The Park Spark project is looking for 6 different cities around the world to develop the project in this spring. If you are interested in helping bring the Park Spark to your city, please read the following info and the email instructions below.
After the project was launched this summer and the press release went out, we were contacted by hundreds of people from all over the world requesting the Park Spark for their community. At this point there is nothing on the market that can be bought commercially and installed in a city. The Park Spark was developed over the last couple of years and we had our pilot run this summer. We are choosing to expand the Park Spark project by developing the project in collaboration with other interested communities. We are hoping that once a pilot Park Spark project is realized in your community, you can share this knowledge with your neighbors so that they may be able to build one for their community, and the project will grow this way.
This is where you come in! We often receive requests for the Park Spark from people living in the same city. What we would like to do to is facilitate the development of the Park Spark in your city by connecting interested people from the same city, that way we can all work together. Please scroll down to read all the info below and follow the email instructions, so that we can start this process by connecting you to others from your community that want to be involved.
Subject: name of your city Get Involved
for example Cambridge, MA Get Involved
(Even if you are not sure if there are others interested from where you live, please send an email)
Just some words about the Park Spark project to get everyone on the same page:
The Park Spark project is a living system called an anaerobic digester. Digesters are found all over the world, designed as large complex systems, as well as small household or community digesters like the Park Spark. A digester is not a product to just be bought and installed; it is something that needs to be maintained. In theory, it could easily be handled by the city in some discrete location, however, we see the Park Spark as a grassroots effort thats built by the community that is going to use it, to have longevity and be successful. The power behind the Park Spark project is that it creates a new relationship between the city and its citizens by fostering connections within the local environment, neighborhood community and city. It highlights the publics ability to take responsibility for the environment they are part of. This idea is further extended with the creation of a unique and creative use for the flame, aimed at revealing unexplored interests of the people and places the Park Spark becomes part of.
Digesters work on one simple principle by depriving animal waste of oxygen, the microbes in the waste produce burnable methane gas that can be used as an energy source. The methane produced by these microbes is an invisible and harmful greenhouse gas. It is an everyday natural process that has caught peoples attention as the debate around climate-change has developed. The Park Spark project captures this methane before it goes into the atmosphere and burns it, reducing it to much less harmful gases.
These methane-producing microbes thrive best in warm weather. Actually, they love a temperature right around 100 degrees F. Although they still put off methane in colder weather, their production diminishes as temperature drops below a certain point. The passive design of the Park Spark project is mainly for late spring to early fall for climates like Cambridge, MA. Locations that are much warmer will have more efficient results, with a possibility of running all year long.
As for the solid waste - Even though methane from dog waste is being captured and reduced (burned) there is still solid waste (slurry) that has to be dealt with a couple of times a year. Currently, we are pumping out the digester and bringing to a waste treatment plant, however the idea is to be able to use the remaining slurry (dog poop and water) as fertilizer for garden, which would make even a larger impact on the environment.
The Next Steps How to get this going in your city:
1) Start a Group
Start a group of committed people willing to work to make the Park Spark project happen in your city (details on starting a group below)
2) Getting the City onboard
It is important to contact and begin working with the various city departments that need to be involved to find an appropriate dog park and to grant approvals to realize the project. Here is a list of depts we needed to contact with the project in Cambridge: Cambridge Art Council (your citys arts organization that works directly with the city), Fire dept, Parks and Rec, Public Health, Open Space committee, Public Health dept, EPA or the Sate Department of Environmental Protection, and any local community or Dog groups that might be interested.
Finding a source of financial support for the project. Some ideas: Art grants or organizations, "Green" or sustainability project money, inventive grants or funds. Start with the web to see what your city has for grant money.
3) Park Spark Experts
Although the science is not that complicated making sure the digester is airtight, testing ph levels (similar to doing this with soil in gardening) and testing the methane content in the gas being produced (a little more involved, and not completely necessary), there is some maintenance. The Park Spark could be thought about like making bread, where there is a bit of effort and understanding needed, like the rising of yeast and how long to bake it for to come out with desired results. The good news is that even if things get neglected, dirty or the methane is not being well monitored, it is easy to diagnose and to bring it back to fully functional again.
Even though the Park Spark is a participatory project, as people throw their dogs waste into the digester and contribute ideas to develop a project that uses the flame, the project works best if we form a group of about 6-10 people that will become the "Park Spark Experts". This group will be people who are interested in contributing and helping maintain the digester. Knowledge and experience of digesters a plus, but not required. This is a group of people who want to be involved on a deeper level and can be called upon when things need help.
Lead Scientist of Park Spark
One essential connection to have would be to partner with the local university or school and get someone or a group of people that have a good understanding of digesters and are willing to do the overseeing of the project and the testing needed for free. This would be the Lead Scientist of the Park Spark
How the Park Spark actually functions can best be seen in three layers:
1) Capturing By capturing naturally occurring methane from dog waste, the Park Spark then reduces this gas from going into the atmosphere by burning it. When methane, which is 30-70 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, is burned, it is reduced to CO2 and H2O
good news for the environment!
2) Energy - The creation of energy. Heat and light are produced in the form of a flame when the methane is burned and can be used as an energy source to power artwork.
3) Creation The Park Spark project uses this flame to power a community-designed participatory artwork that aims at revealing something is social, aesthetic, political, or community building. Not only is the Park Spark project helping to reduce harmful emissions, it is at the same time providing an opportunity for public involvement and creativity. Even though the Park Spark project can be used as a light for the park, there are lights at parks already. The Park Spark project is about creating an opportunity for using this new source of energy as a catalyst to bring out underrepresented or interesting aspects of the community and neighborhood. One example would be to use the digester to make tea form locally gathered plants as a way of exploring the landscape with a fresh perspective, while raising questions about where our food comes from. Other ideas could be to support an artistic endeavor like a shadow puppet show, making popcorn from locally grown corn, or whatever else our hearts desire.
Where the Park Spark project can help facilitate the process of bringing the project to your city:
Once we get a small, but committed base of people interested in developing the project in your city, the Park Spark project can help in a number of ways:
Develop a design of a digester, help write grants once we find a couple of sources to apply to, and then collectively work to develop a use for the flame that will come out of meeting with the community that the Park Spark project will eventually reside in. This last part of the project, developing the use for the flame should be the most exciting, for most of what it takes to get the system up and running has been worked out and now it is time to see what creative solution to using the flame we can come up with as a community.
Our Next Steps:
1) Lets form a group of interested folks and begin conversations with the various city depts. - The Park Spark project can help facilitate the forming of a group in your city by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject name of your city Get Involved for example Cambridge, MA Get Involved
2) Brain storm ideas for funding together, lets look on the web for funding locally and nationally. What does your city have in terms of sustainability grants, or art and community building grants?
3) Finding a location have ideas?
4) Lead Scientist - Find a partner at the university or schools around Austin that would like to get involved. Just someone that has an interest in microbiology or digester and would like to be Lead Scientist of Park Spark Austin
Lets Start -- Make the Park Spark project happen this spring in your city