Can a fire pit be used sustainably?
When comparing wood to other natural, but finite fuel sources, like gas, oil, and coal, wood can surely be considered the more sustainable option, as long as it is farmed correctly.
The obvious issue with burning wood is that a fire produces smoke, and that means pollutants. A wood fire typically releases carbon dioxide, water vapour and carbon monoxide, contributing to air pollution and global warming.
However, there are solutions to minimise these effects. You can even have a carbon-neutral fire, as long as you know what to look for!
The fuel source itself is the main factor that determines how sustainable your fire is.
When picking a wood fuel for your fire pit, BBQ or chimenea, you need to make sure your wood is:
- Dried (moisture content of below 20%)
- Sustainably Sourced
The majority of smoke and pollutants are generated when wood does not combust properly in a fire. If the wood has a high moisture content, it won’t combust completely, and it may smoulder and start smoking instead of burning.
The lower the moisture content, the more consistently the logs will burn, and the higher the temperature of your fire will be. Remember, the hotter the fire, the more of your toxic materials will be broken down into simpler and safer products.
For your fuel source to be sustainable, it needs to come from a sustainably managed forest. Trees need to be replanted to regenerate the forest and the landscape must be managed to prevent damage to eco-systems, watersheds, wildlife and the trees themselves. If the brand or company you are buying from does not source their wood from a sustainably managed forest, then it’s unlikely to be the most sustainable option.
Another thing to consider is how far the wood has travelled. It would obviously be better for the environment if the wood has not travelled far and is farmed locally, rather than being imported from outside the UK.
Sustainable Fuel Options
Typically the best type of wood to burn is seasoned wood – that is wood that has been allowed to dry out so the moisture content is below 20%. Provided the wood is stored in a dry place, over time the moisture will evaporate – this is the process of seasoning.
Also, just a helpful cleaning tip: if using seasoned wood, make sure to pick a Low in tar option. Some types of woods, particularly those high in sap and moisture content, will leave behind tar and nasty black residue on your fire pit or chimenea, which can be hard to clean away and remove. We recommend looking for wood with a low tar content to keep your fire pit or chimenea in better shape.
Kiln Dried Wood
Kiln dried wood is usually made of hardwood, and it’s processed using large kilns that bake off the excess moisture, typically resulting in logs that have a moisture content of less than 20%. Arguably, an additional process has taken place here to dry the wood, which will have used fuel or energy to power the kiln. But then as a result, the wood will be drier and emit fewer pollutants when burned.
If you are looking to buy kiln dried wood, look for a company who can show their kiln has been fired using a renewable energy source.
Eco-logs are generally manufactured from 100% recycled wood waste, and are usually shavings which are compressed into logs. This wood waste would have normally ended up in landfill, where it would have broken down into methane gas, a gas four times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
Eco-logs tend to be even lower in moisture than seasoned wood! Even the most seasoned hardwood will still have 20% moisture within the wood; eco-logs would typically only have 10%.
Coffee Logs (not suitable for fire pits)
The manufacturers of Coffee Logs collect waste coffee grounds from coffee shops all over the UK and turn them into dried logs that can be used as a fuel source.
They claim to generate 130% less emissions than if the grounds are sent to the standard disposal method. However, they actually produce a lot more smoke than wood, and they are not designed to be used with BBQs, fire pits, and chimeneas. Their sustainability benefit is down to re-using a waste product and preventing emissions released through the disposal process of coffee waste, rather than being the most sustainable option to actually burn.
Why do we sell fire pits?
Our stance is not to guilt and shame you into living a certain way, but to hopefully educate and advise ways you could live a more sustainable life without much effort, or a drastic lifestyle change.
Fire pits can be enjoyed sensibly and sustainably, as long as you make the right choices to reduce the effects your fire has on the environment. This can be as easy as picking a dry and sustainably sourced fuel.
Fire pits are usually made from good quality metal, which can be recycled time and time again. So if your fire pit has come to the end of its life, make sure to dispose of it correctly. The simplest option may be to contact a reputable scrap metal collector.
If you already own a fire pit, or are looking to purchase one, hopefully reading this blog will give you some inspiration to look for a sustainable fuel source for your next garden party, and then at least you can use it guilt free!
Our fire pits
We have a beautiful range of fire pits, in different shapes and sizes. Pick from our standard fire bowl pit, or the modern geometric fire pit baskets!
Extra tip! - You could use the ash from your fire as fertiliser for your garden, once it has cooled down of course!