One Green Thing: Baby, it’s cold outside (so don’t start a fire)

By Jan Herbert
Rockford Park District

Whether you were “green” before the color was fashionable or whether you’re just ready to find the “shade” that works best for you, here’s information about doing just “one green thing.”

If you have a REAL fireplace, now is NOT the time to enjoy it — you will just be blowing your heat right up the chimney. We weatherize ours right after Christmas. We have already had the professional chimney sweep clean it, check the bricks, the damper, etc. So next, we “seal it up” as best we can. I check to make sure the damper is closed, then in goes a piece of foam (the rubber/flexible kind such as is used to make a cushion out of), then a piece of Styrofoam that I have whittled out of packing materials to fit the opening. Then, the doors are closed.

As a safety measure, we also have an additional “screen” we place in front of the fireplace when in use (nothing like a hole in the carpeting to teach you a lesson), and so this goes next along with an old Army blanket draped over it and smushed up tight against the fireplace. The last ingredient varies by year, but this year is the electric heating unit we use on the coldest of evenings. Then, we stand back and admire our homemade handiwork.

Just read about a “balloon” used to help prevent the cold air from coming down the chimney. Sounds sensible, but I wonder just how much it might cost compared to the “recyclable material using” method of mine.

Shucks, just realized I didn’t clean the doors. Mother Nature Network has an interesting method “… avoid chemicals altogether and opt for old newspapers dampened with water and dipped in fireplace ashes. Although it’s counterintuitive and requires a bit more effort on your part, scrubbing glass fireplace doors with the what-in-the-heck-do-I-do-with-this residue left from a raging wood fire does indeed do the trick.”

For more information, e-mail Jan Herbert at

From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue

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