Instead of mulching or disposing of wood from tree trimming, allow residents to heat their home with it.
Somerville currently pays to dispose of local wood from dead trees and trimmings, while residents pay to have heavy firewood shipped by truck from far away towns in MA and NH. If residents could switch from imported wood to locally sourced, that would reduce carbon output and could save all parties money.
Many old homes have fireplaces which are of dubious value for heating a home. However, wood stoves and fireplace inserts can be 87% efficient, likely making it more efficient and less polluting than electric heat.
Burning firewood is virtually carbon neutral, which coal and natural gas are not. Growing wood consumes carbon from the atmosphere, burning the wood releases that carbon, so the wood itself is truly carbon neutral.
The largest component of net carbon output from firewood is the fuel used in delivering firewood, often from towns far outside of Boston or from New Hampshire. This plan intends to reduce or eliminate that carbon footprint. Other potential net sources of carbon in firewood are any labor or chemicals used to treat tree farms (not generally applicable to local trees) kiln drying the wood (which Somerville would not do, sun drying works just fine), and cutting the wood (however cutting probably requires less carbon that mulching).
My goal is not necessarily to increase the number of homes burning wood, rather I would like to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned obtaining firewood. However, information could be provided on the efficiency gained with modern wood stoves and inserts.
What actions do you propose?
Somerville is always trimming trees or cutting down dead trees. Rather than mulching that into wood chips and hauling it away, allow locals access to the lumber for heating.
A central area could be set up for felled wood, or crews could cut the wood into rounds on site and tweet the location for residents to retrieve.
Who will take these actions?
The town crews or contractors performing the tree removal will make the wood available for residents to retrieve.
What are the key challenges?
What are the key benefits?
There may be fuel savings from not hauling away wood chips.
What are the proposal’s costs?
Contractors may charge a higher price for tree removal if they cannot keep the lumber.
If there is an increase in homes that heat with wood, there could also be a cost in local air quality. Currently all of the pollution from electric heat is released in some far away town where it affects somebody else. This would shift some of that pollution from our heat to be in our back yard. Some may prefer our pollution to "stay" in someone else's back yard.
However, if the same number of people continue to use firewood, but source it locally rather than from central MA or NH, the local pollution will be slightly decreased.
This could start today, or as soon as a central area is set up.