B.C. Air Quality

Is Burning Wood Good for the Environment?

How many times have you gone for a walk on a cold, still night, and caught thet scent of wood smoke in the air? Wood smoke curling out of home chimneys looks and smells cozy and "natural." There's something calming and even romantic about sitting beside a crackling fire on a cold night.

Many people think that wood burning is better than other kinds of heating because wood is a renewable resource. However, wood burning can have negative impacts:

  • Human Health: Scientists have recently discovered that the pollutants in wood smoke, notably particulate matter, are harmful to human health. In fact, wood smoke has become the most serious kind of air pollution in B.C., causing more illness and deaths than smog does.
  • Visibility: The fine particulates in smoke are very effective at reducing visibility. Smoke can blot out the view, making it difficult for residents and tourists alike to enjoy the scenery, or even travel by road or air. This, in turn, can cause economic losses.
  • Use It; Don't Burn It!:  Burning leftover wood and vegetative matter can be a waste of a valuable resource. Instead of going up in a cloud of smoke, this material can be reused — for example, to make compost, wood chips and pellets, and as fuel to cogenerate heat (steam) and electricity in pulp mills.

    The Recycling Council of BC has put together an inventory of businesses and facilities in every regional district that accept household and business vegetative debris. See Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC): Directory of Alternatives to Open Burning.

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