Green Living: Bonfire night
By Andrew Williams
It's Bonfire Night this evening, a chance to relive fond childhood memories which for me include sparklers, oohs and aaahs, and trying to eat hot dogs while wearing mittens. The crackdown on selling fireworks to children seems to have had a good effect so far, making a pleasant change.
As well as the display in Victoria Park, many groups will be organising bonfires. Burning wood may seem like a basic method of generating heat, but it's interesting that wood burners, or biomass heating systems to be more technical, are being heralded as a potential green solution to our energy needs.
The theory is that we are surrounded by lots of supposed waste products which could be burned to produce energy. Imagine waste from branches of fallen trees, corn husks, sugar cane off cuts - all can be burned to produce energy.
And although burning wood releases CO2, it is the same amount as was absorbed while the wood was growing. If a new tree is planted for each one burned, there are no overall carbon emissions.
There are plenty of logistical hoops to jump through if you want to install a wood burner, including checking whether you're in a smoke-free zone, and ensuring you have enough space and ventilation to make it practical. If it works however, the Energy Saving Trust estimate you could save hundreds of pounds a year on your heating bills by switching to biomass.
There seems to be a pattern emerging in green issues of people recognising that perhaps the old ways were the best. Biomass heating, windmills, growing your own veg - these are not exactly revolutionary ideas.
Perhaps if politicians fail to reach a comprehensive climate deal at Copenhagen, the mood may be to take another leaf out of the history books and revisit the works of a certain Mr Guy Fawkes.
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