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Eco-Friendly Backyard Fire Fun

One of the best parts of summer is sitting around a campfire. Whether you’re roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with the family or just catching up with old friends, campfires bring people together. I built a fire pit in my front yard a couple years ago, and we’ve had great times around it.

But recently, a friend asked me if I thought fire pits were bad for the environment. My first reaction was an immediate “no”, but then I decide to look into it. It turns out that in places where the air quality suffers, fire pits can exacerbate problems for local people and wildlife. There isn’t a lot of data about overall environmental impact, but on a local and individual health level, any type of smoke isn’t great. So I decided to look into ways to make fires more eco-friendly.

Limit Smoke

Most of the problem around fireplaces and pits stems from burning wood. Even though wood is carbon neutral, and does not affect the atmosphere in the same way fossil fuels do, the smoke (and particles inside the smoke) can linger in the air for weeks. This happens particularly in areas of high pollution, where atmospheric conditions trap fine particles close to the ground. This can be particularly detrimental for people with asthma, or children whose respiratory systems are still growing and sensitive.

If you love the ambiance of a fire but want to keep the smoke pollution to a minimum, you might consider a bio-ethanol fire place. Many of them are indoor units, but you can also find versions rated for outdoor use. Bio-ethanol is made from byproducts of sugarcane, corn, beetroot, rice, and other starchy plants full of sugar. This allows for a smoke-free burn.

Keeping Fire Contained

campground rules - eco-friendly backyard fire

Image Source: Megaprint


The other main environmental concern about fire pits is the spread of fire, particularly into areas with lots of plants. Neighborhoods are often set up in a way that prevents fire from spreading too far, but if you live near a field or park, fire could do some major damage to local fauna. This is why most counties have regulations on the size that in-ground fire pits can be- usually smaller than 3 feet in diameter.

You can prevent the risk of your fire from spreading by properly building your fire. Always make sure that your fire is in a clearing, separated from vegetation and other flammable materials.  If your fire pit is in the ground, dig a trench of dirt around it. If you have a portable fire pit, make sure to place it on solid ground, where it is in no danger of being knocked over into vegetation.

So while small backyard fires are by no means the biggest threat to environment, there are steps you can take to minimize the environmental impact and keep your air clean for those around you. Do you have any fire pit tips to share?


Jeriann Watkins, blogger at, spends her days writing and crafting. She recently started vending at her local Farmer’s Market, selling lamps made from recycled wine and liquor bottles. Check her out on Twitter

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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