The new bike-powered generators down at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zucotti Park have been all the rage in the media (and with passersby) since they were built. They are certainly cool, and providing a much-needed service since the police confiscated OWS' generators, citing safety concerns. But there's also another interesting sustainability story going on, right next to the bike generators: Composting.
Coordinated by Time's Up!, between 75-200 pounds of compostable waste is being collected each day from the encampment. There's no on-site compost pile, perhaps obviously; rather, the plastic bins of waste are being taken by cargo bike to a number of community compost collecting facilities in Manhattan, such as the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Earth Matter, and El Jardin de Paraíso.Time's Up! member Brennan Cavanaugh (in the photo above) says there's be a lot of commercial interest in the compostable waste, but they've remained committed to keeping the waste both out of the landfill waste stream and out of the hands of the commercial carting interests -- and remained committed to moving everything via bicycle to eliminate the use of fossil fuel powered transport.
Reducing fossil fuel-based products is also part of the plans of the newly formed OWS Sustainability Working Group. Bottled water, as well as all single-use plastic products are planned to be phased out as the Sustainability group coordinates with Sanitation and Kitchen working groups to make the Zucotti Park encampment more environmental friendly.
A side note: In fact, the police unintentionally helped out in this regard when they confiscated the OWS generators. Though the current number of bike generators are not sufficient for the group's entire electricity needs, just six more will do the trick.
As Time's Up!'s Catherine Talese says, what Sustainability is doing is really a microcosm of what OWS is trying to do more broadly -- people attempting to make a system that works for the needs of the people first and foremost, working together to do so.
It may sound a bit cliché but it's true: "We're not for independence," Talese says. "We're for interdependence."