As the UK’s leading wood specialist, Lancaster-based company Logs Direct is putting its weight behind massive ‘walls of wood’ in South Africa, each measuring 1.2 metres in height and 500 metres in length and containing two million pieces of wood.
With ten such walls in situ in South Africa, homeowners around Britain can rest assured that, despite global issues in sourcing wood, Logs Direct has no concerns about continuity of supply, having partnered with the business that is building not just these walls of wood but local resilience too.
As a result, Logs Direct customers buying this wood can not only secure the wood they need for their appliances but also support a vital social enterprise in South Africa, which is helping to enrich lives in five African townships in the Overberg region of the Western Cape.
This is because Proper Wood, to which Logs Direct has provided a vibrant retail platform via its online website, has already helped to create 450 jobs and generate positive impacts for 2,500 people living in the five townships. With unemployment rates running at around 49 per cent in Overberg, such job opportunities make a massive difference.
In addition, the social enterprise that has sprung up around the felling of wood is helping to combat an environmental threat for the townships – one caused by non-indigenous plants which extract water from local supplies, making drought a constant worry. Taking water away from native species, which then suffer, also creates imbalances in eco-systems.
In some areas, around 60 per cent of the landscape has been overtaken by these alien invasive species.
A major culprit in the draining of water supplies is the eucalyptus tree, which is why the local government has sought to take back environmental control and fell these trees.
Proper Wood was founded in 2020, to make use of all of the resulting wood, as its owners recognised that, for all its environmental faults in South Africa, eucalyptus actually makes perfect firewood. 388 acres of this alien invasive species has been cleared, saving a water loss equivalent to the size of 106 Olympic size swimming pools (264,938 sq m).
An Eco-system-wide impact analysis of Proper Wood firewood has been developed by the esteemed Professional James Blignaut, who is attached to the School of Public leadership at Stellenbosch University. Professor Blignaut, also an honorary research associate of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), gave the enterprise a 7.3 BCR rating, which indicates that the benefits derived from the entire product value chain are 7.3 times greater than the costs. For every unit of cost incurred in the form of CO2 emissions, the product value chain generates 7.3 units of benefit to people and the planet.
Recognising that some CO2 is created when clearing and transporting the product, Proper Wood will donate £221.50, per 40-foot shipping container, to a voluntary carbon offset project, run in partnership with the Regenerative SPACE Non-Profit Company. This means that Proper Wood can be considered carbon neutral. No carbon is generated in the drying of the product in the South African sun.
When Logs Direct came across the Proper Wood product, it recognised the benefits for UK customers and saw that the sustainability behind the product’s story would match perfectly with other products in its range. It partnered with Proper Wood, to ensure its customers can now choose 25cm-long Proper Wood Logs, if they wish to use this fuel and that distribution of the product can occur seamlessly, UK-wide.
There are certainly practical reasons to use this wood, as well as emotional ones. Eucalyptus is a hardwood, offering a high energy value of 5.2Mwh/T, by virtue of a dense wood structure. It also provides an extended burn time, so is ideal for when a long, slow heat source is required. It generates minimal smoke and is a perfect wood to use in woodburner, firepit, pizza oven, woodfired hot tub or chimenea, with little or no spitting and sparking.
Proper Wood has provided employment opportunities to local people who can utilise the felled eucalyptus by preparing the product that arrives on the market. Each piece of wood is, on average, around 800g in weight, and all of the logs produced to this size, are carefully stacked to dry naturally in the South African sun, at between 30°C and 35°C. This creates the walls of wood that together constitute around 20 million pieces of eucalyptus.
In summer, the wood takes around eight weeks to dry out to the required Defra level of below 20 per cent moisture content – the requirement before any wood can be compliant under ‘Ready to Burn’ legislation. In the winter, with the help of good winds and temperatures of between 15°C and 20°C, drying is accomplished in between 12 and 16 weeks.
The wood is cut all year round and the majority of the final logs preparation is carried out in South Africa. It is packed in 70 per cent recycled LLDPE plastic bags, which can then be completely recycled after use. This material is waterproof and durable and processed at lower temperatures, making production less energy-intensive.
Logs Direct’s sales director, Stephen Talbot, says: “The minute we came across this story and supplier, we knew this product was something that fits perfectly with our ethos of not just sourcing wood but also supporting local communities that need to generate income from their local resources.
“We also recognised how Logs Direct’s reach could really assist this product, by taking it out to more people via our long-established relationship in the wood fuel market and our distribution systems. We believe we are helping to make a difference in South Africa, as a result of our partnering with Proper Wood.”
Proper Wood director, Jay Williams, adds: “It has been great working with Logs Direct as their infrastructure and enthusiasm for good dry wood seems to keep growing. Feedback from last season has provided confidence to go forward and sell much more.“
Proper Wood logs can be bought from Logs Direct in individual bags, priced at £6.50, or in pallets of 60 or 120 bags. Logs Direct is also helping to boost the product’s sales, by bundling Proper Wood logs with other products in its range, to create useful and easy-to-use packaged purchases, whether that is for home use, caravanning or glamping.
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