Dogs help us in so many ways, from herding cattle to sniffing out everything from bombs to cancer. They’re our eyes, ears and limbs when we’re disabled, and they predict epileptic seizures. They offer social support and health benefits, and they can even rescue us from drowning.

It seems that the only drawback to owning a dog is the unpleasant chore of having to pick up its poop, but a dog park in Cambridge, Mass., is showing how even that chore can have a silver lining. is reporting on The Park Spark project, a methane digester that runs on dog waste. Recently installed at the Pacific Street Dog Park in Cambridge, the “scientific-art intervention” was conceived by conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta, and is the first dog park methane digester in the United States. It works by transforming dog waste into methane, which is then used to power a lamppost in the park. The park provides biodegradable dog waste bags, and encourages dog owners to drop their pup’s waste into the methane digester’s feeding tube. A turn of the hand crank, and voilà: The mixture of excrement and anaerobic bacteria helps the methane rise to the top where it can be burned.

Traditionally, dog owners throw their canine companion’s excrement into a garbage bin, from which it’s transported to a waste facility, and where it continues to create methane, a highly combustible greenhouse gas. Funded through MIT, and in partnership with the city of Cambridge, the Park Spark project aims to show that waste can be a precious resource — methane is an effective source of energy — all the while reducing greenhouse emissions.

The team behind the Park Spark project hopes that there eventually will be enough methane generated to power other objects in the park and beyond. They’re soliciting input from the community at large, so if you’ve got some bright ideas on how Park Spark methane should be used, get involved.

Don't pooh-pooh it: Your dog's poop could be an effective source of energy
A Cambridge, Massachusetts, dog park has installed a methane digester to demonstrate the value of Fido's feces.