The Ultimutt Guide to Zero Waste Dog Food and Water Bowls

Published: 02/03/2021

Unlike some sustainable swaps, finding affordable, eco-friendly dog food and water bowls is a cinch. We've done some digging on the most sustainable pet product materials. Keep reading for the down-low on sustainable dog bowls, plus a few things to consider before making your purchase.

What is the best material for dog bowls?

You already know it's not plastic. Not only are plastic bowls made from fossil fuels that harm the earth, but they also contain toxins that can seep into Sparky's kibble. Yuck!

Here are 3 of the most "pawpular" materials used to make eco-friendly dog food and water bowls.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel food and water bowls are practically indestructible, making them an excellent option for voracious eaters. Not to mention they're non-toxic and recyclable. Win-win-win!

Bamboo

A sturdy bamboo dog food and water bowl set will likely last throughout your pup's lifetime. Cultivating bamboo requires much less water and land compared to other materials, so it's more sustainable at several rungs in the supply chain.

Pro tip: If you also have a feline fur-baby, bamboo food bowls are a great pick for cats too! A shallow bamboo food bowl will relieve whisker stress in cats. Also called whisker fatigue, this occurs when the sides of the food or water bowl press against the whiskers and cause an unpleasant sensation.

Rice husks

Ever seen a dog food or water bowl made out of rice husks? You might not think so, but chances are you have! Cooked rice husks are often combined with bamboo to make the eco-friendly dog food and water bowls you see on the shelves at your local pet store.

What about silicone?

If you and Roscoe like to "ruff" it in nature, you might be in the market for collapsible silicone food and water bowls. Silicone is often recommended as a more sustainable alternative to plastic. And although that's true, there is a catch.

Silicone is made from silica, an abundant natural compound found in sand. While there's a lot more silica in the world than, say, crude oil, it's still a non-renewable resource. The extraction process is also less damaging to the planet compared to fossil fuels.

However, the processes used to turn raw silica into silicone aren't exactly eco-friendly. We'll spare you the jargon, but essentially, the manufacturing process involves the use of non-renewable sources, like crude oil. This means the finished product isn't biodegradable.

Okay, so silicone isn't biodegradable, but is it recyclable? Yes — but again, there's a catch. Your local recycling center probably won't accept silicone, which means you'll have to recycle it through a specialist facility. Terracycle accepts silicone kitchenware, but you should double-check to see if it accepts dog food and water bowls.

Although some silicone products are mixed with cheaper materials, food-grade silicone is typically non-toxic and high-quality.

Zero-waste dog food and water bowls: things to consider

Ready to head out and start sniffing around for sustainable food and water bowls? Hold the leash! There are a few things you should consider before snapping up those new eco-friendly bowls.

Existing bowls

If your pupper already has a food and water bowl, don't rush out to buy a new set just yet. One of the core principles of the zero-waste lifestyle is to use what you have before buying new. Consider replacing your dog's food and water bowls only when they truly need it. (Yes, even the plastic ones.)

Price

Fortunately, eco-friendly dog food and water bowls are relatively cheap and available at most big-box pet stores. You can purchase a set for $10 to $15 on average. Still, eco-friendly products tend to be more expensive upfront. The good news is, because they're also more durable, you'll save money on replacing them over time.

Where to buy

It's easy to order a sustainable dog food or water bowl online. But shipping and delivery often contribute to the carbon footprint of the purchase. First, you'll need to consider where the product is shipping from and the distance between your home and the distribution center. Then, you'll need to factor in the mode(s) of transport — air, freight, or truck.

Sure, the products themselves might be eco-friendly, but their journey to your home probably won't be. That said, consider shopping local if you can. Bonus points if you're able to buy from a locally-owned pet store!

The scoop on zero-waste dog food and water bowls

Before we go, we'd like to remind you that you shouldn't expect perfection on your zero-waste journey. One thousand pet parents living an imperfect zero-waste lifestyle impact the Earth far more than a single pet parent doing zero-waste 100% perfectly.

Are stainless steel bowls biodegradable or compostable? No. Is silicone the greenest choice for your dog's water bowl? Not quite. But living an eco-conscious lifestyle involves a certain amount of financial privilege since zero-waste products tend to be more expensive. That's just one factor to consider on your journey to living more sustainably with your dog.

In a perfect world, every pet parent would use a 100% biodegradable bowl made from rice husks purchased from a local pet shop within walking distance. But that's just not the case. So start where you are and do what you can with what you have. Every effort, no matter how small it seems, counts. Don't forget to celebrate every win, and thank you for doing your part to make our planet a safer, more sustainable place to live!

For more inspo, check out our other guides on zero-waste living with a dog:

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