By Andrea Palframan
Many Southern Gulf Islands residents rely on wood stoves as a heating source for different reasons, including self-reliance, backup heating when the power fails during winter storms and using wood as a relatively inexpensive source of warmth.
But, according to Transition Salt Spring’s climate action coach Morgan Fraser, heating with wood generates far more pollution than other heat sources.
“Wood smoke accounts for over a quarter of fine particulate pollution in the winter — the kind known as ‘black carbon’ — and, with the concentration of wood stoves on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, that figure is likely even higher,” says Fraser. Not only does black carbon pose serious risks to human health, it is a potent contributor to climate warming as the dark material absorbs sunlight and heats the surrounding air, adding to an already dangerous feedback loop.
How can Salt Spring reduce or eliminate these dangerous pollutants? Come to Transition Salt Spring’s All About Wood Stoves webinar to find out how.
“As Transition Salt Spring’s new climate action coach,” says Fraser, “I’m here for anyone on the Southern Gulf Islands who wants knowledgeable advice and resources to lower their carbon footprint and save money.”
TSS’s free webinar is on Tuesday, Oct. 25 from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m. Learn about the most efficient ways to use your wood stove, or better yet, take advantage of the big rebates now available to switch to a heat pump.
Wait . . . you might be thinking, “I’ve always heard that wood stoves are pretty green!” After all, much of the wood that is burned on the islands is windfall. It’s true that most trees will grow back, and they will help to pull carbon out of the atmosphere once again. But, burning wood releases carbon immediately, and it takes upwards of 40 to 50 years for a tree to start capturing any significant amount of carbon.
Still, the idea that wood burning is a low-carbon fuel is persistent, and is in fact being promoted at the highest levels: witness how the U.K. is importing B.C. wood to heat homes under the banner of “green fuel.” Certainly, wood is a renewable resource unlike fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, but it’s the carbon release in the removal of trees, and their incineration, that is of concern for its climate and health impacts.
But for some, switching to another heat source isn’t an option due to costs, and others worry that with increased power outages due to wind and snow storms, having a wood stove is an adaptive back-up option.
Affording a cleaner burning, emissions-certified wood stove is within reach of nearly everyone thanks to generous rebate programs like the Wood Stove Upgrade Rebate Transition Salt Spring is offering in partnership with BC Lung and the provincial government.
According to Fraser, “Even if you are renting, you can gather the information and deliver it to your landlord. Everyone who’s taken advantage of this program appreciates the savings, but most people are switching to heat pumps as a much cleaner and more efficient heat source. It’s better for the planet and it’s better for people.”
Providing incentives for removing uncertified wood stoves is one of the recommendations in Transition Salt Spring’s Climate Action Plan 2.0, which sets out to lower emissions and achieve a vision of clean and healthy air for current and future generations.
Salt Spring is among 19 B.C. communities eligible for the rebate program, funded by the BC Lung Foundation. Register today for the webinar, which will walk you through the why’s and how’s of the rebates and learn how to better use your current wood stove to pollute less. The webinar will also feature Salt Spring Fire Rescue’s Assistant Chief Mitchell Sherrin.
Get a clean start this coming winter. Registration is free or “pay-what-you-can” online at: https://tinyurl.com/TSS-wood.
One Cool Island is a regular series produced by Transition Salt Spring on how we can all respond to the climate crisis — together. Andrea Palframan is a member of Transition Salt Spring, and volunteer communications contributor. To support Transition Salt Spring’s work and read the Climate Action Plan, go to transitionsaltspring.com.