How sustainable is it to burn wood?

How sustainable is it to burn wood?

This is a question that seems to come up a lot lately. It is influenced by the fossil fuel debate, the increased take-up of renewable sources of energy, and the air quality issues that are at the forefront of politicians’ minds at the moment to name but a few. So we thought we would briefly explore the issue ourselves and try to put things into some perspective.

Renewable source of energy

Wood is a renewable source of energy. Put very simply trees provide logs for wood burning and so long as we continue to plant trees and let them grow, wood will continue to be a renewable source of energy. However, if we are cutting down more wood that we allow to grow, then while it may be renewable it is not necessarily sustainable. When buying logs, look out for the sustainability mark or check that it has a label such as the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification to show that it comes from a sustainably managed source. Also make sure that your wood is dry so that you are not burning it inefficiently; look out for kiln-dried logs and store them in a dry place, away from moisture or damp.

Carbon neutral

We also think of wood as being carbon neutral. While not quite neutral, it does emit less carbon than fossil fuels and when it comes from a sustainably managed source it also acts as a sink for carbon.

Air quality

This is an increasingly topical issue. We recently explored the flurry of articles in the media that suggested that wood burners were about to be banned (that article is here if you want to re-read it), which as you know turned out to be not quite as dramatic as they initially seemed. The fact remains though that air quality is deteriorating, particularly in big cities such as London, and wood burning can contribute when it is not managed properly. By making sure that you use a Defra-approved wood burner you have peace of mind that particulate matter is burned more than once, thus reducing the amount finally emitted to the atmosphere.

Alternatives

An alternative to wood which has been popular in mainland Europe for years and is gaining in popularity in the UK is briquettes. Made of recycled wood sources, including shredded wood and sawdust, they are produced under pressure creating a small, compact fuel source and take up less storage space than traditional logs – particularly useful for those smaller properties where space is often at a premium. They also provide around half as much more heat per pound spent than traditional logs, also burning for longer.

The verdict? Managed properly and bought from sustainable sources, or using recycled briquettes, wood can be a much more sustainable heat source than most others. Coupled with a Defra-approved and efficiently working wood burner, you can rest assured that it is a more environmentally-responsible way of heating your home than other ways.

For advice on sustainable wood burners and fuel talk to us at Fiveways Fires & Stoves. You can reach us on the phone on 020 8127 4747 or by email at for a discussion or for a free, no-obligation quote.

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