Sustainability at home can take many shapes and forms, including installing solar panels, upgrading homes with energy efficient products and upgrades, stepping up recycling habits, or reducing the amount of waste produced. For homeowners who want to embrace all of these concepts at once, an emerging green trend has been hitting the market in creating home bioenergy.
Bioenergy is defined by the International Energy Agency as “energy generated from the conversion of solid, liquid, and gaseous products derived from biomass.” In the United States in 2017, biomass-based energy accounted for about 5% of total energy use, showing that it’s got potential to be a key cog to green and renewable energy. Typically, bioenergy relates to industrial uses where there’s extra biomass residue available inherent to the site, such as extra wood products in the paper industry or biowaste materials in landfills.
Food processing plants are another great arena where unused biomass (i.e., organic food products) can be broken down into gases to be used to generate energy. However, food waste does not need to go to an industrial generation site to be converted into usable fuel, but rather converting food waste into home bioenergy is one of the latest and greatest innovations in household sustainability.
The concept might sound unexpected, but dive in to see what this technology could hold for your home…
Traditional use of leftover organic material
The idea of putting leftover organic material (think kitchen waste and/or garden scraps) in a sustainable manner at home is not a brand new one. Rather, do-it-yourselfers have long created compost at home out of leftover food, peels of bananas, discarded plants or weeds from the garden, etc. The benefits of home composting have been well established:
- Reduce the amount of material you’re sending to landfills
- Create free and vibrant soil and fertilizer for your garden
- Minimize your household’s carbon footprint, as landfilling the material instead would require transport and end up releasing methane in the landfill
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, composting can easily and affordably be done indoors or out in the backyard and they provide a good overview of the types of materials that can be used in composting.
But thanks to innovators in green and sustainability spaces, composting is no longer the only option for efficient use of your kitchen and garden scraps
Creating bioenergy instead
New methods have been created by some ambitious inventors to combine the idea of composting your table scraps at home with creating usable fuel for energy like is done at food processing plants. Take, for example, the Bio-Resy and the HomeBiogas, both products which got their start on crowdfunding sites to kick off their innovative companies and ideas.
Each of these are biodigesters that can be placed in your backyard for you to dump in your leftover food, fruit peels, garden scraps, lawn clippings, and any other organic material. Once inside, these items that would otherwise be wasted and tossed to release harmful greenhouse gas emissions at the landfill instead get broken down by specifically provided bacteria. The bacteria eventually eat up the material and convert your scraps into usable gas, similar in form and function to a natural gas that might already be piped into your home.
Use of bioenergy
If you have one of these home biodigesters or another product on the market that enables you to create bioenergy at your home using your organic scraps, the natural next question is what exactly are you supposed to do with this biogas you’ve created? One of the main uses for this type of biogas will be for cooking, whether on the stove top or out on the grill (both products offer accessories to connect your supply of biogas to your kitchen stove or to the grill). In fact, this use of biogas was the inspiration for the home biodigester product, as rudimentary forms of creating and cooking with biogas are used in many rural and developing areas of the world. These innovations are simply bringing that thinking into your neighborhood.
Other uses for the bioenergy you’ve created are dependent on the attachments you get to use them, but anything that connects to a gas line can use this home-made bioenergy, such as pumping it into a heater. The Bio-Resy product even has an attachment you can buy to run a personal scooter on the biogas you’ve created!
Is it for you?
Sustainability can and should be a goal of all households, doing whatever part you can to make the world a little greener and a little cleaner. Whether creating biogas in your home is the best method to do that, though, depends on a few factors:
- Amount of scraps: if you’re one person living on your own, it’s unlikely that you’re building up kitchen and garden scraps at a pace quick enough to make usable amounts of bioenergy very quickly, so the investment may not pay off. But larger families, especially with children, come up with a lot of wasted food that can feed into this process.
- Space: These biodigesters need to live outside, so if you don’t have a yard or are living in an apartment, then they are likely not the ideal use for you (though you can still stick with composting if that’s the case!).
- Use for gas: As noted, there are certain specific end uses that the created bioenergy can go towards. Chief among those uses is cooking, but if your home is set up such that you don’t cook with gas (i.e., your stove is electric and you don’t own a gas grill) then all that biogas won’t have a suitable home.
Whether or not creating bioenergy at home is right for you, it’s undeniable that we’re living in exciting times where sustainability is taking center stage and creative and innovative people are coming up with new and exciting ways to be green. Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open, because you never know if that next innovation will be perfect for you and your family.