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On the Air: 4 Ways to Green Your Wood Fire

Quick—what’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word fireplace? Cozy, right? Yeah. The word itself just makes you want to pull up a chair and settle in wrapped in a nubby blanket with your honey.

That said, you may have also noticed you might actually need that nubby blanket, because in a standard fireplace, the fire creates a cool draft as most of the warmth is sucked out through the chimney. Not to mention the sooty smoke that fills the house while you-know-who gets the fire started. Idyllic? Not so much. So EcoMyths readers want to know: How do you make fireplaces and wood stoves burn warm and clean—and green too?

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Myth: Building a Fire Is Eco-Friendly by Nature

Fired Up for a Greener Wood-Burning Experience?

Throwing a couple of logs on the fire may seem like the ultimate in green warmth, but the fact that wood is as natural as it gets doesn’t make burning it earth-friendly. That’s because inefficient old fireplaces and woodstoves lose a lot of heat, plus the smoke can make local air unhealthy to breathe. Generally speaking, a modern furnace coupled with smart thermostat use is the most efficient, cleanest way to cozy up your pad.

Does that mean stoking up a romantic fire or otherwise burning wood is a no-go for the earth-lover? Thankfully, not at all. But there are some major opportunities for us to improve efficiency in our use of wood. To learn how—and why to bother—we turned to a trio of experts from some especially wintry climes, including resource use analyst Eric Masanet, PhD, of Northwestern University in Chicago; Tom Burack, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; and Craig Wright, director of New Hampshire Air Resources Agency.

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On the Air: Disposals vs. Trash

Is it better for Mama Earth to dispose of food waste by putting it down the sink disposal or into the trash? In the latest EcoMyths segment on WBEZ, Kate joins Jerome McDonnell to tackle the age-old question of whether it’s greener to send food waste down the sink and into our water system, or just to throw it in the landfill-bound trash can. Providing them with the answers are Eric Masanet, PhD, life cycle analysis expert at Northwestern University, and Debra Shore, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago.

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Myth: Putting Food Waste Down the Disposal Is Greener Than in the Trash

Trash Talk: Are Sink Disposals Good for the Environment?

OMG hold your nose! There’s a mystery substance at the back of the fridge, and it’s scaring all the other food with its excessive stink. Now what? Pitching the moldy glob straight into the sink disposal means it can basically disappear from your life instantly, i.e., not exponentially increase the gross factor in your trashcan days before garbage pickup. But that’s not the only thing in-sink disposals have going for ’em. On top of the sheer convenience of it all, the rumors are true—garbage disposals are generally a greener option than trashcans.

    All these options are generally greener than tossing food waste into a trashcan.These appliances, which have been heralded as the “next great tool for urban sustainability,” not only reduce the amount of diesel fuel and emissions associated with driving garbage trucks around town—but also carry this uneaten waste along to the wastewater treatment plant, where it can actually be used to produce resources like fertilizer and clean energy.