Eco-friendly bonfires
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Date: 28 October, 2011



'For real bonfire food, try parkin or cinder toffee.'

Suzanne Elvidge finds out how you can make your 5th of November celebrations friendlier for the planet

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Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

The fifth of November commemorates the night when Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was foiled.

This was even enshrined in English law – in 1606, Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act 1605, which called for a public thanksgiving for the failure of the plot.

Whatever you call it, bonfire night or Guy Fawkes’ Night, it’s a night of food, fires and fireworks.


No bonfire night is complete without food, and it needs to be simple and warming. Keep it in season with beetroot or butternut squash soup, followed by potatoes baked in the embers of the fire and slices of potato and apple cake for dessert.

For real bonfire food, try parkin or cinder toffee, and then when you’ve had far too much to eat, get some apples out of storage and drop them in pails of water and bob for them, or just eat them as toffee apples.

After all this, stand round the fire with some mulled cider or non-alcoholic Gunpowder Plot punch out of a ceramic thermal mug.


Bonfires release smoke, particulates and dioxins into the air. To reduce this as much as possible, avoid damp paper and leaves and just burn clean, dry wood and don’t put plastics or anything painted onto the fire.

Remember to check your bonfire before lighting it – hedgehogs and other animals might mistake it for a hog-friendly log pile (and hedgehogs are having a bad enough time of it at the moment).

And finally, though it’s not an eco issue, perhaps it’s time to think twice about burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes.


Fireworks are beautiful but they are not necessarily environmentally friendly – they can contain heavy metals and perchlorates that pollute soil and water.

There are some greener fireworks making it out there – Walt Disney uses compressed air launchers that reduce ground level pollution, and Blackboxx is a ‘re-useable fireworks and launching technology’.

If you can’t give up your one night a year of legal explosions, consider going to an organised display – this is one set of explosions for hundreds of people, rather than hundreds of explosions in hundreds of separate gardens.

Looking for eco alternatives to fireworks? There’s the Blow Light, which is allegedly the world’s smallest wind generator.

Have a happy bonfire night!

Further reading

Bonfire night in links from Surefish


Suzanne Elvidge is a freelance writer and Surefish Ethical Living Editor



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