As we anticipated the arrival of our newest family member, our puppy, Chica, I felt confident and competent that we had covered all of her essential needs and adapted our living habits to accommodate a little furry companion with boundless waking energy and pin-sharp teeth. We had designed and built wooden movable barricades in doorways that could be moved and easily dismantled as we expanded her territory so we wouldn’t have to purchase, and accommodate the space for, some prefabricated indoor metal cage, we had amassed a collection of high quality second-hand human baby toys that were non-toxic and would withstand the rigours of puppy teething, rerouted electric cords, and practiced storing all personal or potentially dangerous items out of a puppy’s curious outstretched mouth, and we practiced making our own organic cleaners and dog treats that would see us through the daily cleaning and training routines Chica would require. Over all, I felt we had found solutions that complemented the way we lived and did not involve buying a lot of prefabricated junk that we would have to end up storing indefinitely or adding to landfill eventually.
As Chica’s world expanded, so did her general appetite and her independence over when and where she would go to the bathroom. I realized that I had not considered one essential fact: how often a dog owner needs to collect dog poop. Once Spring arrived, and we began to circulate outdoors, it became imperative to watch where we stepped — and our hand placement when weeding or planting. Even after performing a daily inspection of the yard, I would inevitably spy another shrivelled little mound within the minute following the one when I had tied off and disposed of the last poop bag. It did not take long to see that our bi-weekly trash bag was pretty much half-filled with quite pungent, little coloured sacks.
With the warmer weather we also were not as quickly depleting our weekly supply of newspaper material that we used for lighting our wood stove. Making poopy bags that we could compost in a corner of our property away from our breathing space and that of our neighbours, seemed like a simple solution to manage some of our waste. Since Chica also had a fondness for ripping and tearing her way through the paper supply out of cuteness and boredom, giving me a reason to stop procrastinating tidying up the overflowing basket was also a plus.
I remember the ingenuity of street vendors in China and Southeast Asia before the advent of single-use plastic using old newspapers and used stationary to serve up roasted nuts and popcorn in the 1990’s. I know, it is hard for most people to believe that the countries most vilified in casual conversation for creating and manufacturing the infection that is disposable plastic world were also among the last ones to adopt disposable plastic, but it’s the inconvenient truth. Probably at some point in all societies, a person first asked, “what do I have?” before, “What do I want?”. And then, took the time to create what they needed from what they had where they could. So with my arm of newsprint and my paste in hand, I gave up a few hours otherwise spent following social media and watching Netflix, and started constructing compostable poopy bags for Chica.
Eventually, once I settled on my design and could process through manufacturing them automatically, I discovered it is entirely possible to make them while watching Netflix. For the duration of a 90-minute movie, I can make a week’s supply of bags for Chica without much interruption. Of course, figuring out I can multi-task in this way has now made us short of newspaper for other projects.
My poopy bags include scoop flaps (made from recycled food packaging cardboard) that help collect the poop using the edges of the bag. Once collected, the flaps can be inverted to keep my hands clean until disposal. Although using one sheet of newsprint will usually suffice for home use, using two sheets of newspaper (as is the way with multi-ply toilet paper) is more secure for walks and for wet weather use.
While they can be folded flat, they certainly do not have the compactness and convenience of plastic, and don’ hold up well on a rainy day, but every time I use one, I feel our dog is a part of our little adventure to reduce and reuse the waste in our household, and become more self-reliant.