Local business gives back one poop bag at a time

Wed. January 25, 2012 10:06 AM by Waymon Hudson

paul cannella, owner of poopbags.com

Chicago, IL - It's a part of city-living and pet-ownership that we all have just come to accept: picking up after our pooches. While not the most glamorous moment of our days, many pet parents don't realize the impact dog waste and plastic bags have on the environment.

Single-use bags represent a huge threat to the environment. This threat is not only the sheer volume of them ending up in landfills, but also to the resources needed to produce them. Nearly 380 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. every year, with an estimated 12 million barrels of oil required to make that many plastic bags. The EPA says that there are an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean, killing thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds each year as a result of plastic pollution. Petroleum-based bags are non-renewable, do not biodegrade, and can take thousands of years to break down.

Beyond just the plastic bags, 20-30% of all pollutants in waterways are attributed to dog waste. Overall, it is believed that dog waste is in the top four of contributors to bacteria in contaminated waters. This is comes from the estimated 4 million tons of dog waste that dog owners do not collect annually.

One local Chicago businessman and dog owner looked at these troubling facts and decided to do something about it. Paul Cannella, owner of popular Boystown businesses Scarlet Bar and Taverna 750, realized the need for an environmentally friendly option for dog owners while walking his yellow labrador May.

"As a single guy living in Chicago's Lincoln Park, I would always run out of the plastic grocery bags I used to pick up May's poop," Paul told ChicagoPride.com. "As a backup, I'd use the ones from the newspaper, sandwich bags, ask my Mom to save me bags, snag some from a friend's house - it was crazy. Then I started thinking about all these plastic bags... I looked online and started reading more and more about plastic bags in general. How they are made, how they'll never go away in my lifetime."

So in 2003, Cannella decided to put his money where his mouth is and create a business that sold biodegradable dog waste bags. The process of researching the impact of plastics on the environment changed Cannella's outlook on his environmental footprint, something he hopes people take away from the company's philosophy, "Just looking at the facts on plastics and waste really made me more aware of the difference we can all make with little, daily changes. I wanted to share that with people and change minds, even if it was one persona at a time."

And the brilliantly-named company Poopbags.com was born. Made from a combination of renewable products, Poopbags have no chemical additives to enhance decomposition and degrade naturally when exposed to the earth's elements and micro-organisms in the soil.

"After purchasing the URL from a company in London and testing several manufacturers, with the help of my Vice President of Product Testing Miss Cinnamon May, I chose the final product that launched PoopBags.com Inc," Cannela recounted with a laugh.
"Trust me, it takes awhile to get used to saying ‘PoopBags.com.' At first, I was a bit shy in saying it as I knew the looks and reactions I would receive. Now, I look forward to it. So does the media... We've done interviews on the radio, had several articles in newspapers across the country, been featured in magazines and more. Each year we have experienced tremendous growth, but we're just getting started."

The company certainly has exploded. The small business has moved from its humble beginnings in Cannella's dining room to a small warehouse with five employees. They sell direct to consumers through their website and also have large retail and commercial accounts, such as parks, RV parks, apartment/condo complexes, vets and more. Poopbags.com has also been featured all over the news, including places like The Huffington Post, Newsweek, the Sundance Channel's Green Guide, Pet Side, the Today Show and a number of others.

But all the attention hasn't changed Cannella's philosophy on being part of the community and giving back. The company is very involved in philanthropy. From Earth Day fundraising to donating to Pet Soup Kitchens, Pets of the Homeless, and Algalita Marine Research Foundation and Friends of Animal Care and Control, Poopbags.com more than lives up to their motto of "supporting causes that contribute to the health and well-being of pets and the environment in which they live."

"At the end of the day," Paul Cannella told ChicagoPride.com, "I think businesses should give back to the communities that support them. It's what I've always tried to do with all of mine, whether through animal charities from Poopbags.com or LGBT organizations through Scarlet and Taverna 750. It's also just good business- people support businesses that they know care about the community they work in."

With an ever-expanding, socially-responsible, and environmentally-friendly business model, as well as deep community ties and a strong sense of giving back to causes that help our four-legged friends, Poopbags.com is certainly a local business to watch and support.

So do some good while your pooch does their business. Who knew a little bag could do so much?

Visit Poopbags.com