charnwoodstoves

In my charming but chilly Victorian end of terrace, winters were not something I particularly looked forward to. It was a constant battle against drafts, and strategising when to crank up the central heating to get most bang for the buck. So, after two cold dreary winters I decided something had to change – it was time to invest in a wood burning stove! 

Read on to learn how I turned chilly evenings into toasty nights by the fire 

I moved into my home 2 and half years ago now and in the centre of the main living space a large open fire place was sealed off and not being used. Mould was an ever present issue during the winters as the home was designed to have the heat and airflow created by a working fire. Whilst the gas central heating works, it is expensive and never gets the house feeling truly warm and doesn’t contribute to ventilation. 

I didn’t want an open fire as I knew well enough that they weren’t very efficient and I am not a fan of a smokey living space. So, I feel the stars aligned when I started working at A.J Wells & Sons and I was finally presented with the perfect solution – one of their Charnwood wood-burning stoves!  

As I researched, learning about Ecodesign and different outputs I was happy to discover that all Charnwood stoves outperform those standards offering greater efficiency and even lower emissions. Therefore I felt I could choose based on what would look best in the space which in my opinion was the Charnwood Country 4 Blu. It’s a classic looking design, the perfect size, and I was told one of the easiest stoves to use – I was sold! 

I arranged for my installers to visit to measure up and assess my fireplace and chimney. They were intrigued by my slightly unusual fireplace which is open from two sides – a modification made by a previous owner no doubt. They assured me all would be well and we arranged a day for installation. Quick tip, stove installers are, unsurprisingly, incredibly busy in the autumn/winter months so it is well worth planning ahead and locking in your install date as soon as possible. 

Installation day arrived, and the folks from Stoveteciw were fantastic. They set about first installing the chimney register plate which seals the large chimney opening and is where the flue from the stove can attach to create a seal. Next thing I knew they were up on the roof and threading the chimney flue liner down the chimney to attach to the register plate.  

I chose a rear flue adapter for two reasons. It allowed me to place the stove where I wanted in the fireplace, but also it allowed a Charnwood cooking plate which was installed at the same time. As my confidence grows I’m going to be experimenting with a bit of stovetop cooking and whipping up some winter warmers. At the very least, boiling water for a cup of tea on a chilly morning is easy and way more atmospheric than the kettle. 

After some final tinkering and fine tuning the stove was in place and the room was transformed. A focal point where there once wasn’t any. This wasn’t just any appliance; it was a promise of warmth, comfort and good times – all in less than a day.  

It was a fantastic effort from the guys and it was clear they had done an expert job and left the place cleaner than they started! I strongly recommend using a HETAS registered installer to ensure the job is done properly and to get a HETAS safety certificate. This can be important for insurance purposes and is also useful if you ever want to sell your house. 

I’d already purchased my bags of Kiln dried wood (read why that’s important here!), fire lighters and kindling in preparation for this moment and I was ready to go! I checked the stove essentials pamphlet that comes with all Charnwood stoves (also available online), to remind myself of the best way to light the fire. 

Then came the moment of truth – lighting the first fire. Now, as with most household appliances with heating elements, the first time lighting your stove can create a slight smell, but that quickly passes and then your stove is fully cured and ready to be enjoyed. Following the top down, Jenga stacking method meant I had crackling flames and radiating warmth in no time – pure magic!  

I’m now enjoying the end of the cold weather and far from dreading next winter. In fact, I think I’m going to miss the fire for a few months. It has become my go to way to unwind in the evening and the best way to put down the phone/laptop and let my mind decompress and relax away from a screen. I now fully understand what other wood-stove owners were saying when they described the many ways owning and using a wood-stove enhanced their wellbeing. 

My final thoughts to those of you interested in a stove, I’d say, of course, do your research, speak to a Charnwood registered dealer/installer for advice on what your space needs and plan well in advance for next winter. Your future self will thank you! 

P.s Oh and don’t forget to register for Charnwood’s amazing 10 year guarantee! 

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We are proud to amplify the Stove Industry Association (SIA) and their excellent article that highlights the many benefits of having a modern wood stove in the home. We encourage you to visit the SIA website to read the full article and learn more about the SIA’s valuable work. 

Here, we will look at some of the key takeaways!   

General benefits & wellbeing 

Modern sustainable wood-burning stoves offer a low-emission and highly efficient way to heat your home. When used correctly, they contribute to a reduced carbon footprint while warming your main living space with ease. This gentle radiant heat extends throughout your property, creating a consistently comfortable living environment. 

A real fire can help promote feelings of warmth and security and provides a focal point for the whole family,  benefiting mental wellbeing.  

Read more about the well-being benefits here  

Anti-mould and damp 

They’re highly effective at heating your space which combats drafts and cold spots, creating a consistently warm environment. Additionally, they help circulate air and ventilate your property, helping reduce condensation and moisture buildup, a common issue in older homes.  

A roaring stove typically draws air and moisture from the room it’s in, before evaporating and expelling it through the chimney system. This can help alleviate the formation of mold and damp, creating a healthier and more comfortable living space. 

Fuel security & independence 

A wood-burning stove provides independence from the grid, ensuring you can heat your home even during power cuts. And unlike fluctuating mains energy bills, with a pre-purchased fuel supply, you gain control and cost-efficiency, knowing exactly what you’re using/paying to stay warm. 

Read more about best-wood stove practices to save you money and reduce emissions!  

The SIAs key facts on PM & Carbon Emissions 

“There is a world of difference between an open fire and a modern stove designed for precision combustion and maximum efficiency. Switching from an open fire to a modern stove will reduce PM emissions by up to 90%.”  

“Scaremongering tactics about “domestic combustion” as a whole are unhelpful. Modern Ecodesign compliant stoves burning dry wood make up a tiny fraction of UK particulate matter emissions – less than 0.1% in fact. Source: NAEI 

“Using dry wood fuel is both sustainable and renewable; wood logs have the lowest carbon emissions factor of any domestic heating fuel at 0.01 kg CO2e per kWh. That’s 1/20th the carbon emissions of natural gas or electricity and 1/29th that of oil. Source: gov.uk 

“Burning dry wood (e.g. Ready to Burn certified) in a Ecodesign compliant stove (e.g. clearSkies certified) makes up just 0.09% of total UK PM2.5 emissions. Source: NAEI. Take care when choosing your appliance and your fuel to ensure that you minimise emissions and maximise efficiency.” 

Read more here: https://www.charnwood.com/news/smoke-and-mirrors-exposing-the-flawed-data-behind-the-war-on-wood-stoves/  

Biodiversity & the wood fuel industry  

 

Choosing locally sourced wood fuel supports small businesses, reduces transportation emissions, and contributes to the health of our woodlands. 

Sustainable wood management is crucial for maintaining their health and diversity, while helping reduce wildfires and providing a vital habitat for wildlife. By choosing responsibly sourced fuel, you can contribute to a more resilient ecosystem. 

“Unmanaged woodland is bad for wildlife. At present 42% of UK woodland is unmanaged. Source: Small Woods Association 

 __________

These are just some of the many reasons to consider getting a wood burning stove. For even more reasons, check out this article here. However, if you’ve heard enough you can click here for help choosing the right stove for your home.

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We have been eagerly anticipating the updated figures for PM 2.5 emissions from ‘domestic burning’ as we knew this should go a long way to settling the debate that has been raging on socials and in the wider media this winter. The reason all eyes are on this data is because it reflects a period of emissions that coincided with record stove sales. Therefore, if anti-wood-burning campaigners were right then a significant increase in PM2.5 should, logically, be observed. However, as reported by the SIA, Defra have finally released their figures and it is official: PM2.5 from domestic burning has DECREASED despite record wood-burning stove sales over the same period.

The release of the latest air pollution data by Defra shows an 18% reduction in PM2.5 emissions nationally between 2012 and 2022.

Particulate emissions from “domestic combustion” fell between 2021 and 2022 with a 3.9% reduction in PM10 and a 4% reduction in PM2.5 from “domestic combustion”. The latest data also shows that PM2.5 emissions from the domestic use of wood fuel specifically fell by 2.7%.

Chair of the SIA, Andy Hill, commented:

“SIA members reported annual sales of over 200k units in 2022, a 40% increase on 2021. This increase was driven by several factors including spiralling energy prices and increasing consumer apprehension regarding grid reliability. What is clear from the latest data is that, despite an increase in stove sales, domestic emissions have come down. This points clearly and conclusively to the improvement in air quality that can be achieved by replacing open fires and older stove models with modern, Ecodesign design compliant stoves such as clearSkies certified appliances.”

“The SIA looks forward to being able to apportion the numbers more accurately once the NAEI publishes the detailed source and activity name data that drives the top-level figures released by Defra. Last year this clearly showed that PM2.5 emissions from Ecodesign stoves burning dry wood fuel accounted for less than 0.1% of the UK total.”

_________

We are delighted this data finally confirms what we have been trying to communicate about the benefits offered by modern wood burning stoves. But rest assured, it is our full intention to go even further in reducing emissions. Through further investment and technological advances and extending our hand to those across the aisle to collaborate.

In one of our most recent blogs, we called upon those seeking to ban wood-burning to open constructive dialogue so that we can potentially work together to make even greater progress reducing emissions. The data is conclusive, and it’s time to come together and focus on the pragmatic changes that will move the needle further in the right direction.

Please read more here: Shared Goals, Cleaner Air: Reimagining The Wood Burning Debate With Healthy Dialogue & Believing The Best In Each Other

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Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of talk on wood burning centered around ‘No Burn Night’. 

As a stove manufacturer we certainly have a vested interest and have been pushing back on claims which we have felt to be unfair, misleading or untrue. Much of this debate has spilt over onto social media where it has often been less than savoury! Of course, we all know that social media is never the best place to have these in-depth discussions. 

Often in debates we tend to try and demonise our opposition, we try to (mis)represent their arguments on our terms, often to discredit their motives, and aim to crush them and be the victors of the argument. We saw this during the Brexit debate, on both sides, – issues were simplified, positions were demonised, mistruths were told, and it is probably fair to say from whatever perspective you come from, that the results have been a bit of a disaster. When it comes to the debate on air quality it is too important to allow this to happen. So, what if we take a different approach? What if we tried to believe the best in each other and the motivations behind what we are all trying to achieve?! 

There is a risk here – surely if we try and understand the other side, give them the benefit of the doubt even, won’t they take advantage and undermine our position further? Surely, the first rule of negotiation is to go in hard and then maybe meet in the middle. Well maybe, but what if we try to do things differently? Indeed, the prize is surely one worth having as this debate centers around an important issue: the environment and more specifically air quality. Something that we all believe is vitally important. 

What are the arguments on both sides?  

One of the first Charnwood stoves replacing a more polluting open fire 

In writing this, we are aware that we approach this from a position of vested interest, so let’s start with us. We manufacture, amongst other things, wood burning stoves and have done so for around 50 years. We employ around 180 people here on the Isle of Wight and export to around 20 countries. We are a family business and work with other small, often family-run businesses up and down the country who sell and install our stoves. We started making stoves because there was an oil crisis and at the end of the 1970s, Dutch Elm disease had killed many trees. This wood was often burnt on open fires, which was neither efficient or clean. That inspired the founders to start making stoves to burn the wood better. Over the years we have found ways to dramatically improve performance, so we get more heat and less smoke from the wood we burn. 

But why burn wood at all?  

Well, wood is a plentiful natural and renewable resource that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. It has been used for heating and other things for millennia. Forest management is also vitally important – well-managed woodland is good for biodiversity and is lost if it is not managed well. We also see forest fires tragically result from not managing forests, such as those in California. 

Energy has, throughout history, been the key to power – the British empire was built on coal. Then came oil and we saw the rise of America, Russia and the Middle East. As we move into a low carbon economy, we see access to rare earth metals that make batteries as critical, and it is China who have taken the lead in this race. Those who control access to energy hold power. But wood is different and it’s plentiful which means it cannot be controlled by any large player. 

In this image a modern ultra-efficient Charnwood Island Stove has replaced an open fire

So, clearly, we think wood has many advantages. “Of course you do”, you might say! But we are also aware that to heat from wood it needs to be burnt, and burning things creates smoke. In the UK, traditionally it has been open fires which have been the primary method of heating, and it has always been our argument that burning on a stove is far better – more efficient and with significantly less emissions (3). Over the years we have continued to invest in equipment to keep improving even further.  

SO, what is the problem with wood? 

If we look at those that don’t like wood burning we hear a very different story. It is perhaps unfair of us to try and explain the opposite position, but notwithstanding our obvious bias, we will try and Steel Man their position: Wood when burnt produces, amongst other things PM2.5 – these are small particles that are not good for us and when breathed it can cause health problems. These health problems are hotly debated as the body will deal with a certain amount of PM2.5 (and different types) but it is claimed that it can cause respiratory disease, and even dementia. In fact, all types of burning will produce these particles to greater and lesser extents. The term PM2.5 describes the size of the particle rather than the composition, and its composition depends on what is being burnt. More research is needed to understand the relative toxicity of the different types of particles. If we take the position that there is no safe level of PM2.5 then logically it must follow that we should not burn things – and wood is included in this. 

What do anti-wood burners think of pro wood burners   

Again, this is difficult to answer and there are many views. But it is probably fair to say that they think we are an industry with vested interests whose desire to make money overrides the damage we do to the environment and air quality. Of course on a local and personal level if you are living next to someone who is creating a lot of smoke by burning wood badly, maybe on an open fire, old appliance, using bad wood or even unregulated burning outside it is really not pleasant and rightly this should be stopped.

What do pro-wood burning people think of anti-wood burners 

It is easier for us to answer this one! We often feel misrepresented and frustrated by the lack of distinction between different types of wood burning. Wood burnt on a stove will generally be much cleaner than that of wood burnt on an open fire or outdoor appliance. It is essential to differentiate between various forms of wood-burning. Chief Medical Advisor Chris Whitty in his report acknowledges this saying, “For air pollution emissions, there is substantial difference between the different open fire and stove designs, the age of the appliance and how well maintained it is, and the moisture content of the wood, for those who want to burn wood.”(2) 

We can often also feel aggrieved because for us (and some other stove companies) the reason we got into making stoves was to improve air quality and the environment. So, we feel as if we are being shoved out of our own party! We want to improve air quality by better burning, and we feel through misrepresentation we are frustrated in this mission. We strongly believe that we are at risk of seeing air quality worsen by not getting people to burn better.   

Ecodesign-compliant stoves are up to 90% more efficient than an open fire and in London 70% of wood burning still occurs on open fires. (1) If people were widely encouraged to switch to one of the many modern and efficient wood-burning stoves available, it would massively reduce urban PM 2.5 emissions. In fact, the latest wood-burning figures released by Defra appear to show this taking place across the country as reported by the SIA:  

“What is clear from the latest data is that, despite an increase in stove sales, domestic emissions have come down. This points clearly and conclusively to the improvement in air quality that can be achieved by replacing open fires and older stove models with modern, Ecodesign design compliant stoves such as clearSkies certified appliances.” (4)   

Finally, it must be said that on some fringes of our community, there is also a feeling that we are up against bigger powers (in much the same way that those who don’t like wood burning feel we have large commercial interests). We are in fact quite a small industry made up of a lot of small and medium-sized companies. There is often a feeling that the anti woodburning lobby is being funded by big players (perhaps fossil fuel companies) who have a vested interest in having control over energy. There is also a subset who feels that governments don’t like wood burning because they cannot tax it! 

Believe the best 

So, there is distrust on both sides – and although there may be good reason for some of it, we share the same motivation: we both want to improve air quality and the environment. Of course, we are taking different approaches towards this. Some want to ban burning, while in our company we want to improve it. But we mustn’t forget, during these debates, that our goal is the same – cleaner air!   

Can we work together?  

If we share the same goal can we help each other? Is the pragmatic approach mutually exclusive to the idealistic one? Is the idealistic path really threatened by the pragmatic one? Can we work together? 

Could we think of it as more of a relay race where the goal is clean air? To get there we all need to work together to get the biggest improvements first and then keep improving. For our industry it means using technology to keep improving stoves, it means working constructively with legislators to implement meaningful and challenging standards which are enforceable and actually make a difference. We need to be really honest about where this is not happening and be prepared to take tough decisions. For those whose goal is to see all burning banned it might mean first putting their efforts into stopping the worst kind of burning – unregulated indoor and outdoor burning. Difficult conversations need to be had; goodwill needs to be shown on both sides, we may not agree on everything but we share the same goal and we can support each other in those things we do agree on. The prize is worth it, so let’s choose to believe the best in each other and together make a difference!

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Further reading that explains in more detail why we strongly feel a collaborative approach is required: 

https://www.charnwood.com/news/wood-burning-stoves-co-heating-future-a-nuanced-look-at-pm-25-emissions/ 

https://www.charnwood.com/news/wellbeing-benefits-log-burners/ 

https://www.charnwood.com/news/harnessing-the-power-of-wood-fuel-a-sustainable-approach-to-home-heating/ 

 

References: 

(1)https://www.clearskiesmark.org/about-us/certification-system-explained/ 

(2)https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1124738/chief-medical-officers-annual-report-air-pollution-dec-2022.pdf 

(3)https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/summary-results-of-the-domestic-wood-use-survey 

(4) https://stoveindustryalliance.com/wood-burning-emissions-decrease-in-record-year-for-stove-sales/ 

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The next in a series of essays by Charmain Ponnuthurai explores the importance of real fire in a modern world.

Sometimes we don’t, as the classic saying goes, see the wood for the trees. The argument against wood fires has reached this territory, and there is the danger that any understanding becomes lost in a forest of soundbites and clickbait headlines. Each side of the argument of course has biases towards their own interests, and there are, of course, holes in both. However, with the question of peoples’ wellbeing at stake, it is in everyone’s interests to ensure that we are considering all angles and understanding how serious the holes are.

We understand more than ever that physical and mental health do not stand in isolation from each other: instead they feed into one another in a symbiotic relationship. According to Cell Biologist Dr Bruce Lipton, our subconscious is the most potentially harmful component to our overall health, as without an understanding of our subconscious needs and desires, we cannot change our outside circumstances to match. The most harmful action towards our cells, according to Dr Lipton, is our ability to de-program the learnt behaviours from ages one to seven that determine how we react to 95% of dealing with daily life. This stagnation means we are not in touch with ourselves and fail to follow the much simple advice by all spiritual teachings, ‘of being in the moment’.

Technology has irrevocably changed the lives of all of us: we have a constant bombardment of information and data thrown at us, a stream that doesn’t even pause as we walk down the street, or take a journey on a train. We are constantly locked into our phones. This has resulted in an increased sense of anxiety both just when we speak to each other but from the data itself. Endless stimulation is a hard drug to unwind from. The majority of us spend our days behind a screen, on a phone and or talking on zoom calls, rather than meeting each other face to face, compounding the sense of anxiety we all at times share. One of the best ways to relax, then, is to find ways to be still and understand what is determining our actions, through daily rituals such as cooking. As we found in the Charnwood survey, which sampled over 1,200 people, many found solace in their woodburning stoves. The majority of participants in the survey said the most important use of their stove was the sense of wellbeing it brought them. The naturalness and sense of calm of seeing the element of fire and watching the flickering of a flame is something we can all relate to, whether that be from candlelight or a campfire.

It is important, however, to consider how we may use our stoves in the most healthy and environmentally efficient way. We must first consider the difference between efficient stoves and other forms of indoor fire. In the World Health Organisation report on Household Air Pollution it specifically lists that open fires and inefficient stoves, “generates harmful household air pollutionClick here to read more

At Charnwood, our central and ongoing commitment is to efficiency and the environment, to allow you to experience the maximum positive wellbeing effects, without compromising your physical health, or risking damage to your natural surroundings. We ensure efficiency by a constant refinement of the wood-burning process and technology, incorporated within our Eco Design. The key feature is our Quattroflow® Air Management System. You can read more about this here.

Our stoves are designed to run on seasoned or kiln-dried wood. It is very important that the logs you burn have a moisture content of less than 20%.

Hardwoods such as ash, birch, beech or oak are renowned for burning hot, clean and for longer periods. Softwoods such as fir, pine and sycamore can be used but will burn faster with moderate heat output. Freshly cut logs generally contain over 60% water and should be dried for 18-24 months before the wood is ready to burn.

Split wood into logs to a size to suit your stove’s firebox. Split some smaller pieces to use as kindling. Stack the wood in a place that gets plenty of sun and wind.

A pile of wood may rot before it has time to season, so make sure the logs are stacked in a way that allows air to circulate. Ideally, keep the stack off the ground and away from the house. Never stack logs above head height to prevent injury from falling logs. Cover the stack to protect it from rain and snow. You can cover just the top, or the sides as well – just make sure the air can get in and that moisture isn’t getting trapped. Store the wood for 18-24 months or until the moisture content is below 20%. It’s a good idea to bring wood inside two or three days before you intend to burn it to make sure it’s properly dried out and ready to use.

Kiln Dried Wood is another widely available alternative. The wood is cut, split and dried in large ovens, which speeds up the seasoning process. Look out for the Woodsure Ready to Burn label which guarantees a moisture content of 20% or less.

The broader medical understanding we now have of the importance of the link between the body and mind for overall well being reminds us that in order to manage the stress of modern daily life, we need simple rituals that take us back to nature and ourselves. Lighting a fire is one simple beginning, Chef & co-founder of Acme Fire Cult says, “without fire we would never have evolved from having fur”. As long as you follow our tips to ensure your fire is as environmentally and human health friendly as possible, it is sure to work wonders for your physical and mental health.
 

Lighting your fire

Follow our four simple steps when making your fire. By running your stove in

this way you will achieve maximum efficiency with minimum emissions.

● Place 2-3 smaller logs on the stove bed. On top of this build a Jenga

stack of 6-8 kindling sticks and place a natural fire lighter inside

● Close the door but leave it slightly ajar. This helps to heat the chimney

flue for a clean burn. Once the fire is burning well close the door and

reduce the air control.

● Fully open the air control for maximum air intake and a quick and easy

ignition. Light the fire lighter.

● Every time a log is added, open the air control again until the fire is

burning well and then return the air control to normal. Re-fuel little

and often.

Maintain your stove

The winter months are when your Charnwood stove will see the most use.

Regular maintenance will ensure your stove burns safely and efficiently while

giving you many years of service.

Clean the glass – If soot accumulates on the stove glass we offer an

effective Atmosfire dry wiper for cleaning. For any stubborn stains you

can use a stove glass cleaner or ceramic hob cleaner but avoid using

any abrasive cleaning products.

Clean the surface – When it comes to cleaning the exterior surface of

your stove and the surrounding area, you can’t go far wrong with a

soft brush and a damp, lint free cloth. It is important you only clean

your stove when it is unlit and cool to the touch.

Empty Ash Pan – When burning wood it is helpful and effective to

start your fire on a bed of wood ash but avoid letting the ash build up

too much. When your Charnwood stove is not in use empty out the

ash pan and firebox completely.

Inspect door seals – Take the opportunity to regularly check the rope

seals on the doors and around the flue to ensure your fire box is air

tight and the doors close firmly. A well sealed stove will burn much

more efficiently and effectively.

Sweep Frequently -It’s important to keep your flue clear of

blockages and soot and we recommend you have your chimney swept

at least once a year. Your Charnwood stove is fitted with a dropdown

throat plate allowing you to sweep through the appliance with

minimum mess.

Read more about the argument surrounding wood fires and why there is more to the story

” Therefore see whether the light that is in you isn’t darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly full of light, as when the lamp with its bright shining gives you light.”

Luke 11:34–36

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The SIA have written a fantastic blog to address the anti-woodburner’s misleading, ambiguous and, in some cases, untrue media campaign. It was released in time for Clean Air Night to give consumers a chance to get both sides of the story. Here we will share the key information as we want to amplify their important voice in this ongoing debate.
 

The claims made here by the London Wood Burning Project (above left) and cleanairhub.org.uk (above right) rely on the grouping of all methods of burning wood (including garden bonfires & firepits) at home. However, the data from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) shows us that burning dry wood on an Ecodesign compliant stove accounted for less than 0.1% of total UK PM2.5 emissions in 2021.

Modern stoves offer a range of benefits and you can get both sides of the story and learn more about that here.

Just like the posts above, the term ‘wood burning’ in this post (below) is deliberately ambiguous and takes no account of the type of appliance or quality of the wood fuel.
 

There is reliable evidence that using dry wood and other sustainable solid fuels can help consumers reduce their home heating bills. A recent study by Gemserve for Homefire found that households with gas central heating that adopt zonal heating using dry wood fuel could save up to 7% on their annual heating bill and up to 11% using smokeless solid fuel in the same way.

The same study also found that using renewable, sustainably sourced wood fuel instead of fossil fuel gas results in typical carbon savings of over half a tonne of CO2e / year.

You can read more about this study here
 

The claim (above) that a wood burning stove is six times more polluting than an HGV is hugely misleading.

The claim is based on a report by the European Environmental Bureau published in 2022 that looks at the amount of emissions given off by generating a GJ of heat in a stove compared to the emissions releases generating a GJ of power in an HGV.

The claims made by the study rely on a simplistic calculation using permitted rates of emission. The study also fails to factor in the non-exhaust emissions of the HGV.

What we end up with is an apples and oranges comparison that fails to consider the impact of real-world use. According to a 2020 Defra report, on average stove users light their stoves for between 3.7 and 4.5 hours a day during the winter months. An HGV can be driven by the same driver for up to 9 hours per day, and the vehicle potentially operates 24/7 up to 365 days a year.

This means that over the course of 1 week’s real-world use a Euro 6 HGV actually produces 13 times more PM2.5 (271g) than an Ecodesign stove (20.16g). You can read more on this comparison here.
 

This claim (above) by campaign group Mums for Lungs is ambiguous and relies on the reader not seeking any further information on the data.

The data from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) which breaks down UK PM2.5 emissions by activity and source, shows us that in 2021 cigarette smoking accounted for 12 times more PM2.5 in the UK than burning dry wood on an Ecodesign compliant stove did.

Some of the adverts by the cleanairhub.org.uk, part of Global Action Plan, in support of Clean Air Night even contain false claims (see below).
 

This is one example. Contrary to the information given in this post, wood logs have the lowest carbon emission factor of any domestic heating fuel at 0.01kg CO2e per kWh. That’s 1/20th the carbon emissions of natural gas or electricity, and 1/29th that of oil.

Burning dry wood is a modern, Ecodesign compliant stove is a low carbon way to heat you home and can play a key role in helping the UK to meet its net zero objectives.

You can find out more about the benefits of choosing modern stoves here.
 

This statement (above) is false. Woodland management is needed to ensure healthy forests and the ecosystems they support.

Wood fuel is a key component of the woodland management cycle and the economies attached to it. Using wood as fuel also plays a vital role in maintaining woodland diversity, health, and resilience. Locally sourced wood fuel helps support small businesses and reduces the carbon footprint of fuel transport.

You can learn more about the importance of woodland management here
 

This is another misleading statement (above) and one which is actually disproved by the findings of a recent Imperial College study which found that a “clearSkies Level 5 stove demonstrated some benefits for indoor air quality” and that “the biggest increases in PM2.5 concentrations indoors did not relate to indoor wood or solid-fuel burning but instead were a result of cooking…”.

A literature review by commissioned by the SIA and carried out by the University of Manchester found no scientific evidence for adverse health impacts from exposure to the indoor air typically associated with modern, enclosed wood burning stoves.

You can read more about this here

And lastly for something positive. We could not agree more with this post and there are significant reductions (up to 90%) possible in the emissions created by domestic burning by switching from open fires and older stoves to modern, Ecodesign compliant stoves.
 

The SIA encourages all solid fuel stove users to educate themselves on the importance of:

Using the right appliance – if you use an open fire or an older stove it is time to upgrade. A modern Ecodesign compliant stove releases up to 90% less emissions than an open fire and up to 80% less than many older stoves.

Ensuring your stove is fitted by an appropriately qualified competent person e.g. HETAS or OFTEC registered.

Always use good quality fuel. Look for the Ready to Burn logo and never use chemically treated wood or burn waste on your stove.

Get your stove serviced and your chimney swept at least once a year. We recommend NVQ qualified sweeps for this.

You can download this page as a PDF here.

These blogs by SIA members are also well worth a read:

Charnwood Stoves

Certainly Wood

Charlton & Jenrick

charnwoodstoves

A negative narrative is being unfairly manufactured around the wood-burning stove industry, by anti-woodburning groups such as the ‘London Wood Burning Project’ and ‘Clean Air Hub’.

The TRUTH is that UK PM 2.5 emissions have been steadily decreasing over the years despite record stove sales. In this blog, we summarise the flawed data and unfair generalisations anti-woodburning groups are using.

1/ What do they mean by ‘Wood-Burner’ & ‘Domestic Burning’?

They combine emission sources (Inefficient Old Stoves, Open Fires, Bonfires and Modern Ultra Efficient Stoves) to create a bigger more impactful number, and then claim 17% of London’s emissions come from ‘domestic wood burning’ or ‘wood burners’. Catch-all terms the public understandably associates most often with wood-burning stoves – especially because they create ad campaigns prominently featuring images of wood stoves. However, the actual contribution of modern wood-burning stoves is estimated by the UK government’s official figures at just 1-2%! (1)

2/ They use Weak Science & Manipulate Data

Imprecise methodology

Their data collection relies heavily on estimations and ambient air sampling, offering a blurry picture at best. Traffic, construction, industrial processes and even natural dust all contribute to PM2.5 and cannot reliably be controlled in their methodology.

(Pg.20 of the LWBP report)

Walking around with modified backpacks does not allow them to distinguish in any way what the source of PM2.5 is in a given area.

Small sample sizes and insufficient testing equipment.

One of the major studies often cited, is by Rohit Chakraborty et al, and based on a sample size of just 19 homes that took measurements using, as they admit, “low-cost air quality monitors” (7)

Manipulated data

They exclude critical data to stack the narrative against wood-burning stoves. For example, comparing the emission rates between wood stoves and HGVs has caused unnecessary concern.

Closer inspection revealed their data excluded brake and engine wear and in fact, just one Euro 6 HGV produces 13 times more PM2.5 emissions than an Ecodesign wood-burning stove over the course of a week’s real-world use. Furthermore, emissions from HGVs are emitted at ground level (nearer head height) while wood smoke is dispersed more safely, higher up via a chimney flue. (8)

3/Claims Based on Their Opinion NOT Fact

In the bottom left-hand corner of every page of the London Wood Burning Project report you can see the following disclaimer:

“This report is the independent expert opinion of the author(s)”

Firstly, anyone can claim to be an expert, however, the key word here is ‘opinion’.

Well, the SIA has commissioned extensive independent research which casts serious doubt on the estimations and ‘opinions’ provided by anti-woodburners (6)

We highly encourage you to read this report undertaken by Dr Amanda Lea-Langton, senior lecturer in Bioenergy Engineering at the University of Manchester:

https://stoveindustryalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/22-04-11-Indoor-air-final-V5-AL.pdf

4/ The Official Data is POSITIVE!

At the time of writing the original blog post (11/01/2024) on a very cold winter’s day when wood stove usage would typically be higher, here is the PM2.5 picture for the UK taken from DEFRA’s official website.

So, when the anti-woodburners say 17% of emissions. It is 17% of a very low amount in the first place. Then, remember modern wood-burning stoves are just 1-2% of that low amount.

5/ Modern Stoves Equal Lower Emissions with HUGE Benefits

-They produce heat reliably for sustained periods and are unaffected by the weather.

-Allowing them to work in tandem with wind, solar and other green heating solutions. A stove makes these great technologies more viable – They are not in competition with each other.

-Energy Security – a wood-burning stove is an ideal emergency/low-frequency heat source.

-Wood stoves are essential for off-grid, sustainable, eco-friendly living. Perfect for yurts and other tiny home accommodations.

-Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel as it gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burnt or decays naturally. The carbon released from burning wood is balanced out by the carbon absorbed by the tree during its lifetime.

-Wood fuel can be sourced locally without fracking and deep-sea oil drilling.

-A good quality stove can last many decades and provide an affordable source of heat for low-income households.

-The right to repair. The majority of components used within a Charnwood stove are modular and can be replaced when or if they wear out further extending the life of your stove.

-There are significant well-being benefits from using a wood-burning stove. Read about the Charnwood wellbeing survey and all the amazing benefits of owning a stove for your wellbeing.

_____________

For more information check out the main article:  

Smoke And Mirrors: Exposing The Flawed Data Behind The War On Wood Stoves 

& 

Wood-Burning Stove’s Co-Heating Future (A Nuanced Look At PM 2.5 Emissions)   

 

 

charnwoodstoves

We don’t enjoy having to react to media sensationalism, however, there are times when it feels important to set the record straight. A negative narrative is being unfairly manufactured around the wood-burning stove industry, by anti-woodburning groups such as the ‘London Wood Burning Project’ and ‘Clean Air Hub’. Their campaigns repeatedly use misleading claims and stats to scare the public and they refuse to answer questions directly when challenged.

Therefore, we feel it is a duty to set the record straight, so people don’t succumb to the haze of misleading information out there. In this blog, we will shed light on some of the flawed data and unfair generalisations anti-woodburning groups are using.

What do they mean by wood-burner?

The campaigns paint a distorted picture, often using anxiety-inducing imagery and negative attention-grabbing headlines based on sweeping generalisations and weak or inaccurate data. They continue to mislead the public using stats that lump modern wood-burning stoves in with outdated, inefficient models, open fires and bonfires. It’s like saying cyclists are equally to blame for traffic congestion/emissions as lorries and private cars just because they all use wheels!  

They combine emission sources for a more impactful number, and then claim 17% of London’s emissions come from ‘domestic wood burning’ or ‘wood burners’. Catch-all terms the public understandably associate most readily with wood-burning stoves – especially because they create ad campaigns which prominently feature images of wood stoves. However, the actual contribution of modern wood-burning stoves is estimated by the UK government’s official figures at just 1-2%! (1)  

Differentiating between wood-burning practices is vital for progress  

Firefly London points out: “The irony of the billboard placement is that London’s tube network has appalling air quality, with PM 2.5 readings peaking at 600-700 ug/m3 – that’s 100 TIMES MORE PARTICULATES than an average London street…”

It is essential to differentiate between various forms of wood-burning. Chief Medical Advisor Chris Whitty in his report acknowledges this saying, “For air pollution emissions, there is substantial difference between the different open fire and stove designs, the age of the appliance and how well maintained it is, and the moisture content of the wood, for those who want to burn wood.”(2) 

While Ecodesign-compliant stoves are up to 90% more efficient than an open fire, ClearSkies Level 5 stoves, are even better still. They surpass Ecodesign standards, offering a further reduction in emissions by up to 30%! (3)  

This is where the anti-woodburning strategy is so incredibly counterproductive. In London 70% of wood burning still occurs on open fires. (4) If people were widely encouraged to switch to one of the many modern and efficient wood-burning stoves available, it would massively reduce urban PM 2.5 emissions. Just think, the emissions of 70% of London Wood burning could be reduced by 90%!  

Modern wood-burning stoves could help London reduce open-fire emissions by 90% ! 

 

PM 2.5 comes from such a wide array of natural and man-made sources that a zero-emission world is impossible! The best we can do is reduce them as much as possible while maintaining our ability to heat our homes. That is exactly what modern wood-burning stoves help achieve.   

If improvements were what the anti-woodburning brigade was truly after, it doesn’t make sense to ignore the vast advancements in clean-burn technology now defining modern wood-burning stove heating. They are the ones being ‘careless’. 

PM 2.5 perspective: How stoves can HELP improve indoor air quality 

This is also totally misleading. We could draw on our sources, but more powerfully we can draw on the London Wood-Burning Project’s own report as a rebuttal to this one. 

On page 71 of their 127-page report (5), we find the page titled Key Findings. Below are 3 crucial pieces of information from this page:  

1/ Use of the clearSkies Level5 stove (which is Ecodesign compliant) demonstrated some benefits for indoor air quality. Indoor PM2.5 did not increase when adding fuel to the stove once lit… At times there was actually a decrease in indoor concentrations of PM2.5 when adding fuel.  

As we have long pointed out, a properly functioning modern wood stove draws particulates out of the room and up the flue, helping improve air quality and ventilation in the home. The stove used in this study was our Charnwood C-Five.  

2/ Increases in pollutant concentrations may be more affected by participant technique or specific airflow characteristics of an individual appliance, rather than to the type of appliance or fuel.  

We always encourage best stove practices and will continue to do our level best to educate new and existing customers and beyond.   

3/ However, the biggest increases in PM2.5 concentrations indoors did not relate to indoor wood or solid-fuel burning but instead were a result of cooking, especially frying, grilling and use of the oven, and particularly when the extraction fan was not used.  

This really provides perspective on the issue of PM 2.5 in the home. A slice of burnt toast or your Sunday lunch can contribute far more than a wood-burning stove.  

 It’s a shame they don’t plaster these findings on a bus or large poster. 

A lack of scientific rigour 

Imprecise methodology  

“The results were compared to modelled wood and solid-fuel burning emissions to identify areas where the measurements match well with predictions or where measurements may provide evidence of solid-fuel burning that were not predicted by the model.” (pg.9 of the LWBP report)  

They do not sufficiently differentiate between the different sources of ‘solid fuel burning’. Data collection relies heavily on estimations and ambient air sampling, offering a blurry picture at best. Traffic, construction, industrial processes and even natural dust all contribute to PM2.5 and cannot reliably be controlled in their methodology. 

(Pg.20 of the LWBP report)

Walking around with modified backpacks does not allow them to distinguish in any way what the source of PM2.5 is in a given area.  

Small sample sizes & poor testing equipment 

One of the major studies often cited, is by Rohit Chakraborty et al, and based on a sample size of just 19 homes that took measurements using, as they admit, “low-cost air quality monitors” (7) 

Manipulated data 

Data is also often twisted and cherry-picked to bolster a blinkered argument. For example, comparing the emission rates between wood stoves and HGVs has caused much unnecessary concern.  

Closer inspection revealed their data excluded brake and engine wear and in fact, just one Euro 6 HGV produces 13 times more PM2.5 emissions than an Ecodesign wood-burning stove over the course of a week’s real-world use. Furthermore, emissions from HGVs are emitted at ground level (nearer head height) while wood smoke is dispersed more safely, higher up via a chimney flue.  

The SIA say, “ The claims are based on simplistic calculations using permitted rates of emission and do not consider either real world use or non-exhaust emissions. Furthermore, these permitted emissions rates rely on vastly differing measurement protocols and techniques. It should also be noted that there are several unreferenced assumptions, and the report does not appear to have been independently peer reviewed.” (8) 

Expert ‘opinion’  

In the bottom left-hand corner of every page of the London Wood Burning Project report you can see the following disclaimer: 

“This report is the independent expert opinion of the author(s)” 

Firstly, anyone can claim to be an expert in whatever they like, however, the key word here is ‘opinion’.  

Well, the SIA has commissioned extensive independent research which casts serious doubt on the estimations and ‘opinions’ provided by anti-woodburners (6). Experts question the methodologies and point out the lack of robust data used to support their dramatic claims.  

We highly encourage you to read this report undertaken by Dr Amanda Lea-Langton, senior lecturer in Bioenergy Engineering at the University of Manchester:  

 https://stoveindustryalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/22-04-11-Indoor-air-final-V5-AL.pdf 

 We have listed some of the key findings below: 

-No scientific evidence found for adverse health impacts from exposure to the indoor air typically associated with modern, enclosed wood burning stoves

-No association shown between exposure to indoor wood burning and risk of asthma in developed countries

-Use of modern wood burning stoves may help to improve air quality inside the home due to the natural draught created during wood stove operation that pulls air from the room into the appliance and from outside

-Other sources of particulate matter in the home, such as cooking, can release much higher levels of PM compared to modern, enclosed wood burning stoves, and could therefore havegreater health risk potential

-In one study, oil-based cooking, such as frying food or grilling meat, had peak value PM concentrations significantly higher than the WHO recommended average 24hr exposure limit

-In the same study the Ecodesign wood burning stove indoor air quality averages during operation were below the WHO recommended limits

 The official data (the truth) is good news!

And how about this for good news? The TRUTH is that UK PM 2.5 emissions have been steadily decreasing over the years despite record stove sales (please see the short video above). This is data taken directly from DEFRA and is a scientific and unbiased representation of the air quality in the UK. Whilst there is more we can all do, the evidence is resoundingly positive. 

At the time of writing (11/01/2024) on a very cold winter’s day when wood stove usage would typically be higher, here is the PM2.5 picture for the UK taken, once again, from DEFRA’s official website.  

https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/forecasting/ 

So, when the anti-woodburners say 17% of emissions. It is 17% of a very low amount in the first place. Then, remember modern wood-burning stoves are just 1-2% of that low amount. 

Modern stoves equal lower emissions with HUGE benefits 

Next time you encounter someone who questions the benefits of modern wood-burning stoves, here is a list you can reel off! 

1/ They can produce heat for sustained periods and are unaffected by external factors such as the weather. 

2/ Allowing them to work in conjunction with wind, solar and other green heating solutions. A stove makes these great technologies more viable – They are not in competition with each other. 

3/ A wood-burning stove is an ideal emergency/low-frequency heat source. 

4/ Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel as it gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burnt or decays naturally. The carbon released from burning wood is balanced out by the carbon absorbed by the tree during its lifetime. 

5/ Wood fuel can be sourced locally without fracking and deep-sea oil drilling. 

6/ A good quality stove can last many decades and provide an affordable source of heat for low-income households. 

7/ The right to repair. The majority of components used within a Charnwood stove are modular and can be replaced when or if they wear out further extending the life of your stove. 

8/ Charnwood stoves and packaging are fully recyclable. 

9/ There are significant well-being benefits from using a wood-burning stove. Read about the Charnwood wellbeing survey and all the amazing benefits of owning a stove for your wellbeing. 

Building a Collaborative Path Forward 

The wood-burning stove community’s voice in this debate isn’t just about defending an industry; it’s about ensuring a fair and balanced path towards a cleaner and more energy-secure future. Targeting outdated appliances, promoting responsible practices, and encouraging sustainable forestry practices would yield far greater results for all. 

Modern wood-burning stoves offer many benefits beyond warmth. They provide energy independence, encourage mental wellbeing, support rural communities, and help foster sustainable forestry practices. Responsible utilisation of modern wood-burning stoves can absolutely coexist with clean air initiatives, without compromising the environment. 

We are passionate about building on our 50 years of experience leading developments in the industry and producing the most efficient stoves on the market. We understand why people want to reduce PM2.5 emissions even further and we support doing more to achieve this. That is precisely why we continue to invest significantly in technological advances rather than sensationalist marketing campaigns. 

Thank you for reading and please share if this has resonated with you. 

_____________ 

Further reading: 

Here is a link to an article which explains why modern wood-burning stoves will continue to be an essential heating solution long into the future. Wood-Burning Stove’s Co-Heating Future (A Nuanced Look At PM 2.5 Emissions)  

 

References: 

(1)https://stoveindustryalliance.com/domestic-indoor-wood-burning-emissions-significantly-lower-than-previously-thought/  

(2)https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1124738/chief-medical-officers-annual-report-air-pollution-dec-2022.pdf 

(3)https://www.clearskiesmark.org/about-us/certification-system-explained/ 

(4)https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/summary-results-of-the-domestic-wood-use-survey  

(5)https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/environmental-research-group/London-Wood-Burning-Project-Report_final.pdf 

(6)https://stoveindustryalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/22-04-11-Indoor-air-final-V5-AL.pdf 

(7)https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4433/11/12/1326/html 

(8)https://stoveindustryalliance.com/sia-responds-to-wood-burning-stove-and-hgv-emission-comparison/ 

 

 

charnwoodstoves

We love December and the magic, tradition and festivities it brings. Nowhere is that magic stronger than in the Cotswolds at Charlie and Josie’s beautifully restored Grade II listed 14th Century home. We recently made our annual pilgrimage to visit them and film roaring log fires and the cosiest of festive decors. We even ended up featuring in Josies’ Vlogmas episode which you can check out below!

Read on for some behind the scenes fun and why a wood stove really brings the Christmas feels!

Fireplace dressing 

There are so many ways to dress a fireplace and we think you’ll agree that Charlie and Josie have achieved an absolutely stunning result! Their attention to detail and bauble strategising was totally worth it. You can’t help but feel in the Christmas spirit in a space like this – Father Christmas will be pleased to visit! 

At the same time as getting into full festive swing, it’s good to consider some ‘Elf and Safety measures’ and we have just the right blog for you!  8 Tips For Wood-Stove Users Over The Holiday Season 

The wood-burning stove lifestyle 

From collecting wood from the store, to building a fire and enjoying the unique bone warming heat that emanates, the process of owning a stove is a delight that puts you back in touch with yourself. 

Charnwood’s rich heritage 

Charnwood is over 50 years old, so despite the fun banter in the video, we can confirm Ced is not a founder, but he is one of the current directors and part of the 3rd generation of family to run the business. The ethos remains as strong as ever with a passion for British Made products (on the sunny Isle of Wight) using British materials. To find out more about the company’s history click here. 

Lights, camera, action 

Initially, there was a fair bit of cloud and natural light was lacking for the shoot. Thankfully Reuben, our fantastic videographer, had some tricks up his sleeve. He used some powerful video lighting, shot from outside, to create a really lovely low winter ray of sunshine through the window to light the fireplace. 

Fortunately, light improved, and the shoot was blessed with a rather fabulous sunset, which spurred Reuben into action. He fired up his drone and took to the skies filming the gorgeous old church against a beautiful winter sunset backdrop. 

Whilst lighting is important in a photoshoot it can be even more so in our everyday lives. The beautiful warm glow created by a wood-burning stove can help illuminate the dark winter evenings. Helping you create your own cosy winter ambience, that soothes the soul and lifts your spirits. 

Beyond aesthetics 

There are a range of Charnwood wood-burning stoves throughout this beautiful property providing a warmth that truly makes a home feel like a home.  

Beyond aesthetics, there are so many other reasons to invest in a stove for your home. Including energy independence and security, significant well-being benefits, supplementing other renewables, off grid living etc. Here is a blog that outlines in detail some of the many other reasons people choose to install a wood-burning stove.   

https://www.charnwood.com/news/the-real-reason-people-install-a-wood-burning-stove/ 

Here’s what our customers have to say 

These Charnwood customer quotes give great insight into owning a stove and why they are such an important part of their winter lifestyle! 

“I find the process of building and lighting the fire therapeutic and sitting watching the flames is very relaxing.” 

“Something the whole family enjoy doing together and it makes us all feel incredibly relaxed and happy.” 

“It’s a ritual on Christmas morning to rekindle the stove, and to unwrap the presents without a fire is unthinkable. There’s something magical about children in their pyjamas sitting on the rug in the cosy space in front of a blazing stove.” 

“My young nephew visited at Christmas & we built the fire together. It was the first time he had ever lit a real fire. We celebrated with toasting marshmallows! It wasn’t just building a fire – it was building a memory.” 

“After a day of sledging and building snowmen and having snowball fights with the family it was very relaxing and comforting for us all to warm up in front of the fire.” 

“My grandchildren ask for the fire to be on when they are having a hot chocolate on a frosty day.” 

“The stove is the catalyst for family bonding, which helps with relaxation & mood improvement. It helps to unwind after a days exertions at work.” 

“Christmas spent with all the family and grandchildren gathered around our stove brings happy memories all year round.” 

(Source: Charnwood Well-being Survey) 

______________ 

Finally, from everyone at Charnwood, we wish you the merriest and toastiest of Christmas’s! 

 

charnwoodstoves

The next in a series of essays by Charmain Ponnuthurai is about ‘Going Inwards’. Charmain (Dammy) is the author of Midnight Feasts: An Anthology of Late-night Munchies, and founder of Larder and Crane cookware.

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And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? – Kings 19 verses 12-13

The first shiver of Autumn, brings to us thoughts of roaring fires, cosy layers, soft blankets and warming food. Though with the drawing in of the nights and the reduced length of daylight, we increase our time for contemplation and the opportunity to hear that still small voice within us. We live in a time of rapidly progressing AI, which some fear will render much of all work obsolete. In such a scenario, many of us would have to find meaning elsewhere. Regardless of whether our lives are reimagined by AI, a human search for meaning exists, a humane search for empathy and connection. The most independent of us are not immune to feelings of loneliness and a requirement for warmth that no matter how clever the robot, it cannot be surpassed by what tactility offers.

One simple reach towards feeling connection can be found in the simple daily need for nourishment. There are so many off the shelf prepackaged solutions for our ‘busy lives’, that tie in with the materialistic goals of efficiency and valuable results. Though it is in the very act of cooking and sharing food, where we can find the time for a moment to connect and be entirely present with ourselves and others. As winter draws closer, we may wake up feeling uninspired by the rain lashing at our window, and the daily news grind of the troubles that face us both in our own communities and together as a planet. The act of being nourished and nourishing others holds a sacred place; such a basic act comprises a rare, untarnished purity, like the simple comforting sound of a purring cat. The process of preparing, cooking, and laying the table gives us the opportunity to listen to that still small voice which can be so hard to hear within us, in the midst of burgeoning communication channels that keep us distracted.

The journey inwards brings us solace against the chill of the elements and brooding skies. We become concentrated on our homes as a solace from the hibernation of the sun and look forward to the thought of lighting a fire, playing some music and enjoying the pleasure of comfort cooking. We think of tucking into slow cooked stews, silken soups and puddings that invoke the nostalgia of childhood such as old school rice pudding, or a constantly renewing stack of pancakes. As the song by Spike Jones goes, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, And smile, smile, smile. Don’t let your joy and laughter hear the snag…”

In the essay ‘A Purple Future’, Daniel Pinchbeck speaks of how we have lost the knowledge of ancient and indigenous cultures, of our connectivity with one another. Pinchbeck suggests this is, ‘an underlying consciousness that is indivisible, instinctive, timeless and spaceless and without boundary.’ We have instead turned to a way of living that quantifies everything by measurable value and outcomes. It is of course hard to sometimes reach into this thought process, when we are faced with the rising costs of living and an uncertainty of basic material requirements. Though as with all human progress, our fears have become so strong that they curtail the freedom to be creative as we try to grip onto certainty. We can see as a simple observation that with young children, who are unencumbered with anything but the moment that joy is always present and experimentation paramount as they learn about the world around them.

The lead into winter and the early nights drawing in some way gives us this sacrosanct time in which to pause, to cook that slow stew and undertake simple acts such as lighting a fire. These moments allow us to open ourselves to the silent possibilities and creativity that arise from ‘hunkering in’ so we may begin to see new shafts of light as we navigate our way through the darkness.

“The goal of life is not to possess power but to radiate it’ Henry Miller

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If you haven’t read Charmain Ponnuthurai’s piece on ‘storytelling’ click here – we highly recommend it!