Setting up fire is almost an automatic thing during camping. But did you know that burning wood releases large amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere? This includes carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, benzene, particulate matters, and other volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Aside from the gasses mentioned above, burning wood also releases the greenhouse gas known as carbon dioxide and it does so in large amounts.
The pollution is evident even for the people who are sitting just beside a campfire. Harmful effects such as irritation of the eyes, respiratory inflammation, asthma, and even emphysema. The problems that campfires cause is serious enough that counties, municipalities and even parks restrict or prohibit campfires to lessen the pollution in the air and other resulting problems.
More Than Just Smoke
Campfires cause a lot of environmental impacts. It’s not just what the smoke contains but also the other factors that can harm the soil, the forest and the balance of nature as a whole. Below are some of the impacts that campfires pose on the environment:
- There are people who try to burn trash in the campfire they built. This releases harmful substances into the air and contributes to pollution. Most of the time, half-burnt trash is left doubling the impact of pollution on the environment.
- Areas where campers frequent and campfires are regularly built see a reduction of dead wood. This affects the ecosystem that depends on decaying wood and even contributes to soil erosion. There are those who cut down healthy trees to be used as firewood even if live and fresh wood burns poorly.
- Poorly extinguished and out-of-control campfires are a common cause of forest fires which can affect large areas and even houses in worst cases.
- Charred and partially-burned wood and blackened stones remain along trails and in campsites which results in a reduced natural look for the next visitors to enjoy.
Should Building Fire Be Stopped?
Putting the practice of building campfires to a stop is not a good idea. It has been a profound human experience that has been practiced through many generations across different cultures. There are others who consider it as the culmination of a great outdoor adventure. It also brings friends and families closer together and there are few other activities that are capable of doing so aside from those that involve entertainment through electronics. The reduced amount of time that is spent outdoors directly affects one’s appreciation of nature. It is therefore important that we experience the great outdoors once in a while so we can be reminded to preserve it. Campfires are a perfect activity to do outdoors but there are simple rules that can be followed in order to lessen the impact that it could leave to the environment.
What Should You Do?
Below is a list of things that you can do to lessen the pollution and environmental impact when building a campfire on your next camping trip:
- Use only dry wood as it releases fewer pollutants and burns better producing more heat.
- If possible, make the fire small by using thin sticks. This produces better heat and burns harmful gases more efficiently.
- Put out the fire completely after you use it. You can do so by generously dousing water into it, stirring the ashes then flood the fire pit with water once again.
- Instead of cooking your food on wood fire, cook it in a camp stove if you want to enjoy hot meals while camping outside. It’s one of the most important principles of leaving no trace that every outdoor enthusiast needs to practice.
- Consider enjoying the great outdoors at night without a campfire. This would help you focus more on the beautiful night sky with all the glittering stars instead of being caught in the flames. Fireflies and beautiful night sounds are also better enjoyed without a campfire burning in front of you. It will surely be a unique experience in the wild and it sure to be one that’s worth it! Be sure to get bundled up though so you can be protected from the cold.