Australia - We are a country of pet lovers. According to the Australian Veterinary Association in 2016 there were an estimated 24 million pets, making ours a nation with one of the highest household rates of pet ownership in the world.
Australia has 9.2 million households and approximately 5.7 million are home to a pet. Data from Australian Veterinary Association
While it warms the heart to know we're an animal-loving country, there is a huge cost to having fur babies, and not just in the financial sense either. Pets have a substantial environmental footprint, or rather, 'paw' print.
Recently I published a review for the book 'Greening Your Pet Care' by Darcy Matheson which explored how pet owners could help to reduce their pet's environmental impact.
One topic it explored was composting dog waste. We have covered many sustainable lifestyle topics on this site but dealing with your pet's poop isn't one of them.
Why compost your pet's waste?
"The biggest environmental damage from unsupervised and off-leash dogs comes from the “presents” they leave behind. Dog poop that isn’t picked up by owners creates a risk to human health when it washes into and pollutes public waterways that are used for drinking water or recreation. In the 1990s, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified pet waste as being just as toxic to the environment as chemical spills and oil." - Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care
Since there are pathogens and bacteria that could potentially harm human health, it is essential that pet waste be composted and not be allowed to run into streams, creeks, lakes and rivers. Plus not only is pet waste diverted from landfill but it also makes brilliant fertiliser for the garden.
Now if you're already composting your food waste and food scraps, composting pet waste won't be too foreign a concept. The key thing to remember with pet compost as opposed to the usual food waste compost is that pet compost should never be used on edible plants, food crops or spread directly on to plants because of the pathogens and bacteria.
If you don't compost your food waste and are concerned that composting pet waste seems difficult, don't be. It's super easy.
How does EnsoPet help with pet waste composting?
Maree O'Malley, the founder of e-commerce site Bokashi Composting Australia had an epiphany one day as she was sprinkling the Bokashi mix filled with micro-organisms over her small dog's waste. The Bokashi mix worked wonders on it preventing odour and helping it to breakdown quickly.
"I had a small dog and I would put some of her poo in a plastic container and sprinkle Bokashi on top and it was amazing there was no smell and eventually when it would fill up, I would bury it," Maree recalls. "But I had the idea that you need the whole system to sell. I felt to market it properly , you couldn't just sell the mix and say 'Put it in a container and then bury it in your garden'. So I wanted to design an in-ground [pet waste] composting system because to me it was just the most logical thing."
Maree's idea to design a system that would make pet waste composting hygienic and easy was set into motion. She hired an industrial designer to help bring her concept to physical reality and worked with Bokashi New Zealand ("they have more of a scientific background than me") to work on the right pet composting mix. Unlike the Bokashi mix which contains wheat bran, rice husks and micro-organisms, the EnsoPet Starter mix is different because it needs to help break down pet waste as opposed to food waste. As such, Maree explains that "the EnsoPet contains saw dust and wheat so it's a higher carbon content and it's also got a lot more micro-organisms."
The great thing about this system is that it can compost all pet waste including dog, cat, rabbit and guinea pig. In addition, when you purchase the EnsoPet pet composting system all components - comprising of the Composter Unit, Starter and tongs - is delivered to you. It even includes an easy-to-follow instruction guide to help you along (although you won't need it, the instructions are all over the box!)
Visual Step-by-Step Guide to EnsoPet Pet Waste Composting
We live on a 120-acre organic farm and it is impractical to compost our pet's poop because Dusty our hyper dog and Coco our gorgeous cat have much more freedom than those animals living in suburban homes and shoe box apartments. Keeping an eye on them at all times is almost impossible with so much space for them to roam.
But for the purposes of helping out people in urban environments seeking sustainable products, we partnered with EnsoPet to help you understand how this pet waste composting system works.
In order to illustrate just how easy it is, we created this visual step-by-step guide:
Installing the EnsoPet Composter
Assemble the EnsoPet Composter by clipping the four side parts together creating a bottomless cylinder.
Select a spot in your garden away from food crops and edible plants. Pay special care not to pick a spot next to 'sensitive' plants, streams, creeks or waterways.
Dig a hole large enough to fit the cylinder in. Aim for a 40 cm deep x 40 cm wide hole.
Put the EnsoPet composter into the hole, so that the lid is sitting above ground and bury it in by filling the outside in with soil.
Using the EnsoPet Composter
Using the tongs provided in the box set, pick up your pet’s waste and drop it into the EnsoPet composter.
Lightly sprinkle EnsoPet starter on top of the waste (roughly one and a half tablespoons for 100 grams of pet waste).
Rinse and repeat steps 1 and 2. It's preferable you collect your pet's waste daily to help with the rapid breakdown. Make sure to keep the lid on at all times as this also speeds up the process.
The pet compost needs a moist environment. Remember not to let the EnsoPet dry out. Rain will enter your EnsoPet through the slots but it's best to give it a water when you're watering the garden.
The micro-organisms in the EnsoPet Starter ensure a rapid breakdown of the waste. The EnsoPet composter will take many months to fill, or it may never completely fill. Just continue the cycle of composting until it's time to empty it.
Keep the system strictly for pet waste. Don't throw in paper bags or plastic bags, even those labelled 'biodegradable' into the EnsoPet. It can be tempting to do so after a walk in the park and you're carrying your pet's poop in a bag but it's for pet waste only.
If you have a couple of large dogs and are looking to compost their poop, it's recommended you get two EnsoPet composting kits.
So whether you own a cat, dog, rabbit or guinea pig, composting your pet's waste should be high priority if you're looking to live a more eco-friendly life. EnsoPet will help keep your yard tidy and free of pet poop and divert waste destined for landfill by "returning carbon to the soil and rebuilding its microbial level".
Like the EnsoPet composting system or just need to purchase EnsoPet starter because you've made your own pet composting system? You can get yours here.