Children of the Winters
Hei! I'm glad to see you today because I want to talk about a topic that is really important to me. The people that know me know how close the sustainable development on an individual and personal level is to my heart. In fact, it is one of the most powerful forces that influences my every day life and pushes me forward to help me make better choices. Nowadays these choices have a lot to do with having a pack of sled dogs and the whole lifestyle around it because if we don't help the Earth to heal we might not have arctic conditions and snow in the future for our furry children that live for winters. So I thought I'd share my thoughts on this and our ways of developing sustainability with dogs. How to go greener with dogs in order to save the winters that we love and the Earth that provides us a safe home?
"Nobody needs to be perfect with their sustainable actions."
What I think is important is that people know that they do not have to do everything right. You don't have to change your whole life in a day to be able to be part of the change. Nobody needs to be perfect with their sustainable actions in order to help. And why am I talking about this? Because, like any other winter sport as well, this lifestyle that we have chosen is a great example of not being able to be perfect but doing the best we can.
Life with sled dogs has its "downsides" when speaking of sustainability. First of all, we probably all know already by now that meat production is one of the biggest problems from the perspective of climate change. And dogs are carnivores so they eat meat, it's a fact. And as long as we don't have a great deal of extra money in our pockets to prepare raw food meals with all the necessary, crazy expensive supplements, they will eat processed dry food that already includes all of that. Sled dogs are super athletes and have a really specific nutrition. They need their energy, nutrients and minerals in order to maintain their high level physical strength. There are not many dog food producers that make dry food that is specially made for sled dogs and sadly I haven’t found any dry food for sled dogs which was sustainably produced. Please feel free to enlighten me if there is some!
So it is easy to say that we cannot go entirely green with their food but we can try to be better and change the things we can. For example, we want to control that the raw meat we feed our dogs is high quality, comes from local Finnish farmers and is produced responsibly and transparently. Also, we have been lucky to receive left over salmon deliveries from producers and local supermarkets. This fish would otherwise end up in the trash but is perfect source of omega 3-fatty acids for healthy fur coat and skin. And what comes to cooking, yes, every once in a while, when we are out in the wilderness living some what off grid we need to make campfires for preparing the food for the dogs and for us and get ourselves warm during the cold winter days. But we can make sure to use good wood that doesn't release too much pollution to the air.
Another thing that is impossible to leave out entirely when you have sled dogs is the yearly kilometres that we sit in a car. Now that we live apart from the kennel we need to drive a car daily and even after we move to our new home with the dogs there will always be necessities to travel with a car. There are times that we need to pack the dogs in the trailer and go training with them in different locations or go to races that are all around Scandinavian Lapland. And the distances in Lapland are long. We also need a snowmobile to clear the tracks but that's only when there is big snowfalls if even then. Our kilometres on the road is the biggest single thing that I compensate monthly.
Which actually gets me to the topic of compensating. Because, like said, there are several things that cannot be changed while living with sled dogs and have quite a big carbon footprint so I compensate our CO₂ emissions monthly in order to do good for the Earth. I personally use a nonprofit climate operator called Compensate (not a paid advertisement) which uses the compensations people make to purchase certified carbon credits. It is a fairly easy way to make up some of the necessary emissions.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
So the lifestyle has it flaws. But I'd say it maybe has even more good things that are easy to change to greener habits, without even using more money or extra effort! And I believe this is a preconception people usually have about sustainability; that it is expensive. But let me tell you that it is not true if you think about it for a moment.
"These things might take a bit more of your time but it's better for the nature and most likely to your wallet too."
Probably one of the most effective ways of being greener with this lifestyle is to make more sustainable purchases and take care of the equipment used and the clothing we wear. If meat production is a problem so is clothing industry as well. For example when buying outdoor clothing; if we use a bit more money at the time of the purchase for sustainably made clothes and better quality that lasts longer and helps us stay warm and dry during the 12-hour-days in the cold windy, maybe rainy, weather (instead of buying something cheap from the closest supermarket) we probably end up using less money because then we don't have to buy new clothes for every season. And then the Earth thanks you as well. A good-quality, sustainable outdoor clothing is also really easy to repair if it gets torn apart in action or something. We use fabric patches, like the one from Vaatelaastari in the pic (again, not a paid advertisement but a really good product), for the easier parts and professionals to repair the more challenging ones. Fixing and patching give your clothes years longer age of usage. The same we do with the dog harnesses. If the dogs eat them we take the harnesses to the local professionals to get them fixed. Or with a strong enough sewing machine it is easy to do by yourself as well. These things might take a bit more of your time but it's better for the nature and most likely to your wallet too.
The most recent improvement to our sustainable lifestyle is that we have started to collect the fur the dogs shed and send it to a small company that uses it to produce wool yarn for knitting. We think this is a really cool idea and we were so happy and honoured that we got invited to be part of this responsible cycle of reusing the fur since our dogs have a healthy and a good-looking fur coat.
But above this all, I think the best things about dog sledding is that we can go and mush in the quiet and the most off grid wilderness without leaving anything but paw prints in the snow, respecting the Earth. We don't need to use any motor vehicles to travel and explore. We can start most of our adventures from our backyard and not only we can count on the dogs that they won't break or run out of fuel (like a snowmobile) and leave us on the trails but we can be free together with them and have a deep connection to the surrounding nature. The same as any hiker or camper should do, we will take everything we bring with us back home and go in places where there is no chance of harming any living wildlife or the forests. The dogs enjoy running in the wilderness more than anything in this world and so do we.
In conclusion, there are so many things related to this lifestyle, or any really, that we can consider changing to greener ones. I really hope this helped some of you to think about this stuff and your own life. Maybe I managed to give you some ideas and tips as well. And of course, even we have still a lot to do but these examples that I shared with you are the ones we have done or gone through already. And I didn't even mention any of the details we think about when building a sustainable living environment for us and the dogs. But these I will be covering here later on when the snow melts and we actually start the move to our new home. I want to thank you for taking your time and reading this. It shows that you care about the Earth <3 See you next week and for those who celebrate, have a nice Easter holiday!
Life is the best, enjoy!