Green Cleaning Up After Pets

Bagging up dog wasteToday on my morning walk with my dog, Jeff, I thought of the late comedian George Carlin as I picked up dog poop with a plastic bag. This is not because I spew profanity while I clean up after my dog, but because he had a great bit about picking up dog poop. The message of his rant (and of course I have to paraphrase) is that we take the most biodegradable substance imaginable -- poop -- and make it unbiodegradable by enclosing it in a plastic bag. My green guilt immediately took over so now I'm on a mission to figure out a more environmentally friendly approach to dog doodie duty. First I thought about what would happen if I just left the poop somewhere out of the way. There'd be no energy needed to create the bag and no hermetically sealed poop in a landfill. Interesting, but it won't work. It turns out that unclaimed dog poop has a significant impact on the environment. Did you know that 20% to 30% of all pollutants in waterways are attributed to dog waste? Some researchers estimate that dog owners leave behind over 4 million tons of dog waste every year! Another option I considered is biodegradable poop bags made from renewable resources such as corn. While this sounds ideal in theory, anything that is customarily disposed of in a locked landfill will not biodegrade even if it is biodegradable under other circumstances. Of course, if I had access to an open or turned landfill they would biodegrade, but unfortunately in my area the only option is a locked landfill. However, biodegradable poop bags will degrade in industrial composting conditions, so I'll have to find out if my local facility will accept poop bags. Amazingly, there are now flushable poop bags made from polyvinyl alcohol which is a naturally-derived film that dissolves in water. Again, in theory this sounds like a great idea -- made with renewable resources, no contribution to landfills, no waterway pollution. But will the poop bags get stuck in my plumbing? Will they start to dissolve once the poop is picked up? Have any of you used the polyvinyl bags? Are there any other green options for cleaning up after pets that you've discovered? Let me know. For now, I'm going to stick with the regular blue poop bags. photo: jayneandd

written by:


Cara B. was a Manager on Seventh Generation’s Research & Development team. She holds graduate degrees in epidemiology & biostatistics and cell & molecular biology, and has spent the last 15 years as a researcher in various fields including electro-physics, oncology, and microbiology. Cara shares her 200 year old farm house with her husband, son, and dog.

See more from Cara.B