Temperatures are dropping, and we’re thinking more about sweaters than swimsuits. For many, cold weather means it’s time to build a fire and curl up with a good book or toast some marshmallows. You can enjoy a cozy fire while being as eco-friendly as possible.
Chances are, you’ll be burning wood in your fireplace or outdoor fire pit. Not all wood is equal, though, as far as its environmental impact. Avoid any wood that has paint, glue, stain or any other chemical treatment, as well as wood that came from diseased or moldy trees. These wood products release excess toxins into the air as they burn. Dry hardwood is your best choice for an efficient burn. Wood that’s been stored outside or has any green color needs more time to dry and “season” – preferably a year – before it is burned. Using it too early will cause it to steam and smolder in your fireplace, creating excess particulates and a lot of wasted energy.
When you’re getting the fire started, you’ll probably need some help in the form of kindling or starters. Avoid glossy papers, colored newsprint, and printed paperboard. You can use items from around your home or commercially available fire starters.
If you’re burning wood inside for heating purposes, maintaining an efficient fireplace is also key. When a fire isn’t burning, make sure the damper is in the closed position. Have a professional inspect your flue and chimney to make sure it is properly cleaned and sealed.
There are alternatives to wood burning fireplaces if you’re interested in modifying your current system to be even more green. The EPA gives plenty of information about pellet stoves, gas inserts and more.