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Reusing Wood Byproducts for Firewood

At a time in which people have become more aware of the importance of recycling and the dangers of climate change, finding ways to recycle wood for firewood is interesting to a lot of people. This is especially urgent given the high levels of heat insecurity in many places across the globe. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) ran a wonderful piece in which they talk about a couple who have found ways to reuse wood byproducts as firewood. 

The couple, Max Kinden and Zena Sheppard, reside on Labrador’s north coast. They began their journey searching for driftwood along the Northern Peninsula. These pieces had all kinds of shapes and sizes. They’d gather the driftwood and take it to their home in Roddickton. There, they would use the driftwood to make home furnishings, such as kitchen furniture and bookshelves. It is that early experience with driftwood that bound the couple together and binds them to the woods. 

They began a business, which they aptly named Titjaluk Logistics. Titjaluk is an Inuktitut word for driftwood. Sheppard happens to be an Inuk from Postville. The company repurposes fallen wood as firewood, distributing the firewood along Nunatsiavut’s north coast.  

The company also purchases wood byproducts from local sawmills in the Northern Peninsula. These wood byproducts are too small and too thin to be used as lumber. They split and then dry the wood byproducts in order to get it ready for the wood-stove. From there, they send a consignment to Labrador by boat. 

The main destinations of these products are Nain and Hopedale because both places are north of Nunatsiavut’s tree line. 

Two years ago, the couple obtained support from Nunatsiavut’s government, as well as from Natural Resources Canada to develop a pilot project. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic brought a halt to their plans, but as conditions return to some semblance of normality, the couple is preparing to get two years worth of wood supply for nunatsiavut.

Nunatsiavut has a big heat insecurity problem for which it has attempted various solutions. The region is populated with communities who are off the energy grid, and use diesel to meet their energy needs. A 2017 report found that 57% of the homes in Nain and 63% of the homes in Hopedale suffered from heat insecurity. Across Nunatsiavut, 43% of homes struggle with heat insecurity. 

Research shows that living in homes that have inadequate heat can lead to a host of mental and physical problems. The heat insecurity of these homes is, then, also a public health issue. When the government of Nunatsiavut asked its residents what heat source they preferred, wood was easily ranked as their preferred source. The desire for sustainable wood heating derives from the importance of wood in Labrador’s Inuit community. Harvesting wood performs an important cultural role in bringing communities together as they work to gather wood. It’s no surprise that there is such a massive demand for kiln dried firewood and other types of firewood. 

The government of Nunatsiavut has responded by upgrading the wood stoves of 200 families, with more energy efficient stoves. The stoves burn 30% less wood than the old wood stoves, and do not generate any meaningful emissions. 

The interweaving of culture, climate and the public health needs of the community, has led to the development of very elegant and environmentally friendly solutions.