5 min read
The Ultimutt Guide to Zero Waste Dog Bedding
By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 02/06/2020, edited: 08/10/2021
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We humans spend a third of our lives sleeping, while our hounds spend as much as half of their short lives snoozing. Puppies, elderly dogs, and those with health issues may spend even more time napping. No matter how old your fur-baby is, it's important to give them a comfy bed. After all, they'll be spending most of their time in it!
Here's the thing, though: sometimes those super cozy dog beds aren't exactly the best for the planet. Keep reading to discover the basics of zero waste dog bedding, which materials to look for and which to avoid, and other things to consider.
Zero Waste Dog Bedding: the Basics
We've said it before and we'll say it again: using what you have before buying new is the number one principle of living sustainably with a dog. If your buddy already has a perfectly good bed, don't throw it out for an eco-friendlier option!
If your canine compadre is content with a soft blanket to sleep on, feel free to get crafty. Search around the house for unused sheets, old pillows, cushions, blankets, etc. Similarly, if Fido isn't fussy, why not wander around your local secondhand shops? If all else fails, let your lapdog snooze on the couch. After all, your home is their home, too!
If you'd like to replace your dog's bed because they've ripped and gnawed it past the point of repair and none of the above options are available to you, it may be time to start researching the best zero waste dog beds.
Eco-friendly Materials for Sustainable Dog Bedding
Searching "fur" a new dog bed that's good for your pup and the planet? Look for beds containing these biodegradable or otherwise eco-friendly materials.
It's true that cotton is biodegradable, but growing conventional cotton is also resource-intensive. Conventional cotton requires tons of land, water, energy, toxic pesticides, and other harsh chemicals before it's harvested and woven into clothing. Many of the chemicals used to cultivate cotton cause disease and exacerbate air pollution.
That's why it's important to look for organic cotton, which uses fewer resources and zero pesticides. Because organic cotton is often grown on small, family-owned farms, you can also rest easy knowing you're contributing to an individual's livelihood and not boosting the profits of a faceless corporation.
This highly durable, carbon-negative fiber is a top choice for zero wasters. Cultivating hemp requires much less water and land compared to other fibers. Because it requires no pesticides or fertilizers, it even improves the health of the soil and absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows.
Hemp has the potential to save the planet and replace everything from conventional paper to building materials. It's also hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Sounds like a win-win-win to us!
Like hemp, bamboo is a resilient plant that requires few resources. It's also antifungal and antibacterial. The cool thing is, bamboo is a self-regenerating plant, which means it regrows from its own roots after it's harvested — no need for replanting!
While cultivating bamboo is better for the planet compared to other fibers, the production process usually isn't, unfortunately. Turning bamboo into fabric is labor-intensive and requires chemical processing, so it isn't sustainable at every level of the supply chain.
Plant-based memory foam
As we'll see shortly, conventional memory foam is bad for the planet. The good news is, there are eco-friendly memory foam options out there, for hounds and humans both! Some sustainable memory foams are made from organic latex sourced from rubber trees and aren't treated with any harmful chemicals. Many plant-based memory foam pet beds feature washable, biodegradable covers made from organic cotton, bamboo, and even less conventional materials like thistle.
File this one under eco-friendlyish, because it's still plastic at the end of the day. Some pet bedding brands turn plastic bottles (that would've otherwise gone to landfill) into durable, easy-to-clean dog beds. Select brands also recycle used bedding. Sure, it's not the most sustainable option from start to finish, but "reuse" is one of the principles of zero waste living!
Materials to Avoid for Zero Waste Dog Bedding
On your quest to find the best zero waste dog bed for your buddy, try your best to avoid these materials.
Polyurethane memory foam
Conventional memory foam is typically made from synthetic fibers, which harm the planet at every point of the supply chain. The exact materials differ — some memory foam mattresses are made from polyurethane, while others are made from latex treated with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Memory foam made from polyurethane is also difficult to recycle in certain areas, since many foam recycling facilities in the U.S. are drop-off only. It is possible to downcycle polyurethane foam and save it from going straight to landfill.
Synthetic fibers — including nylon, polyester, polyurethane, and acrylics — are man-made and aren't biodegradable. Additionally, the raw materials to make many synthetic fibers come from fossil fuels. Extracting fossil fuels from the earth harms the planet and our own health. According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, fracking releases cancer-causing chemicals into the air and water supply and also increases the risk of lymphoma and leukemia.
Even washing synthetic fibers harms the planet. When you wash a synthetic fabric, microfibers travel from your washing machine into the water supply. Microplastics can block the digestive tracts of the marine animals who ingest them, causing all sorts of health problems.
We know this all sounds pretty bleak — but if you're looking to switch to a sustainable lifestyle with your woofer, it's good to know how fabrics can affect the planet at every point in the supply chain.
Zero Waste Dog Bedding: Things to Consider
Finding the best eco-friendly dog bed isn't exactly a walk in the dog park. Here are a few other factors you need to consider.
- Behavior. Is your chow hound a chewer, scratcher, drooler, or digger? You'll need a bed that can stand up to your doggo's destructive habits.
- Health issues. If your dog suffers from physical ailments like arthritis or hip dysplasia, you'll want to ensure their bed adequately supports their aching joints and muscles.
- Cost. When it comes to the best zero waste dog beds, there's just one problem: they usually cost a pretty penny. The good news is, sustainable dog beds are made to be durable and last throughout your dog's lifetime. If cost is a major factor, shop around second-hand stores in your community or use what you have around the house.
- Replaceability. Even if you've splurged on a top-of-the-line, durable pet bed, things still happen and parts might need replacing. Some pet bed brands sell beds with removable covers and inner padding, making it easy to replace something if needed.
- Shipping. Remember, shipping and transporting online orders contributes to carbon emissions. So even if you've found the "pawfect" sustainable dog bed online, do your homework and find out where it ships from. To minimize emissions, shop local before ordering something online.
Zero Waste Dog Bedding: Wrapping Up
As you can see, there's practically no such thing as a 100% zero waste dog bed. Even the most sustainable materials might not be eco-friendly at every link on the long and confusing supply chain. Fortunately, some eco-conscious pet bed manufacturers are working hard to make comfy beds from organic, sustainable materials.
But before you go out and buy a new bed, look around the house first. Chances are you've got an old blanket or pillow hiding somewhere that your canine companion would love to curl up on!