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WaterFire Providence’s Concern for the Environment and our Carbon Footprint

In the twenty-first century, concern for the environment is ever-present and WaterFire is committed to the cause.

Urban sprawl and new suburban construction is the single largest contributor to the deterioration of natural land, pristine habitats, and water quality.  In turn, the vehicle dependency that results from sprawl creates an increase in transportation-related costs, use of power, and most importantly the environmental costs associated with generating new materials for construction.

The central goal of WaterFire is to minimize these costs and keep our capital city vibrant and beautiful while simultaneously reminding people of the advantages and pleasures of urban living.  The more we can use the splendor of urban life to convince people to invest and participate in the revitalization of underused or abandoned industrial and commercial spaces, the more likely we are to save our precious environment.

WaterFire is all about shutting off the lights, parking our cars at home, and celebrating the very real pleasures of music, performance, art and one another in a revitalized urban setting.  We encourage everyone to walk where they can or use public transportation whenever mobile transit is required.

In keeping with WaterFire’s emphasis on a healthier environment nearly all the materials used in the lighting process are reclaimed and/or recycled materials.  We start the fires with recycled newspaper and reuse abandoned fencing for kindling. No trees are cut down for WaterFire and the vast majority of firewood is reclaimed from local tree trimming operations where the pieces of pine are either too small or otherwise not suitable for lumber production.  We also turn off over 200 street lights each night saving 120,000 kW of power each year.

Also of concern is the need to reduce our individual carbon footprints, or how much new carbon dioxide each person adds to the atmosphere.  Wood is a renewable resource and does not release new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is why many utilities in Europe as part of their energy conservation policies are switching from gas and coal to burning wood in the form of wood pellets.

From the Wall Street Journal by Russell Gold, “Some of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy in the world are the wind, the sun — and the lowly wood pellet.

European utilities are snapping up the small combustible pellets to burn alongside coal in existing power plants.  Wood pellets – cylinders of dried shredded wood that resemble large vitamins – are the least expensive way to meet European renewable-energy mandates.

Made from fast-growing trees or sawdust, pellets are a pricier fuel than coal, but burning them is a less-expensive way to generate electricity than using windmills or solar panels. Burning pellets releases the carbon that the trees would emit anyway when they die and decompose, so the process is widely regarded as largely carbon neutral. In contrast, carbon is locked away in coal and is only released once the coal is dug out of the earth and burned.

The wood-pellet market is booming because the European Union has rules requiring member countries to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.”  From “Wood Pellets Catch Fire as Renewable Energy Sources” by Russell Gold, July 7, 2009. The Wall Street Journal.

There is no difference in carbon release or thermal release between the natural death and gradual rotting of a tree or the burning of the wood.  The critical concern is when tree cutting results in the loss of habitats, vegetation, and green space. WaterFire reclaims and recycles scrap soft wood that is being cleared for other reasons and diverts this wood byproduct from landfills or from burning.

The concern with respect to increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is due to the burning of such fossil fuels as oil, gasoline, coal, or natural gas in our cars, power plants, and industry.  Burning these fossil fuels increase overall carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because this carbon had been bound in place underground and not free gases in the environment. This addition of this new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is what causes environmental consequences.

WaterFire does use a very small amount of gas for our boat motors and trucks, but we do not travel appreciable distances, so our resulting carbon footprint is extremely small.