Why burning Red Gum for firewood is bad news and what we can do about it!

Why burning Red Gum for our firewood is bad news and what we can do about it!

This time of year, and almost any place you go to buy your firewood, you will see (River) Red Gum. It is ridiculously easy to source and you would be forgiven for thinking it’s the only wood you should be burning. But, like most things, there is more to it than initially meets the eye.

The majority of firewood that we burn in Victoria comes from native forests. This wood is mostly Red Gum sourced from private and State forests that are in the environmentally significant Murray and Darling River floodplains of Victoria and New South Wales.  And whilst it appears to be readily available and burns to generate a lot of heat, its harvesting comes at a heavy price to the ecological health of our old growth native forests.

River Red Gum used extensively to burn as firewood
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulnesis), photo courtesy of NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Victorian National Parks Association says,

“The same forests that supply much of our firewood are also some of the most important forests in Victoria. They harbour threatened plant and animal species which need these forests to survive… There is no genuine environmental accreditation for firewood sourced from these forests.”

Collecting fallen or dead trees from native forests for our fires is an old tradition but these fallen or dead trees are homes for many endangered squirrel gliders, brush tailed tuans and carpet snakes.

So what’s the alternative?

As a general rule of thumb Red or Box gum almost always is coming out of native forests, no-one is growing this species as a sustainable wood source, so that’s worth remembering when making your buying decision.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. It’s best practice to look for Sugar or Blue Gum sources. This is what is currently being grown in sustainably managed forests.

For any other brix or composite products, sourcing cannot be guaranteed so should be avoided.

Sugar Gum plantations as an alternative source to Red Gum firewood
A sustainable Sugar Gum plantation

CERES Farm-grown firewood protects Red Gum forests and makes use of Sugar Gum plantation thinnings that would otherwise be burnt as waste. These forests are established in largely cleared landscapes such as Victoria’s Goldfields and the Riverina and has a range of benefits for both the natural environment and the health of our farming communities.

We are very fortunate to be working with the good folks over at Wood4Good. They want to see forestry become part of our collective solution by planting forests in a way that provide a perpetual source of renewable materials, bio-energy and income. They do this by planting new forests on degenerated farmland and then effectively manage and sensitively harvest over time so that biodiversity is protected.

Sugar Gum firewood a sustainable source to Red Gum firewood
Wood4Good loading Sugar Gum cubic metre boxes for CERES Fair Wood

Sugar Gum is also a much better long and hot burning source than Red Gum too. Sugar Gum has a Relative Available Heat Value of 95% where as (River) Red Gum is only 81%. (Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Gavin Brook 2004).

When burnt properly, using firewood from sustainable sources to warm your home can be less polluting and more environmentally sustainable than other methods too.

It’s good to know that your fire source this winter doesn’t have to cost the earth and can have many positive impacts for our ecological and social communities.

Get in touch with us today to order your winter’s worth of firewood.

For further reading about sustainable firewood please visit: https://vnpa.org.au/conserving-nature/sustainable-firewood/

Read more about Wood4Good here.

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