Earth Talks: Earthdog and West Paw

By Cameron Woo, April 2009, Updated February 2015

Kym and Dave Colella of Earthdog (top), Spencer Williams of West Paw Design (bottom).

In celebration of Earth Day, I spoke to two innovators, people who think green 365 days a year. Dave Colella of Earthdog and Spencer Williams of West Paw Design share their thoughts on a green world, dogs and the future.

Dave and Kym Colella, Owners
Earthdog uses hemp to create a stylish assortment of US-made dog collars, leashes, beds and other pet accessories.

On the power of choice:
For us, the green movement seemed to come together about this time last year. We’ve been making hemp products for 12 years, and we’ve endured plenty of jokes … but now people are coming around. In general, there is an increased awareness of what we’re eating, what we’re using to fertilize our crops, what we’re putting on our bodies. There is a growing awareness among all kinds of people that our personal choices matter.

On the future:
I see a lot of fresh and creative ideas coming to the green industry, inventive ways to recycle and create new products out of old products, along with innovative technology that’s taking us in exciting directions. We’re personally pleased about the reintroduction of the industrial farming act to Congress; perhaps one day we’ll come back to growing industrial hemp in this country—that’s really exciting. Now, all the hemp we use is Asian- or European-grown; we have to import the raw materials, so all that money is going offshore—not to mention the energy it takes to import these materials—when we have farmers in this country who could benefit from a fantastic crop.


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On dogs and the green movement:
Dogs’ needs are pretty basic, and it’s our responsibility to honor and respect their animal nature, lessening our footprint, reducing our consumption and using things that aren’t going to pollute the planet. Dogs just enjoy being outside—this afternoon, our dog was sitting on the grass with her nose up, sniffing the air—and it’s our responsibility to them not to pollute their environment.

West Paw Design
Spencer Williams, President
Based in Bozeman, Mont., West Paw Design is committed to the sustainable manufacturing of safe, fun and durable pet products.

On our symbiotic relationship:
It’s my belief that dogs remind us how connected we are to nature—they promote the fact that nature exists. That connection to the earth reminds us that we need to take care of it. Also, dogs don’t have a choice in where they live; they are at the mercy of the environment their people create for them. More people understand that the choices they make affect their dogs.

On the definition of “green”:
“Green” embraces a plurality of views—looking at the whole, broadening definitions of safety, origin and manufacturing. In West Paw’s case, most of our products are made from plastic. Some people might ask, “How green is it to make things out of plastic?” They may look at the carbon footprint and think, “This is a petroleum product, so it can’t be green.” It’s a challenge to overcome. If companies spend lots of energy to create long-lived products from recycled material, that's a step forward, and it’s sustainable. If you compare our beds, which are made of recycled plastic, to those made of cotton you might ask “Is it worth all the water it takes to grow the cotton—is that a good use of resources?”

On going green step by step:
Not to get too philosophical, but if you look at the concept of peace, you can say peace starts in your home, or peace starts in your community. You can’t solve the world’s problems, but you can decide how to live your life day-to-day in a way that furthers peace. I think the green movement is very similar. The complexity is enormous, and the challenge is to become informed enough to understand the ramifications involved and not be dissuaded from making the effort.