Pedal People

northampton, massachusetts — The Pedal People troll our streets almost every day, bicycling not for play but for work. They tow six- and eight-foot trailers behind their bikes, each stacked with eight plastic containers roughly the size of recycling bins, and collect neighborhood garbage and recycling to haul to the local transfer station. The program is popular enough that on some streets the garbage truck need visit only a single address or two — leaving the rest of trash collection to a bicycle quietly rolling from house to house.

Last year the Pedal People moved beyond individual service and won a contract with the city to collect garbage from downtown waste cans. Stores have begun using them for local deliveries of furniture, and residents can call on the trailers for house moves within town (they can carry up to three hundred pounds). Their website boasts that they’ve moved everything from cats to solar panels.

Six years into the business, the two founders, Ruthy Woodring and Alex Jarrett, have expanded their operation to a cooperative of eleven, and now they’re offering a new service: pickup of compostable material. If you can’t or don’t want to compost yourself, you can leave a bucket of scraps out with the garbage. And for those who prefer the smell of cut grass to mowers and blowers, they do gas-free, chemical-free yard care, with all tools, including human-powered mowers, brought by bicycle. It’s a message in action: look what we can do gas-free.

Since signing up, my own household has become much more conscious of how much we throw out each week. It’s impossible not to be when we see the Pedal People folks sweating in the summer and toiling uphill through slush in the winter, pulling the weight of everyone’s leavings.

In the face of climate change and energy challenges, what creative ways are you finding to forge healthy and durable lives and communities? Send submissions — five hundred words or fewer — to Orion, 187 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230, or via {encode=”” title=”e-mail”}. Submissions become property of Orion.


  1. I am so inspired by this article and the one on the Tucson food bank teaching people to grow their own gardens. I write a blog for the Wine and Hospitality network and I’ll make sure to link to these wonderful articles. Thank you for making my holiday season more hopeful.

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