Picture the sun rising over the horizon as you take your dog for a walk. The air is crisp, the trees are green and you’re clipping along without a care in the world. And your best friend is by your side the entire way home.
This is the image I got when I spoke with Sara Bartlett a couple weeks back. A year ago Sara started building a company called Upcycled Canine in order to offer consumers an alternative to processed, over-priced dog products.
“I’m definitely a dog person, we had five dogs at times when I was growing up,” says Sara. “I’m a big fan of the planet, too. Upcycled was created to chip in a little bit, to make a difference to the environment for people and their pets.”
Read on to learn more about the value of re-used pet products and why it’s crucial we take more care in choosing the material our animals sleep on each night.
Kelvin: Tell me about the path that led you to starting Upcycled.
Sara: About a year ago I started looking at the market for products and it was obvious really quick that there was a need for eco-conscious products for my dogs. There was just not a lot to choose from on the market. So we looked at different options for supplies, came across ropes and other materials we could re-use to make nice products instead of buying new things.
So you’re saving time, energy and money. Creating natural dog products means less energy used because of the lack of manufacturing new products.
Exactly. The whole focus has been on re-using things instead of going through manufacturers. Everything we use is local or upcycled materials. I’ve always been a dog person, I used to run a dog-walking and care company in Vancouver, but I sold that as Upcycled grew and now its my focus.
What was the philosophy of going through all the trouble to start an online store, a company and a philosophy of sustainable, natural dog products?
The goal was to put environmentally conscious products into the market, into circulation, products that are environmentally conscious moreso than the average product. It’s a labour of love, it’s a ton of work but we’re definitely passionate about we do and for the people who use it.
Check out Upcycled’s brand new colourful dog collars.
We have a certain type of customer who appreciated what we do and is passionate about the philosophy as we are. We’ve got a small cult following at this point, the people who are really focussed on this type of issues. Some people care more about hand-made materials and eco-conscious products. Our stuff is really geared toward the outdoors-type clientele but obviously anyone with a dog can use them. The products still look great, the insides of the products are natural and stylish at the same time.
What are some of the dangers of buying different things off the shelf?
There are quite a few issues, there’s the social aspect, you don’t know if it’s a ten year-old kid who sewed that dog bed together. You don’t know how it got to the shelf, those products could be made in China or Taiwan in some horrible factory that’s creating a damaging environmental footprint. Materials are quite cheaply made because large corporations are so concerned with cost. The environmental footprint, the energy to get it shipped and mass-produced is inefficient and our focus is completely different from that.
You work with a local organization, Our Social Fabric. How are your beds made?
They’re an organization in Vancouver, they take fabric from crafters, manufacturers, places like Lulu Lemon, Mountain Equipment Co-op, all different kinds of stuff. Sometimes those companies pay someone to destroy it or it ends up in a landfill. Our Social Fabric takes the materials by donation and they hold sales every month and sell it to the public at wholesales.
Check out Our Social Fabric textile recycling initiative.
If you could train a dog to do one magical thing, what would it be?
Well I have two dogs, one’s a Pom-Chihuahua, and the other is a Great Pyrenees Newfoundlander, so I guess if they ever could, I would go with turning the lights on and off.
Check out Sara and Upcycled over at their shiny new website, perhaps your pup needs a new eco-friendly leash/collar combo?