Are wood-burning stoves environmentally friendly?

To wood-burn or not to wood-burn? Stoves can be a very sustainable form of energy, but wood fires produce some less-than-green side effects. 

7th July 2017
Are wood-burning stoves environmentally friendly? (Getty)

Asked by: Kevin Green, Burscough

Wood-burning stoves offer a low-carbon alternative to heating your home using fossil fuels. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, which is returned to the atmosphere when their wood is burned. If you source your logs or wood pellets locally, a wood stove is virtually carbon neutral.

The flipside is that wood fires produce vast quantities of particulate matter, tiny fragments of soot like those emitted by diesel cars. These contribute to climate change but can also cause breathing problems or even cancer in humans. In urban areas particularly, wood-burning stoves are therefore not the greenest choice. 


Get more fascinating Q&As from BBC Focus magazine by following @sciencefocusQA