Burn, Baby, Burn!

One of the reasons I fell in love with my house was because of the lovely fireplace in the living room. I didn’t have one in my house growing up and I was always jealous of my best friend Christina, whose family had one in their den. Ours has some gorgeous brickwork that really makes the room feel cozy. My first project was to have a fireplace insert installed, which increases the fireplace’s efficiency by pushing the heat out into the room instead of heating the chimney. I spend most of my time in the living room, whether the fireplace is lit or not. Even after a couple years of living here, it is still my favorite room in the house.

At first, my plan was to burn all my paper waste—wrapping paper, junk mail, and documents I no longer needed. However, I quickly learned that the inks used in these types of materials can be toxic when burned. This was disappointing, to say the least. I already subscribe to my newspaper’s online site instead of receiving a print copy to avoid paper waste, and that was the only thing my local fire department told me was acceptable to burn at home. One good thing did come of it, however. Now, instead of buying expensive gift wrap, my boyfriend and I decided to start using newspaper to wrap gifts. This way, we remove the tape and any tags, roll them tightly and then burn it all. Both of our birthdays are in the winter, it works out very nicely for us!

The first year we lived here, we ended up having to cut a few branches off a tree in the front yard—it was growing not just over the driveway but has started encroaching on the neighbor’s property. My boyfriend cut everything down and into firewood. It ended up lasting us the whole season, since we only lit the fireplace on weekend nights. Last year, though, there was no tree pruning necessary. That meant buying firewood. I decided to look into what biomass options were available, and what would be the greenest choice for me. I managed to find a company that makes firelogs out of—if you can believe it—recycled coffee grounds. They’re called Java Logs. They burn much cleaner than typical cordwood, and their creation stops coffee grounds from ending up in landfills. That is a win-win for me. I don’t smell the coffee scent so much in the house but if you’re outside near the chimney you tend to smell it more. If the store is out of Java Logs, we’ll get wood that’s made from 100% sawdust, or wood that is sawmill scrap and uses a vegetable resin to hold it together—that’s biomass at work!