Charcoal's Carbon Footprint
UK produced charcoal has a massively lower carbon footprint than that of imported charcoal!
Imported charcoal creates so much destruction! Added to this can be the effect on climate change of the oil resources used in shipping such a bulky product all round the world.
More than 3.28 billion tonnes of timber is needed to make the amount of charcoal imported into the EU every year, roughly equivalent to 11 million hectares of forest per year!* That's almost half a football pitch per second!
*(To put that into context, England's area is 13 million hectares!)
Educating UK purchasers about imported charcoal...
Over 90,000 tonnes imported to the UK each year often from unregulated sources.
Where does all this imported charcoal come from? West African Rainforest, Asian Tropical Rainforest, Brazilian Rainforest, Asian Mangrove Woods and African Bush Clearance.
Charcoal can be the main driver of forest degradation, sometimes deforestation, and lead to desertification and erosion.
Beatrix Richards, WWF-UK's forest expert, said: “In 2012, the UK implemented a regulation to make sure wood products are made from legally logged timber. It is astonishing that charcoal falls outside of this regulation. The UK is importing large quantities from countries with a high risk of illegality and high rates of deforestation.”
We are in currently trying to change UK law to see this corrected!
Recently we had some large information boards printed to display to the public just where the charcoal they are using comes from and the harm that it causes. They feature various articles from from the net and examples of the good and bag product to look out for.
Unsurprisingly the usual bags you find at supermarkets and on forecourts are not keen to advertise where the charcoal originates from. Quite often the charcoal these bags contain has been shipped from different sources and then mixed before being packaged and sold on.
In our 20 years plus of business, The Dorset Charcoal Company has been inundated with enquiries from companies wanting us to import their charcoal. (They clearly haven't read our website!) In the last seven years alone we have saved over 1000 emails offering charcoal from every corner of the world.
We feel this puts us in a very good position to explain to UK purchasers of imported charcoal exactly which eco-systems and habitats they are complicit in helping to destroy!
How can you help? Buy British & Burn British!
The benefits of British Hardwood charcoal:
Coppice restoration & preservation.
Regulated forest thinning.
Use of sawmill off-cuts.
Supporting wildlife by preserving their natural habitats.
Restoring and maintaining woodlands for future generations.
British charcoal has 85% less CO2 emissions than imported charcoal.
Coupled with all this is the high quality of British Charcoal.
The Earthworm Trust has been doing wonderful work in this field, analysing charcoal bags sold in Europe to verify their wood species and origin. Their findings showed that many products contained undeclared tropical wood, leading to field work to verify retailers’ supply chains and to find solutions to resolve identified issues.
Please read their fantastic report from 2019
Charcoal & the Environment
Trees use the Sun’s energy to take CO2 from the air and turn it into wood and oxygen. We then convert the wood into fuel as logs and charcoal.
When this fuel is burnt the CO2 originally absorbed by the tree is released again into the atmosphere. A little extra CO2 is made from processing the wood and transporting it, which is why you should buy local products.
Why Dorset Charcoal? Charcoal's Benefits...
Using wood as a fuel has a number of benefits. Firstly, contrary to what many people think burning wood and charcoal can be environmentally beneficial. Much of the woodland in the UK is semi-natural woodland and benefits from being managed. Many small woodlands are under-managed, so cutting firewood and producing charcoal from them can help rekindle traditional woodland management to the benefit of both the trees, the wildlife and the owners. Continued neglect is not an option for these woodlands.
Bringing coppice woodlands back into rotations encourages a greater diversity of flora and fauna. Cutting wood opens up woodlands for flowers, insects, birds and small mammals letting in light. Dorsets woodlands are seldom ‘natural’ but have developed thanks to a long history of management by man. New wood-fuel markets will secure the future of our historic wooded landscapes.
In addition producing charcoal and using wood as a fuel also benefits the rural economy by providing local employment, and an opportunity for diversification for farmers and other landowners to find value in low grade wood. Also local deliveries eliminate the necessity for long-haul transportation and the production and supply of local charcoal has been shown to reduce fossil fuel consumption by over 85%, compared with imports from South America or South Africa. Moreover, providing the wood comes from a sustainable source, as ours does, wood is a source of renewable stored solar energy.
The Burning Issue
Environmental Effects of Charcoal...
Is Burning Charcoal and Firewood bad for the environment? Well, trees turn sunlight and carbon dioxide into carbon (wood) which we can burn to create energy, a truly renewable resource so long as the wood comes from a sustainable source and is burned in a clean, efficient way, close to where it was felled.
As it burns wood produces carbon dioxide - one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. But this CO2 will be absorbed by a new tree planted to replace the one being burnt. Carbon dioxide emissions from woodfuel systems are 95% lower than gas, oil, LPG or electric systems in most cases. This is because the carbon dioxide that is released from burning wood was the same amount that was absorbed from the atmosphere during the growth of the trees. The only new carbon dioxide released is from the fossil fuel used during its processing and transport, which is why woodfuel works best at a local scale and can be referred to as “carbon lean".
Still over 90% of all charcoal consumed in this country comes from overseas, predominantly the endangered tropical rainforest and mangrove habitats of South America, West Africa and South East Asia. In addition to the damage caused by unsustainable forestry practices in these regions, is the negative environmental impact arising from the consumption of fossil fuels transporting charcoal so far around the world.
There is a Truly Superior Alternative: British Charcoal!
Charcoal Production Methods
Charcoal Production Methods
The Dorset Charcoal Company produces its charcoal using the mobile ring kiln technology. Although we accept that our emissions during production are higher than those produced by retort kilns we would argue that there are a number of factors at play; The resources used in the production of Ring Kilns are much lower than those of Retort Kilns. Ring Kilns also last longer reducing their overall carbon footprint, they are also more mobile therefore reducing carbon burnt in transporting timber to the Retort Kiln site...
We take our Ring Kilns straight to the wood! This is important particularly to Dorset, which although with 12% woodland coverage it is characterised by a lot of small isolated or “farm” woodland.