North Carolina State University recently came out with a study that puts the green movement into a little bit of a perspective. Scientists examined what happened to “eco-friendly” biodegradable materials once buried in landfills. Researchers noted that such materials produced methane upon decay, which is nothing unusual considering that all decaying material produces methane. Methane from landfills is normally trapped by collection systems which are used to produce energy, a net gain for the community.
What was alarming however was the rate at which the methane was produced; far faster than collection systems were installed, causing methane to be released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. The study pointed to Federal Trade Commission guidelines dictating rapid material decay and suggested that such guidelines may be causing more damage to the environment than assisting it.
The study makes an interesting point: Rushing to subscribe to the green movement without examining its consequences is a potentially disastrous notion. Being pushed into spending millions upon millions of dollars on green measures across the state could turn into a costly mistake should a study (such as the one here) find that the effects are negligible, or worse, detrimental.
Whether it is utilizing a new energy technology or utilizing a new disposable cup, North Carolina should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of its “green” decisions before rushing into a potential mistake.