When I spoke to Tom Szaky, founder of Terracycle, on the podcast, he shared an origin story. He had bought a used industrial composting machine and arranged with Princeton’s food services team to take a few barrels of their food scraps. it was summer, the composting machine arrived late, and the barrels of scraps were mostly sealed.
When they opened the barrels, the stench was revolting, the maggots everywhere, and at least one person vomited, as I remember. But the company started. I saw him tell that story to an audience at a conference at NYU. Afterward, another attendee remarked on the story: who does that?
I responded, “that’s why he was on stage and we were in the audience.”
That story came to mind this summer when volunteering for the community center I drop off food to. They have a brown bin for food scraps but the city doesn’t pick up from there. No one else in the community seems to know or care about composting as much as I do. A lot of scraps end up in the trash and recycling bins and a lot of trash and recycling end up in the brown bin. If I didn’t wheel the bins to Union Square, where a nonprofit collects scraps for industrial composting, nobody would so I do. Massive stench and plenty of maggots.
Recently another volunteer started helping. Saturday the temperature was in the single digits Fahrenheit when we scheduled to deliver the scraps. We could have postponed since they weren’t going to decompose worse in that cold, but we kept to our plan. This time instead of stench and maggots, the scraps were frozen to the container. We had to bang it around and borrow a shovel.
But I didn’t come here to talk about food scraps. I wanted to show fun pictures.
Sunday was also below freezing all day. I still put the panels on the roof to charge the battery. When I went to bring them back down, I miscalculated my timing and realized I had a video call then. However cold, the day was bright and sunny so great for powering a video call so I thought, “why not take the call up here?”
I was bundled up. At first I thought I should stick with audio since I’d look silly. Then I thought, “fuck it! This is passion in action.”
I started audio only, then said to him, “I’m on the roof. I’ll turn on the video in a second, Be prepared for me looking funny.” I turned on the video and here’s what showed (he’s in Florida):
I loved it! I’m wearing a winter coat over a winter coat over a hat. I had to look only at him because I laughed too much when I looked at me.
The yellow coat was all I’d wear skiing so the parka on top shows how cold it was. Also this screen shot of the weather page, though I took it at the end of the call, when it was at least a few degrees warmer.
I suspect most people will see the 28 degrees and think it cold. I see first the clear forecast and see I can charge my battery. I’m learning humility to nature, not solving every problem by burning more fossil fuels or extracting more from outside the biosphere, which has become American and global culture, also known as addiction.
I also see the 14 degree low, since I was out in it too, which made the 28 degree feel warm. I also recall that there are people who work for a living. People collect trash, work in construction, and wear uniforms that work all the time in weather like this. People also live in cold areas. Humans have lived above the arctic circle for millennia.
Desire.. Doing what it takes. It’s why Szaky was on stage and the rest of us weren’t. I’m not suggesting others do exactly what I’m doing. Even I couldn’t keep it going for long. I could just plug in. I’m learning to value power. My preparation for eight months and counting with my apartment off the electric grid was to buy two pieces of equipment, not knowing they were underpowered. I’m finding out what’s possible.
Not shown here: how much I’m reducing my “need” for power, thereby increasing my freedom and decreasing harming other people and wildlife. I see in these pictures compassion, empathy, love, and reducing innocent people suffering.
Plus I’m learning what I could use for a long-term solution. The next challenge is not technical but social: requesting approval from my coop board for something more permanent so I don’t have to go outside in the cold.
Here’s another shot, for fun:
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