was my first as an adult.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Izzy, and for sharing your experiences. I’ve heard eggs are good, and even grinding up egg shells is good for them. I’m not willing to give up broccoli stalks though – I want to eat them myself!

      it has been such a rewarding experience so far : )

  8. We have a rescue dog, too. We used to have two, but the other one passed away last year. I’m very happy (and a little bit of sad, too) to hear you are fostering this beautiful animal. I’m sure you’ll get along very well, after he’s all settled down and all that. I have struggled with the feeding thing as well, being a vegan it’s not easy to support the industry but at the moment I don’t know what else to do. Our dog absolutely refuses to eat vegan food that’s available here, he’s okay with the moist vegan food but I can’t afford to feed him only that. We go for long walks daily and the poop is an issue, too. So far I haven’t been into collecting the waste with newspaper and carrying that around (there are areas where there are no public bins for waste anywhere near, so sometimes I have to carry it for a while. Ew.) but we’ve semi-solved the problem by asking my mom to save us her small plastic bags (from bread and fruit and such. I’ve tried to get her to use produce bags that I made for her, but she never remembers to take them with her/or she doesn’t feel like doing so.) and we also collect small plastic bags off of the floors at the supermarket fruit and veggies section (hahah! We’re weird! I know.) . They would throw those away anyway, so we use them to pick up the dog poop. :) I’ve thought about asking stores to collect those and setting aside a bin where other pet owners could take them as well. But so far I haven’t done that.
    We also have a rescue rabbit and that’s actually really helpful – I get to have vegan fertiliser to my garden! It’s really difficult to find vegan fertilizer, but now our rabbit keeps our garden lush! :) I buy his hey and straw in bales, but they come wrapped in plastic though. We don’t have a car and I need to ask friends to get me the hey so for the sake of their cars I need to keep having it in plastic, otherwise I could ask to have it plastic-free. I’ve been looking for his pellets in bulk but haven’t found any so far. :( Same with the dog food. I’m really new to this plastic-free lifestyle, but learning new tricks along the way.
    I really liked this blog post. :)

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Raisa! I feel like Hans would eat vegan food if I offered it to him, he seems to eat anything, but I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do, and it comes it fairly small and overpackaged portions.

      I love you stealing the plastic bags off the floor! That is exactly the kind of thing I’d do! I find the newspaper works fine, I use the middle and then hold the four corners and it stays intact. But I don’t have to carry it very far ; )

      Soy bean meal is a very good substitute for blood and bone for your garden as a vegan alternative. And kelp is another good soil amendment. We have a friend with a cow, so I plan to get manure from them. I feel better about this than the commercially bought stuff.

  9. feed mills rather than pet shops ma be more likely to have bulk dog food or at least in largest bags. feed mill straw and hay won’t be plastic wrapped. the ties will may be plastic, but are sturdy and can be reused. I only need an annual bale of straw to mulch my garden, so I put a blanket in the back of my car when I get it to keep down the mess.
    I have cooked for large dogs long term with brown rice, greens, chopped carrots, and offal. they still got some kibble. dog treats were either a sort of peanut butter cookie or an oatmeal/dried fruit cookie.
    your new family member is a lucky guy.

    • Hi Emmer, there is a pet warehouse kinda store near us (they don’t sell actual pets! Just the stuff they need) called City Farmers which seems to stock all the 20kg bags, so if I do need to buy in packaging, I think this is a good compromise. I think I will look into the home cooking at some point – but right now it’s all so new!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  10. Hi Lindsay,

    Hans is gorgeous <3

    We have two rescue dogs which I've been transitioning to a vegan diet – I put it off for soooo long because I was stressed about not being able to meet all their nutritional needs, but it's not as scary as it seems :) In the past, my husband would take an empty tub to our local "K9 deli" and get it filled with fresh meat for them, which was a good way to reduce waste.

    They're now getting home cooked meals at night and a cup of dry food in the morning… I picked up Vegan "Biopet" dry food which is nutritionally complete. Of course it comes in bags… The bags can be recycled, but this may not solve your problem! I've also found The Vegan Dog Book useful – it has a heap of recipes in it (cooked meals, dry food & biscuit treats!), so you could look into making your own dry food if you have the time & storage space.

    Re: Toys
    When we hired a dog trainer a lonnnnng time ago, he suggested making a toy out of old socks. One big sock stuffed with scrunched up socks with a shoelace or something like that to tie it up at the end. It's a "special" toy that only comes out for dedicated fetch/play time (e.g. not left around the house all the time). The smell of the socks was apparently good for our bonding with the new adoptee, and she seemed to really love it. Sounds kinda silly but it's a good use for holey old socks!!

    Nat x

    • Thanks for sharing this Nat! I’m really interested to explore this further so hearing about others’ experiences has been really helpful! Thanks for sharing the book – I’ll look it up!

      Debra mentioned sock toys earlier in the comments – Hans does have a thing for socks so maybe this will work! Plus I love the upcycling of it !

  11. I’m a vegan and feed my poodle a vegan diet; cooked root veg and grated raw vege and I brush his teeth instead of bones. Since the plastic challenge l collect his poo with paper towel. His bed is anyone’s bed that he can sleep on…. dogs are companions and love to be near us. He still drinks out of plastic bowl that l intend to change. Grey hounds are beautiful.

  12. Hmm. I think you’re overthinking it. Since I don’t want to overthink it, here are my first impressions:

    1. Even if you are zero-waste at home, bulk food often comes in plastic – it’s just bigger and you don’t have to take it home. Pet food often comes in very large bags too, the main difference being that you have to deal with the bag at the end rather than the bulk food store dealing with it.

    2. If you’re worried about leaving a light on overnight, compensate in other ways. Use a knife or pestle and mortar instead of a food processor, for instance. However, if the light needs to be left on for peace, then isn’t it as necessary as any other light you need on? It may not be you who is using the light, but it is still a member of the family who needs it on, right?

    3. As for the meat… you own a dog, not a rabbit. Try to go as waste free as you can with it, sure, but don’t fret about giving an animal what it needs. At least find a vet asap and talk to them about what the dog needs before making any decisions.

    Finally, with the greyhound racing… my dad raced greyhounds when I was growing up. It’s sad to me that greyhound racing as a whole has been labelled as bad when it’s no different to any other industry – there are good guys and bad guys. It’s not fair to tar everyone with the same brush.

    • Hope, if you knew me you’d know that I’m a serial overthinker! ; ) That said, I just want to share my experience, feelings and thoughts.

      The food issue is not just about the plastic. I don’t buy processed food for myself – how do I feel about buying it for a dog? Should I make my own? What about choosing meat? I’m interested to what others think about this. I have no doubt I’ll find my own way but it is good to have the feedback of others with far more experience than I!

      I’m not worried about leaving the light on – I guess I wanted to make the point that there are lots of little things that I hadn’t thought about, but I’ve noticed. I’m sure lots of other people wouldn’t notice. I agree with what you say – it is necessary! Some adjustments are big, and others are minor. Having a whole other life to look after is a big responsibility!

      I won’t be making any decisions without finding out everything I can! Again, it’s good to hear what other people think. I’m new to this, remember : )

      I hear what you’re saying. Clearly the owners that work with the foster charities to re-home their dogs are doing the best they can, and all the foster dogs I’ve seen locally have been in good health so these are the good guys. But any industry that generates so much waste will always make me sad…

      Thanks so much for your comment Hope! It’s great to hear another perspective : )

  13. Dogs are pack animals and if Hans was used to sleeping with other Greyhounds at night this may be why he was stressed at night. Does he sleep where he can see you? A lot of people shut their dogs in the kitchen at night but letting them sleep where they can see you is often all they need to settle. Congratulations on giving a rescue dog a loving home. He will enrich you ;-)

    • Thanks for your comment Suzel! Yes, greyhounds aren’t used to sleeping alone and it’s a bit of an adjustment. They recommend putting them in a small area with a gate to start with as big spaces can stress them (they are used to sleeping in a crate). After the first five days we removed the gate so he is now free to wander about – but the light helps stop him bumping into stuff! He’s quite happy with his corner and settling in : )

  14. WE feed our dogs sweet potatoes and kangaroo. There is a pet food supplier on South St, O’Connor where we buy the roo. It is sold in 1kg packs. As they package it themselves they may be willing to sell it to you if you take your own container along. We cook it up on a ratio of about 2kg cubed sweet potato to 1kg roo, in water. Dogs are designed to eat meat so vegan diets are not really ideal. The downside of feeding them a moist diet is that they have nothing to gnaw and clean their teeth, so they need bones or something similar. Our dogs do not have smelly breath or deathly f…ts. Having said all that our dogs are a smaller breed and greyhounds may be very different. A good vet will advise you.
    Dogs in Perth must take heartworm tablets, the alternative is not what you want for your pet.
    If you give your dog socks to play with please be sure he does not eat them as they can cause blockages.

    • Thanks for this Janene – I really appreciate all the tips! I need to go to a butchers and have a chat about kangaroo – we have a few local to here so I’m hoping one will stock it. Do you add anything else or just kangaroo and sweet potato?

      A question about heartworm tablets – how often do they need to take them, and is it more prevalent at certain times of the year?

      Noted about the socks ; )

      Thanks so much for this!

      • Hi Lindsay. We just place the diced kangaroo (1kg)in a large pot, add peeled and diced sweet potato (2kg approx) and sufficient water to cook. This was recommended when we thought our dog was allergic to some processed food. They liked it so we have continued. We do also feed our dogs chicken, veg and rice. We cook just over 2 cups brown rice,add 4 chicken thigh fillets (diced) and about 2 cups frozen mixed veg (peas, corn, carrots). We then freeze in meal portions. As this is a pretty soft food diet they also need something hard to clean teeth, eg a bone.

        Heartworm – can be given yearly with vacs by the vet (cheapest way I think) or monthly as chews or tablets. Our dogs love the chews so we do it that way.
        I think it is great that you have adopted a greyhound. A family member of mine has also adopted two ex-racers and they are much loved family now. I find it interesting that greyhounds struggle to sit due to their body shape. Enjoy your new pet.

  15. Our Rescue has an extreemly sensitive stomach so bought dog biscuits are what she is on.

    We choose to buy in the largest bulk package we can, and then we use the coles soft plastic recycling system to recycle it… Not a perfect solution, but we are still new and working on our zero waste balance.

    The bags are also useful to fill with any other soft plastic that slips through the gaps.

  16. I have 3 guinea pigs and even though they are tiny the produce a lot of waste. There’s the wood shavings (which come in plastic bags), which I want to change to fleece bedding. Then there’s all the poo – which I need to check for my worm farm. Finally, the food: whilst carrots, peppers and cucumbers come package free, lettuce doesn’t and it’s difficult to source. Having a pet definitely adds to the zero waste challenge but it’s worth it :)

  17. We struggle with cat food. Cats should really only eat meat & fish, so I struggle with this and spend extra money on organic free range to make me feel better about the animals they came from. Also too much offal can lead to problems, so we have to weigh up with lean meat (adding to demand) . The only dry cat food that is not in plastic, but in a cardboard box, is very unhealthy. It is like junk food for cats. I had 1 can allergic to the preservatives they put in this food and the kangaroo meat for pets. We have another cat who is sensitive to the preservatives and additives in this junk food, and a 3rd we are struggling with keeping her weight down, and this food is higher in calories. Also trying to get 1 cat to eat anything other than dry food is a big problem (they just don’t eat and fill up on grass, then throw it up…) :(
    If there is any local cat food manufacturer that would supply their food in bulk it would be brilliant. I will have to ask the bulk food store

    • also, the Lort Smith Animal Hospital put out a recipe book a few years ago. It’s got lots of great ideas for making food and treats at home for all pets: “nibble munch chomp” by Dr Sasha Herbert. There are recipes for vegetarian muffins for dogs!

    • Thanks for sharing this Sarah. I’ve read that about cats. At least I can feed Hans pumpkin and apple and know that it is good for him! This is a whole new world to me…and not one I really want to be exploring! It’s less a case of “what is the most ethical and sustainable” and more a case of “what is the least bad”?!

      A bulk store here is now stocking bulk cat and dog biscuits. So it is possible! : )

  18. What about a couple of night lights for Hans? U r doing a wonderful thing. U could buy bulk kangaroo meat from a butcher or pet food bulk supplier. Cook it up & add cereal & veg/pasta. Freeze in meal sized portions. Your worm farm has inspired me.

    • Hi Kate, thanks for your comment! We have a ceramic lamp in the living room so we’ve been using that – so much so that the bulb blew!

      I’m still to get the meat sorted. I went to our local butcher but they don’t do kangaroo – he did have some bones he said I could have, but one thing at a time! There’s another one in the area, so I will check that out at the weekend.

      The worm farm is going well – except Hans prefers to go at the dog park, and I have to carry it home!

  19. Congratulations on your foster! He looks absolutely gorgeous!

    I have way too many tips to share for a comment box, so let me know if you’d like to chat over email/facebook, or maybe even over a Wasteless Pantry date (I’ll be going to the next Mundaring markets).

    It’s coming up to 2 years since we adopted our mystery rescue – strongly suspect she’s a greyhound cross. After having her in our lives I would definitely consider adopting an ex-racer. She has changed our lives in so many ways and we love her to bits. The first year was tough though. Massive learning curve and a huge adjustment, especially to my low-waste values! I’ve dealt with this through compromises and not beating myself up over all the extra plastic. But I know that won’t be good enough for you, soo…

    Bedding & toys: Op shops!! Sophie is snoozing away on an old lambswool doona of mine inside a $2 quilt cover. She has quilt covers and baby blankets from Sammy’s. And she has a (swap meet purchased) basket overflowing with $1 op shop toys. I even find dog toys there, including treat toys. Many toys can be DIY too.

    Leads, collars, brushes, etc – I’ve only sold these secondhand but I’d suggest facebook groups, such as Perth Doggy Playdates (great resource for everything dog-related).

    Food: Look into the health impacts of kibble. I only use it as treats, so I buy 2-3 huge bags a year. The rest is meats, organs, fish and soft bones. I compromise and get these in plastic bags from butchers, but some are willing to put it in your own containers. Sophie gets an egg a day (whole, raw) – great for a shiny coat and plastic-free! She also LOVES fruit and veg but she’s special that way. I got a secondhand dehydrator for making my own treats out of offal, meat and fresh produce.

    Dogs are actually great recyclers. Mine gets all the veggie scraps I don’t want and eats all the animal parts that humans are fussy about. Scraps and bones and veggies get cooked up into nutritious broth that I portion up and freeze; all the bit that I sieve out go to compost.

    Dogs do result in more waste and more energy consumption, especially if they have any issues like anxiety! (my gosh that’s hard to deal with! Plenty more advice to offer on that one).
    But the alternative is they get put down or they get owned by someone more wasteful than you. And they’re still more eco-friendly than a human child ;)

    Good on you for taking on Hans. I’m sure he’s very happy with you!

    • Hi Anna, thank you so much for all of this info! : ) I’d love to meet up sometime – I don’t think any other dog owner I’ve met so far gets the eco thing. The guys at the dog park are most confused I use newspaper rather than the readily available plastic bags. And as for then taking it home with me…!

      I’ll have to check out the charity shops. We don’t go to them often (we don’t need to buy anything and that stops impulse purchases) but we should have a look! I’d love to get him a coat second-hand (and not made out of polar fleece!) but that might be a little hard.

      I don’t really like the kibble. I don’t like mass-produced food from big manufacturers, and it’s the same for the dog food. I don’t like that industrial way of processing stuff. I’m trying him out with various things – he seems to eat most things, but definitely likes pumpkin and apple (and will eat chopped up carrot and sweet potato). I’m going to try red lentils (apparently they are very good for dogs and don’t cause gas). He’s also had flax seeds and eggshells, and salmon. I basically looked at what was in the kibble and I’m trying all the things out. Hopefully then I can make my own thing with some kangaroo stirred in. I’ll get there!

      For the brush, I discovered that our vacuum cleaner has a brush attachment that is the perfect coat brush! At least it is being used now too ; )

      We did separation training early on as we didn’t want him getting anxious and he is fine. He has settled down a lot at night now too. We don’t leave the radio on now but keep the lamp on. We probable don’t need to, to be honest.

      Thanks for all your help so far! : )

    • My german shepherd Pippa LOVES her vegetables. She especially likes carrots, peppers and spinach. She also likes sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli and the occasional apple. I am vegan and used to feed her meaty dry dog food kibbles as I couldnt find anything vegan. I recently bought and tried a vegan dry dog food . She loved it.

  20. For teeth (and greyhounds are known for massive dental issues), you could try roo tail. You can buy it in butchers or there are a few facebook groups on raw feeding that can hook you up with roo hunters or goat and rabbit farmers, etc. The best roo tail would sill have fur on it! Or chicken frames are good too. You can buy these in a huge box from a few places (reducing plastic).
    To brush teeth, I use my old bamboo brushes with some coconut oil on it, but you could also use a flannelette on your finger to rub the teeth. Takes a bit of training, but greys are placid enough to let you :)

    I have a few anxiety treatment items I’d be happy to donate too, like Adaptil collars and a thundershirt. You might even be able to turn the lights off after a while!

    • I’ll look that one up! We will have to buy him a toothbrush as we use ones with replaceable heads so there is no way we can use just the head. He can have a bamboo one ; ) I think he will be okay with it.

      Thanks for the offer but I don’t think he is really that anxious. I think he just needed a few days to settle. These days he’s pretty chillaxed!

  21. Ok, I know I am gonna sound insane, but yes, I’ve slept on it before asking, and yes, I’m still gonna ask – I feel so bad for the poor worms who do such a great job and are fed sh.t for that. Taken it’s not their choice and they will only do that if there’s nothing else. Boy, I’m sure humans would eat their droppings if there was nothing else.. Anyway, since you have to carry the poop home, why don’t you just flush it in the toilet?

    • Haha, that’s fine Galya! It’s not that the poo is bad for them, it’s just that if they were given something else, they’ take that first. Kinda like me and chocolate versus celery! The worm farm does have a hole at the bottom so they could escape if they really disliked it there – so they do technically have a choice! ; )

      But you made a good point. I was thinking about it, and wondering the question myself. But I decided – if I flush the poo down the loo, I still have to deal with the newspaper. So I’d still want the worm farm. And I live in a drying climate where they use desalination plants and treated sewage to make drinking water (not sure if the second one has come on line yet) so reducing water is a priority, and less flushes the better. I’m also not entirely sure my husband would let me bring it into the house…

      Thanks for asking the question. It got me thinking!

  22. What a beautiful dog is your Hans! How lovely to be able to provide a home that is kind, loving and safe. All dogs deserve that! About two years ago, we adopted a fine, distinguished aging labrador called Sir Steve. He is such a sweet creature. It astounds me just how an animal, like Steve, can forgive such appalling and neglectful treatment and remain of a loving and gentle nature. (He is curled up here at my feet, snoring softly, as I write …) It has been a joy seeing his personality emerge over time.

  23. Hi Lindsay,
    I have a question about the worms too…!! How are they getting on..?? We (my husband…) made a poo composter but it hasn’t really worked as planned and.all we are left with is a big hole full of poo. A second hole has now been dug but I have to carry the poo over to it in a bucket which I would rather avoid…!! Do the worms actually keep the ‘levels’ of poo down so in theory you can continue piling it in there …?? That’s the trouble with the composting – it’s not really quick enough to keep up with production….!!

    Your dog looks lovely by the way and glad to hear he is over a lot of his anxiety!!


    • Hi Gillian, I realise I am very late to the party with my reply here, but I thought it was a good question and wanted to answer it! I don’t lift the lid and see a big pile of worms no. Whenever we dig out our compost bins I put a new handful of worms in there, but if they haven’t escaped they are very far down!

      Even if/when they break it down, they are turning it into other stuff (worm castings) so eventually they do fill up. The idea then is that you sprinkle some soil on top and then move the bin. The bigger the bin the less you will have to move it – but the deeper the hole you have to dig first!

  24. Being into ‘green/zero-waste’ stuff and owning a dog is hard. Ideally my 2 dogs would be fed vegetarian diets, and I’m yet to build a dog compost heap. But being a dog owner is way more than making sure everything fits YOU – it’s really about providing them with the right nutrition etc.

    I would love to foster a greyhound but I live in a very rural area, so transport would be difficult. I could adopt but I will always be a spaniel-lover at heart!

    Great post Lindsey. You’ve inspired me to build a compost heap for dog poo!!

    • Hi Jess, this is such a great comment. You’re right, it’s about thinking what is best for them as well as what suits us. That is hard! Especially as there are so many differing opinions :/

      Ah, maybe you’ll foster a greyhound one day. And they will grow on you ;)

  25. Hi Lindsay
    We have two rescue dogs – one ours and one we inherited when my Mum passed away.
    They both eat Vets All Natural for Mature Dogs. Our dog was having itching problems on the kiblets and when I transfered him over to this he hasnt looked back. Similarly with my Mums dog who had a cranky tummy.
    We buy it in a 10kg bag and add raw mince steak to it (our boys dont like kangaroo)
    Their mince steak I get from our local butcher who puts the meat straight into my pyrex storage containers.
    With resepct to bones – our vet doesnt recommend them. We feed our dogs a biscuit (called a 2×2) from the pet food shop and these are bought in bulk.
    Also interestingly, I heard Amanda Vanstone on the radio the other day. She makes dog treats by blending liver with rolled oats, 4 eggs and then spoons it onto a baking sheet and into the oven. I havent tried this one yet.

    • Thanks for the ideas Jackie! Our greyhound will eat kangaroo (honestly, he will eat anything!) but I’m yet to find it for sale at a butcher without plastic packaging. But I will keep looking!

      The dog treats sound interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  26. In relation to your adopting a dog I wanted to share info about an amazing organisation in Thailand called Soi Dog (means Street Dog) – they rescue dogs from the meat trade, sterilise those on the street (and put them back if they have someone who regularly feeds them) and have successfully eradicated rabies on Phuket – their aim is to do same in mainland Thailand. They adopt out dogs they’ve rescued to all over the world except Australia and New Zealand (our laws are too tight).

    • Hi Debbie, thanks for sharing this. A vegan friend of ours whom I don’t know too well is particularly passionate about this issue, and I was wondering why and have been meaning to ask next time I see her. Reading this makes me a little wiser. I will have to have that chat.

  27. I realise what I just wrote may cause controversy, or at least bring the vibe down. We all have to prioritise our values and try and steer a path through life the best we can. For me, plastic-free living and animal issues are both important. I hope you understand.

  28. Some food brands like Wellness or Earthborne have recycling program for their old bags, where you ship them to a company called Terracycle. Both are good brands; no fillers or by-products, and they have canine probiotics in them.
    Though I’m in the US so I don’t know if you can find it is Australia….

    • Thanks for sharing Kitma. We have Redcycle here which takes back all plastic like this (not specificially for certain brands, any soft plastic is acceptable). I’ve actually moved onto DIY pet food (it only took me a year of psyching myself up) and it’s going pretty well! I think our dog eats better than we do… ;)

  29. I like the fact that you provided an interesting insight on how to deal with your dog’s waste such as building your own dog poo worm farm. I never thought that worms would actually eat dog poo! It sure is one good way to dispose of your pet’s waste which can actually benefit your soil as some sort of fertilizer. Nevertheless, I’m more inclined to hire waste removal services since it is relatively more hassle-free. Thanks for sharing this, though.

  30. I have both a rescue cat and a dog, took them from the street. I know about greyhounds and all sorts of other things that happen to dogs (and animals in general) both in my country and all over the world. I live in Serbia and stray dogs and cats are very common here, there are thousands of them. This article: says there are maybe 50000 of strays outside of Belgrade, but that number must be higher (at least now; this article is from 2011).

    So, I’m very familiar with the topic and I rescue dogs myself but then it’s super hard to find them homes. Even foster is nearly impossible to find and I have to pay a lot of money per month to have those I saved being safe. People here buy purebred for ridiculous prices and go to terraces all the time while complaining about the money at the same time. And the country is flooded with strays.

    But to answer your question about zero waste and vegan/vegetarian food….I’m vegan myself but my dog isn’t. She gets mostly kibbles or some meat made especially for dogs and cats but it all comes in plastics and I’m really struggling with that. I’m currently transitioning to low waste life so I’m investing in a safety razor, reusable cup, bamboo toothbrush etc and following zerowastenerd on instagram, but she’s just super lucky to find pretty much everything in bulk. Here that’s nearly impossible. So, I’m yet to find some more eco-friendly solution for dog and cat food (and lots of other things), as well as poop. I live in an apartment, so doing what you did is not an option for me. I’ve been, however, using these more eco-friendly poop bags for a while now – Earth Rated. They also have some compostable rolls but sadly, I’m not able to find them here. I now see that they can be found online abroad but they’re quite expensive, so that’s not really an option.

    To sum up – I’m trying my best, but I’m still on my way to low waste lifestyle, so hopefully, I’ll find solutions for certain things. It’s quite hard living low waste lifestyle in a country that doesn’t care about environment or animals, though. But I’m proud of myself for doing so!

  31. My husband and I rescued a vizsla mix and a german shepherd mix. Both of them beautiful dogs and they’re part of our family now.
    We don’t support agricultural industrie as well. What I’m gonna say now may not be appealing for many people out there, I understand; supermarkets and even small local butchers waste a ton of great stuff. Supermerkets throw away packaged food that still good for eating, butcher throws away parts of meat and tons of bones that they don’t sell. it’s a lot of waste, we walk by dumpster 3 days a week and it’s filled with meat and bones. We started picking stuff up to feed our dogs. they throw enough to feed 10 dogs if not 15 almost each night. We sometimes feed them raw meat, but often we cook it with grains such as lentils or rice, where we live most of the grains cost only about 0.20 $ a kilo. We make talo with bones andand it for homecook and then chop the bones (theyret soft cuz theyve been cooked for some time) and feed to our cats . We believe it’s better that we use those instead of them going waste. Local fish stores often have a lot of waste too, such as fish heads and guts. Animals love eating fish heads and we use the guts in our compost. Fish seller doesn’t mind giving their waste for free. But butchers wont, they throw their waste almost every night but if someone asks for it during day they’ll try to make money. I’m sure not all of them same or this changes location to location. This is our experiences on where we live and how we deal with other people’s waste and address it the best we can. I hope this helps or inspires you or someone.

  32. Hi, This is Elyse from reHabit world. Love what your doing and I love the worm poop farm. I’m trying to solve for the city dog. A community worm poop farm might work, but what about when you’re walking your dog, how to get the poop from sidewalk or neighborhood yard to the poop farm? Any thoughts?

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