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Park Spark lights lamps with dog doo

Artist imagines a system wherein park-goers toss biodegradable bags containing canine waste into a container that turns it into methane. Good for the environment--and our shoes.

Matt Hickey
With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.
Matt Hickey
2 min read
I want this in my park. Park Spark

I have a dog. I'm a responsible dog owner; on a walk, after he does his business, I take care of it. The bag of waste is thrown into an always-open dumpster on the walk back to my apartment building.

But what if the contents of that bag could be used to power a park lamp? Indeed, the park where I and many of my neighbors walk our dogs has a single lamppost. And if an experiment by conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta continues to be successful, my dog's doo might power it one day.

Mazzotta has a pilot project going in Cambridge, Mass., a few blocks from MIT, that turns the methane released from canine waste into usable energy.

Rather then collecting their pet waste in plastic bags and sending it to landfills, park-goers are prompted to use provided biodegradable bags to collect Fido's output. They then toss the bags into the "methane digester" and turn a crank to stir the waste, which helps microbes break down the organic material and create methane. The methane is then fed to an old gas lamp next to the digester that burns the substance, creating light from a flame.

It's more green than brown, and an interesting idea. The project's called Park Spark, and it's currently being studied by Mazzotta and others to see if ideas for using biomass as energy are feasible. The idea is to marry clean energy with waste disposal.

We like it, among other reasons, because as people get more green-conscious, we may be stepping in less doo at the park. We can get behind that.

Park Spark project
Park Spark