“Biomass” is one of those terms like “alternative energy”: it could be a sustainable approach to energy generation, but isn’t always. I once sat through a talk by an energy services company executive in which he argued that forest biomass (think trees, undergrowth, etc., cut for burning) was carbon-neutral because “the plants could grow back.” Seriously.
On the other hand, though, an awful lot of waste – from shredded paper to sawdust to greasy pizza boxes – could be used to generate heat. As we move into the winter months, and you start to consider the prices of heating oil, natural gas, and/or electricity, you may want to start taking a look at some of the waste that goes into the trash can… there are BTUs in much of it that could be harvested cheaply without creating much pollution.
Want to start putting some of that waste to work? Take a look at these ideas for making use of waste biomass for home heating, or even cooking. Most of these plans below were created for the developing world, where the harvesting of wood for cooking or for making charcoal (an income source for many impoverished people) has led to deforestation, erosion, and ultimately complete degradation of productive land. While you might not be facing such dire choices between short-term fuel needs and long-term land use, these ideas can save you some money, and keep useful biomass out of landfills… still a win-win.
Like their (much less clean) charcoal cousins, biomass briquettes basically involve applying pressure to materials that will burn. With just a little searching, you’ll find a ton of content about how to make briquettes… and, as I’ve discovered, much of it is really, really bad. The two-part series below by Elizabeth Amadei is, by far, the most thorough and best produced I’ve found (you just have to cut Elizabeth a bit of slack for her delivery):