Using Wood in An Environmentally Conscious Way
As explained in the previous article in this series, the use of wood for home heating is right on the borderline of what could be considered “green energy.” In a way, we could call wood the greenest of energy sources because they are literally green. However, we can also make an argument that they are not environmentally viable as a heat source because of the fact that they produce most of the oxygen that we need to survive.
The middle ground is to use scrap wood from a variety of sources. In this article, we will go a little more in-depth about this practice, and the best ways to implement it. We will focus not just on methods of procurement and sources, but also methods of use.
The first thing you need to decide is how much time you want to devote to the process of finding wood. To evaluate this question, you will simply need to ask yourself: which do I have more of…time or money? If you have more time than money, gathering scrap wood from a variety of sources is undoubtedly the way to go. If you have more money than time, you should simply use softwood heating pellets in a woodstove of the appropriate size for your dwelling. These pellets are made of compressed sawdust, which means that they are essentially a recycled material. Whenever wood is processed in any way, sawdust will usually be produced. It makes no sense to simply let this material go to waste.
If you choose to gather your wood, you will need to evaluate your environment. If you live in the thickly forested hills like me, you can just walk through the woods and pick up stray branches from the ground. If the pickings are slim, you could also bring a small saw with you and lop off some low-hanging branches. However, you should never kill a tree for your firewood. In this day and age, it just isn’t necessary.
If you live in an urban or semi-urban area, your task is not as difficult as you might think. People throw out a lot of wood furniture on a regular basis, and most of it can be used as firewood. One thing to remember is that plywood/pressboard contains a lot of glue. As such, make sure your fireplace is fully ventilated because the burning wood glue can irritate your lungs or at least choke you badly. Old wooden pallets can often be obtained, but make sure you do not take them without asking because they might be designated for re-use.
In the end, wood is a good choice for heating your home because it is a renewable resource. Unlike coal, natural gas, or kerosene, a tree will grow back. Once we run out of coal, oil, and gas, those resources are gone forever. Until we begin colonizing other planets and harvesting their resources, the best bet is to make intelligent and judicious use of renewable resources. Best of all, we don’t have to dig a great big hole in the ground to obtain a piece of wood.