Age 32: Founder and Treasurer, Pedal People Cooperative
Alex Jarrett likes bicycling. About five years ago, he and his partner, Ruthy Woodring, wondered whether they could turn that passion into a business.
“We saw that there were no city services for the recycling of trash, and we thought, ‘what if we could go around and pick up people’s recycling and bring it to the transfer station for them — and do it on a bike?’” So they did — and Pedal People was born.
“There are so many things we can do that don’t need gas-powered machinery,” said Jarrett, noting that, while Pedal People must use trucks to bring large loads of recycling to the transfer center, “it’s not very efficient for that truck to go to every house. That start and stop every time emits a lot of smoke, it’s really inefficient, and it takes a lot of energy.”
As the company started to grow, Jarrett and Woodring knew they didn’t want to be a conventional business, but a cooperative, with ownership shared among the workers. The payroll now includes 11 of them, and all new recruits must first complete a nine-month apprenticeship period to determine whether they’re a good fit with Pedal People. The customer roster totals several hundred throughout Northampton, Florence, and Leeds, in addition to a municipal contract with Florence.
“I think a lot of our customers choose us because of the environmental angle,” said Jarrett, noting that he’s also started a program to help people compost food scraps. “Composting doesn’t use any energy, and we can turn that into a locally available resource to help grow more food. I feel like that’s 100% recycling.”
Jarrett’s big ideas haven’t stopped there. He also founded the Pedal People Food Collective, which uses bicycles for bulk grocery purchasing and distribution, as well as Montview Neighborhood Farm in Northampton, an experiment in running a farm using only human power. He says he tries to find ways to use resources efficiently and protect the environment, but his bicycle-powered efforts do more than that.
“I have a passion for community, too,” he said. “When you’re out there on the bike, you can be accessible to people and talk to them. Instead of being in a car, in a box, you’re right there on the street with people, right in their neighborhoods. I get excited about that.”