It can be confusing, owning a pet in this climate-conscious age. Rescue or breeder? Raw food or tinned? Bag it and bin it or stick it n’ flick it? Should I even have bought a pet, with its surprising carbon load, in the first place? Let’s face it, it’s a bit of a mine field! We can’t get everything right all of the time, so my motto is always "start small". So here’s a few facts to help you make a climate-light choice when you’re out and about with your pooch.
What is Stick n' Flick?
Stick-and-flick has been mentioned by some pretty high-profile people but let’s start with what it means. Stick-and-flick is an alternative to picking up your dog’s poo when on a walk. You simply use a stick to flick the poop off the path and into the long grass, bushes or leaves. The idea behind it is that, as biowaste, the poop will degrade in the environment and not cause a problem. Seems like a good idea – right? Well in some ways it might be, especially if the alternative is a plastic bag (that takes hundreds of years to decompose) or oxodegradable plastic bag (that reduces to polluting microplastics), but you have to consider a few other factors.
- The first is that dog ownership is at an all-time-high. A poop here and there might not be a problem, but at the levels generated in the UK at this time, if everyone did it, there would be poo everywhere in just a couple of days. A veritable poopnami!
- On top of this there’s the issue of pathogens. Dog poop contains harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause all sorts of problems in humans, from salmonella to E-coli and toxocariasis to campylobacter. These can give you anything from a dodgy tummy right through to blindness! It’s really not a good idea to leave this stuff lying around.
- Finally, dog poo raises the nutrient content of soil. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Habitats are very specific. If you walk your dog across heathland or dunes, for example, the soil here is very nutrient-poor. This makes it perfect for the types of plants you will commonly see on it like heather and bracken. Flicking poop to the edges of a path raises the nutrient content and makes it more appealing to invasive species such as broom and brushwood. Next time you’re walking on a heath look for it – there will likely be different plants around the paths to those in the centre. This is directly because of dog poop. This might not sound much of a problem, until you think about all the species that need heather and bracken to survive. If the heathlands are taken over by new species, the habitats for the very specific, and often rare, reptiles, birds and insects will disappear.
Doing the right thing
So what’s the solution? How can we tread lightly in a climate-conscious world and not commit a doggy faux-pas? Well the very best and least environmentally impactful thing you can do would be to compost your own pet poop using a system that creates a hot environment to destroy the pathogens. A wormery can happily process dog poo but caution is advised with cat poo due to the different pathogens present. A hot compost bin can be a great option too. You might even find it becomes a new hobby to regale your friends with at dinner parties 😊
But I did say "start small," so let me tell you: you can’t go wrong with a certified home compostable poop bag for your pet’s stinky creations (they have a coded TUV seedling logo and are clearly labelled if they’re the real deal). Save yourself the mental torture of trying to decipher the greenwashing on many, many dog poo bag brands, and skip straight to The GREEN POOP BAG. Even if they end in landfill, they will at least decompose and leave zero nasties. And if you do branch out into doggy wormery territory, they can go in and be merrily munched upon! Eat your greens!
Feature photo by Joran Quinten