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Does Burning Firewood Harm the Environment?

Burning firewood for home heating has brought comfort to humans since before prehistoric times. Now in modern times many people still heat their homes with wood. For some it is the most practical heat they have available and for others it is for the atmosphere and comfort that a wood burning fire produces. But there are many people who are concerned about what burning wood may be doing to the environment.

There are parts of the world where forests are being cleared for making firewood for heating, cooking and other energy needs. But this is typically in poor third world countries where people are more concerned about survival than responsible forest practices. Here in the United States and other developed countries this is usually not a problem.

In developed countries trees that are cut to make firewood are typically replanted or in many cases trees grow back naturally from seed or sprout back from the stumps. Forests are usually not cleared for making firewood, instead it is often made from waste materials from harvesting timber or from trees that are of too poor quality to be made into other products. In the case of my own firewood business I make wood from trees that come from forest enhancement projects. When the forests are overstocked I cut some of the excess trees to help the trees that are left grow better. In cases like this, burning firewood actually helps fund projects that are good for the environment.

Burning wood is carbon neutral, which means the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning wood is reabsorbed by the growing trees that produce the wood. Because of this, firewood and other biofuels are not considered to be a contributor to greenhouse gases.

Pollution from smoke can be a problem in some areas that are poorly ventilated but wood smoke is a natural part of the atmosphere and nature has ways of cleaning it out of the air. Lightning sparked wildfires have naturally been burning and releasing massive amounts of smoke into the atmosphere well before humans started using fire. Smoke can be minimized and in some cases almost eliminated by using modern wood stoves and proper burning techniques.

When burned responsibly heating with firewood can be an environmentally friendly alternative to heating with fossil fuels.

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