The wood shavings we put in the coop are FSC approved – meaning they are made from wood from responsibly managed forests – but of course there will be emissions tied to the production and transportation. So, instead I tried a reusable egg-laying mat, a bit like a door mat with rubber bristles. However, on my first attempt to clean it, I found the chicken poo was so tangled in the mat it was impossible. That piece of plastic regrettably went in the bin. Another possibility is foraged bedding, made from dried leaves and grass – a fun way for the kids to be involved in caring for their animals.
Should we even keep pets?
We love our pets – but would the world be better off without them? Pets provide a range of therapeutic, physiological, psychological, and psychosocial benefits. They reduce stress, and give us company. In my family’s case, I see our animals giving my children an appreciation of, and connection to nature. The chickens mean we have hardly any food waste at all, and the dog keeps us fit and gives us unwavering love.
It was disappointing that I couldn’t change Barney’s food – but perhaps, with all his allergies, he is not a typical dog. The shocking revelation that compostable poo bags are actually much worse for the environment mean a change to recycled plastic bags is a must, but it still feels wrong using so much plastic. Perhaps, when the children are older, I’ll look into the worm farm option.
The cat on the other hand, while I’m fond of her (and don’t tell my kids I said this), I could live without. I don’t think we’ll replace her when she goes. Despite the relative ease of changing her food and the lack of litter-associated environmental issues, in our family’s case the cost to wildlife feels too much to bear.
The most surprising discovery I made during this experiment was that I do actually consider the environmental impact of my pets, without always realising I’m doing it. Although I’m far from perfect and acknowledge I have much to learn, perhaps the habit is so ingrained that it’s made its way into my subconscious – and every part of my life.