Put a Landfill on Your Company’s Sustainability Page
Steve Siger
November 3, 2023

We all can picture the typical company sustainability page. Alongside a description of what the company has been doing to reduce its environmental impact, there are pictures of beautiful landscapes–perhaps a tropical rainforest with monkeys and leopards or a panorama of a boreal forest in a remote section of Alaska with snow-covered mountains in the background. And we all understand why: they’re compelling pictures. But we think you should have a picture of a landfill right next to those landscapes. Here’s why.

Sustainability and climate efforts need to be focused on impact first. And while there are many forestry projects that deliver impact, it is critical for buyers seeking to maximize their impact and mitigate risk to diversify their purchasing to credits supporting other critical technologies, beyond what our friend Donna Lee at Calyx Global calls “charismatic projects.” Indeed, many of the projects that have the greatest climate impact affirmatively lack charisma–they are what Donna calls “ugly ducklings.” Often industrial in nature, these projects can drive real impact by reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses like methane, which traps about 28 times as much heat as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide over a 100 year period.

If you are looking for the paradigmatic example of an ugly duckling project that drives substantial impact but facially lacks charisma, look no further than landfill gas projects. Landfills around the world emit substantial amounts of methane as organic matter like food waste decomposes. You can read more about landfill gas from the U.S. EPA. We have the technology to capture the methane at landfills, treat it, and convert it into electricity. This avoids the methane emissions and displaces potentially dirtier electricity coming from fossil fuels sources like coal. It’s a big win for the climate. But this technology is generally not economically viable to deploy, and it is not required by regulation in most of the world.

With carbon credits, these projects become economically viable. That generally makes the avoided emissions from these projects additional. What’s more, there is no way to reverse them, so they are 100% permanent. These two factors can make landfill gas to electricity projects a great piece of a high-impact portfolio.

As is typical with carbon credits, that does not mean all landfill gas projects are perfect. For instance, they can understate how much methane would naturally oxidize into carbon dioxide, thereby overstating the project’s impact. And in some jurisdictions, there is some regulatory or economic support for landfill gas capture and utilization, which undercuts some projects’ additionality. That’s why individual project-level diligence is critical to find projects that are high impact. CNaught does that work for you.

When you purchase landfill gas projects with CNaught as part of our science-backed, diversified portfolio, we provide you with impact tools that you can embed in your sustainability website. With those tools, you can explain why you are following the science to support projects that may not be as charismatic but are delivering the real climate action you are seeking. And you can take credit for that impact with a picture of a landfill on your website.