Green Thought Thursday: A little local landfill love

By Posted in - Sustainability on July 7th, 2011

Charley loves to play at Dorthea Dix! Did you know that there is a closed landfill right behind the hospital? We have our own methane power source right here inside the beltline!

It may seem crazy, but yes, I do have a little bit of love for my local landfill. I discovered this new-found love for landfills last year during my stint with AmeriCorps Project Conserve. It was during one of our monthly peer training sessions that we ventured out to a very, very cool place – the EnergyXchange in Waynesville, NC.

The mission of EnergyXChange is “to apply the use of renewable resources and practices for educational opportunities and economic development in the fields of art and horticulture.” Sound complicated? In a nutshell, this group of artsy folks harnesses the power of its local landfill, which closed in 1994, to provide energy for art studios and greenhouses located onsite.

So how does it work? Let me break it down for you (no pun intended). As our trash decomposes beneath the surface of a landfill, it produces several gases that can be harmful to our atmosphere. Two of them? Methane and carbon dioxide. The good news is that the methane, which is definitely the more potent of the two (it is 21 times more effective at trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide), can be collected through a series of pipes and pumps and what-have-yous that are then used to power the facilities there.

And the results? Monumental. According to the EnergyXchange, the system is expected to save more than $1 million in energy costs over the landfill’s estimated 20-year reuse cycle, and its impact is the “equivalent to planting 14,000 acres of trees or taking 21,000 cars off the road in North Carolina each year!”

Not to mention, there’s a group of really talented artists in residence, as well as tons of cool stuff you can buy there. Check it out for yourself! And as for you, Mr. Landfill, maybe you’re not so bad, after all.

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