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Celebrating Earth Day Year-Round at PAW5

by Dennis ODonnell on April 29, 2020

Happy Earth Day! Today we celebrate our planet’s natural beauty and shine a spotlight on the importance of protecting it through sustainable practices like recycling. But the truth is, every day at PAW5 is like Earth Day because eco-friendly practices are a cornerstone of the company.

Co-founder Dennis O’Donnell said he and his business partner Eric Griffin wanted to build an ethical company from the get-go.

“It’s hard to explain just how excited it gets me sometimes,” O’Donnell said.

That excitement is contagious – PAW5 launched in November of 2015 but is already making huge strides as an environmentally sustainable company. O’Donnell said an important first step was becoming a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC), an organization that promotes environmental and social sustainability in the pet industry through education, implementation tools and collaboration. He credits PSC with helping develop the framework for PAW5’s sustainability as a business.

For instance, the PAW5 founders knew they wanted the flagship Rock N’ Bowl to be made in America. PSC got them also thinking about where to manufacture in America in order to have a smaller carbon footprint (a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide produced by an activity, like manufacturing or transporting a product). So when it was time to hire an injection molding company to manufacture part of the Rock N’ Bowl, O’Donnell narrowed the search to companies within 300 miles of the PAW5 headquarters in Philadelphia.

“We landed on a few companies, and one said, ‘First of all, we’re the country’s longest tenured woman-owned injection molder,’” O’Donnell said. “And they were already doing sustainability things.”

Intrigued by the company – Extreme Molding in upstate New York – O’Donnell toured the facility and was impressed that they use plastics that are BPA- and phthalate-free, since those are toxic chemicals linked to health issues. After all, safety was a key issue since a furry child was the inspiration for the Rock N’ Bowl: Dory, the beloved yellow Lab of O’Donnell and his fiancée, a veterinarian.

“To see Extreme Molding making pacifiers and other childcare products really made me feel safe that we were going to make a product that was safe for dogs,” he said.

The sustainability doesn’t end there. Extreme Molding ships the bowls in large cardboard boxes to PAW5 for final fabrication. Initially PAW5 used single-stream recycling for the boxes, but recently the company took sustainability a step further by purchasing a cardboard-shredding machine. Now PAW5 shreds those cardboard boxes and uses the resulting fluff as packing material to keep the Rock N’ Bowl cushioned for shipping to customers. It’s the type of investment that O’Donnell finds rewarding.

“To have an opportunity throughout the day to ask, ‘Where can we get a little better in sustainability? Where can we make a positive impact? I’ve got to be honest – it just makes the job a lot more fun.”

And finding ways to give back to the community is part of that fun. In manufacturing, “rejects” are part of the process – say, a bowl has a little swirl of another color of plastic and doesn’t look quite right. Many companies would send those rejects to a landfill. But because their rejects are still totally safe to use, PAW5 finishes crafting them into a Rock N’ Bowl and donates them to animal rescue organizations. It’s a terrific way to add environmental enrichment and mental stimulation to a shelter dog’s day.

“Shelters literally don’t have to do anything but fill out a form. They don’t have to pay anything. And then as we’re able to fill the requests, we ship them out,” O’Donnell said. “It’s really anyone who wants them.”

So one way you can celebrate Earth Day this year is to feel good about supporting a sustainable company like PAW5. O’Donnell is grateful to customers who support eco-friendly companies like his.

“We really do vote with our wallets,” he said. “In the long haul, sustainability shouldn’t be this fringe behavior – it should just be the way that business is done.”

And O’Donnell thanks everyone who has bought a Rock N’ Bowl for their dog or as a gift for a dog-loving friend.

“That people are getting behind it and buying our products – it does mean a lot on a personal level,” he said. “This is very quickly turning into a dream job because people are getting behind it. We’re absolutely grateful.”

For more information about the Pet Sustainability Coalition, visit: http://www.petsustainability.com. For more information about Extreme Molding, visit: http://www.extrememolding.com/. For more about the philosophy behind PAW5, visit: http://paw5.us/pages/sustainability.

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