Most readers of this site will be familiar with the idea of capturing methane escaping from landfills and using it as a source of energy. Nothing too radical in that concept, it is already being done in countless locations around the world. However, one organization in North Carolina is taking the idea a step further and addressing what best to do with that energy source once you have captured it. Energy Xchange develops energy intensive, yet socially progressive projects using excess methane from landfill, thus offering a greener alternative to fossil fuel use. One of its most prominent initiatives, Project Branch Out, has set up heated greenhouses for the propagation of native species. These plants are then sold on to cash-poor tobacco farmers, who are also provided training, thus helping them to diversify into the nursery business. The farmers then sell their products on to other landowners, creating a "virtuous cycle" of positive economic, social and ecological effects in the surrounding community.
Energy Xchange's other major project, known as Craft Studios, describes itself as a "business incubator". Young glass blowers and potters, who often face prohibitive energy costs when setting up, are granted a residency which includes affordable studio space, and free, greener power from the captured landfill methane. Residencies are granted according to merit by craft-specific panels that assess the artists' potential. This begs the question, of course, as to what young glass-blowers will use for fuel when landfills become a thing of the past in our future zero-waste society. You may say I'm a dreamer... [Written by: Sami Grover]