The Covid-19 pandemic lifted the lid on many things. We’ve discovered new ways to work. Given old outdated systems the boot. Adjusted conversations. Challenged stereotypes. And shifted our attention to problems that were, until 2020, peripheral.
One of these problems was climate change. Whether it was crystal clear canals in Venice, wildlife roaming free, or cleaner air, we quickly discovered that when we change our behaviour for good, the environment does benefit. Although it took a pandemic for it to finally click, it was a lightbulb moment.
That has inspired many people to go sustainable, which is great to see. This shift in behaviour spans most things - including the world of dogs. Now, a lot of owners are just as concerned with the materials used in a frisbee as they are its ability to withstand hours of chewing and chasing.
Of course, pet parents are actively looking for sustainable dog toys. That’s why we’ve decided to give a crash course on ours, and how we aim to reduce their environmental impact.
Before we begin...
At Beco, we use five types of material for all our toys and accessories. These have all been carefully selected to have as little impact on our planet as possible. That being said, it’s near on impossible for any product to have zero environmental impact. This is a point that we feel needs to be made.
Many brands, across all industries, are noticing the surge in sustainable consumption. And many are labelling themselves as '100% sustainable’ to try and get through to the eco conscious buyer. The thing is: everything has an impact. That’s why we like to be transparent and let our customers know that while we strive to be as sustainable as we can, we're not there yet and always looking forward for ways to improve.
First on our list of materials is recycled plastic. Virgin plastic has had a dramatic fall from grace and it became a bit of a public enemy overnight. But that’s not to say it isn’t used anymore. As humans, we still produce over 350 million tonnes of plastic every year, so there’s a long way to go.
The good thing about using recycled plastic is that we’re making use of what’s already here; when we don’t, it ends up in landfill or our oceans. In the last twelve months we’ve recycled 1.8 million plastic bottles, and we’re on course to do even better this year.
Another brilliant thing about recycled plastic is its strength and durability. It’s primarily there to mimic the robust nature of normal tough cloth used in dog toys. We have two types: the traditional range, that’s double stitched and great for cuddling - and the occasional wrestle. While for dogs who love to chew, yank and treat their toys with tough love, our rough and tough range is the answer - enforced with an extra layer of cloth and extra strong seams.
Next up: Bamboo. This is a historically renewable material - an incredibly strong and robust plant with equally effective eco-friendly credentials. First of all, bamboo is as tough as they come. So much so, it’s still used as scaffolding when scaling the heights of Hong Kong. That’s why it’s so good at making strong dog accessories.
Bamboo grows in abundance, up to 1 metre per day. Because it’s one of the fastest growing plants, it also has an incredibly efficient photosynthesis rate. Compared to trees it absorbs 30% more carbon dioxide, and produces 35% more oxygen.
What makes the bamboo we use even better is the fact that we use the leftover offcuts from chopstick factories. Like our recycled plastic products, we ‘pick up the pieces’ and make the most of what’s already here. It’s tough, durable and great for accessories, like dog bowls and scoops. Beco loves bamboo, and dogs do too.
Hemp is another plant that we won’t be running out of any time soon. It grows dense and tall and there’s plenty of it. Compared to cotton, it requires nine times less space, so it’s generally a really efficient plant in terms of how much arable land it uses. On top of that, hemp roams free by itself, so there is no need for chemical herbicides and pesticides when farmed.
While it has a limited environmental impact, it’s also a really functional and versatile material. It’s tough and hard wearing - the perfect rope for a tug of war with your pooch. Hemp also shreds much shorter fibres than cotton, which means it is also safer.
We do, however, advise all owners to supervise their dog when playing with this type of toy, and if your dog appears to swallow a large amount, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your vet.
The strongest of them all. We tap our rubber from the trunks of rubber trees, which means it’s all natural and not synthetic. We know how strong some dogs are. Toys have got to be tough and ready. That’s why we’ve harnessed the strength of some of the world’s strongest trees.
Rubber trees go through a lot: they have to withstand the heaviest storms, chaotic winds and the occasional hurricane. To make it in the wild, these trees have got to be springy, bouncy and flexible - the perfect recipe for a dog chew toy. And that’s exactly why we use them to responsibly extract our rubber.
When it comes to playtime, we always aim to make eco-friendly dog toys that are dog-friendly too. Sustainable toys that have a limited impact on our planet are great - there’s no doubt about that. But if those toys fall apart or fail to put up a fight when wrestling with your dog, both you and your pup will end up dissatisfied.
Finding sturdy and robust materials is still the key to any good dog toy. If that ticks the sustainable and ethical boxes along the way, then that’s even better. Dogs don’t care if a toy is responsibly sourced or damages our planet when it’s made - but owners do. There’s now an added responsibility for dog brands to deliver. A challenge; one we’re really excited about.