Why Use Wood That Is Sustainably Sourced?

When it comes to fires, and burning firewood, be it in a backyard fire pit or a fireplace in your home, today people want to try and do their best to help the environment. One of the ways you can do this is by choosing to burn only *sustainable firewood*

So, what actually IS Sustainable Firewood???

The Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council Firewood’s task-force has defined seven environmentally friendly and environmentally acceptable sources for obtaining sustainable firewood

  1. Purchasing wood left over from logging in sustainably managed tree plantations and forests
  2. Excess, residue or left-over firewood that is a by-product from sawmilling or other wood processing operations supplied by sustainably managed plantations and forests
  3. Wood that has been collected from woodlands or forests that are under government authorisation
  4. Wood that has been collected on private property that is under formal management plans or environmental guidelines
  5. Wood that has come from agroforestry, planted shelterbelts, planted windbreaks or waste timber
  6. The salvage of waste timber from approved harvesting on both public or private land
  7. Waste timber, or recycled timber from building demolition, tree lopping or urban salvage

Firewood that has come from any of these seven sources is accepted as complying with the Code of Practice.

In Australia firewood is still one of the most dominant sources of heating in the country making fire wood a valuable source of renewable energy. Burning wood to both fuel industry and warm homes has been a part of the Australian way of life and culture for centuries. Studies have shown that 4.5 to 5.5 million tonnes of timber are harvested every year just for the domestic use of firewood each year. These totals jump to 6 to 7 million tonnes when industrial uses for firewood are included. Today there are more than 4 million tonnes of hardwood chips alone, exported from Australia each and every year. This, however, is now beginning to change as it has been discovered that the harvesting of firewood is contributing to the loss of wildlife numbers especially in the woodlands of south-eastern Australia.

Not surprisingly fallen timber and dead trees are still a very vital habitat for a diverse range of fauna, which includes a range of threatened species. Those who harvest firewood generally target dead trees – often with hollows – and fallen trees for their timber as they are able to be burnt straight away (as they are dry/seasoned) and they will produce less smoke when burning. However, not only do both fallen dead trees and standing dead trees provide a habitat for our native fauna, they also play their own part in maintaining the forests and providing nutrients for the woodland cycle. In fact, it is the dead wood component that is just as important as the living over-story, leaf litter and soil components that help maintain the ecological process that in turn helps sustain biodiversity.

It is through no fault of their own, but many users and suppliers of firewood are unaware of the ecological consequences of collecting firewood. For many it is seen as simply *cleaning up the forest* or keeping the farm looking neater and tidier – it’s just *good land management*. There is, unfortunately, this perception that dead wood is in unlimited supply and it can be simply harvested without any environmental concerns or consequences.

The good news is collecting firewood doesn’t have to cause any environmental damage, people can continue to use firewood – especially sustainably sourced firewood with as little damage to the environment as possible. Research has shown, that while firewood collection can have a detrimental impact on native wildlife and, that there are many tree species that are still popular sources of firewood are declining.

Sustainably sourced firewood is still the best firewood to use, you know you are helping to do your small bit for the environment, for the native wildlife, and helping to reduce waste.


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