First, the problem, then a question, followed by a bit of context…
During the month of December 2017, almost three quarters of the days Bel-Air was selling Duraflame logs, a ‘No Burn Day’ had been declared.
It’s one thing for a business to sell something, but when they stack that product up in front of the checkout stand, it rises to a whole ‘nother level. This is even above and beyond the gauntlet of candy that Fry’s Electronics runs its customers through to the checkout stand.
Of course there might be some questions at this point…
- What is a ‘No Burn Day’?
- What’s a Duraflame log?
- Why should I care?
So let’s answer those questions and more and add some context to help understand the gravity of the issue.
What is a Spare the Air (AKA, a ‘No Burn Day’)?
Because of pollution, several municipalities in California have created ‘Spare the Air’ days. On days such as these where particulate matter in the air is deemed so high as to affect living conditions and health, burning can be discouraged, limited, or prohibited. This applies to fireplaces, wood stove, trash burning outside, etc.
For additional information in the Sacramento region please visit their web site; www.SpareTheAir.com
San Francisco has their own site for their region too; www.SpareTheAir.org
Many other municipalities and regions have their own sites too, so search for “no burn days ‘Your City or Region Name Here'” to locate one for in your area.
Who makes these logs?
Duraflame is one of several companies that make ‘firelogs’ products from lumber byproducts and other chemicals.
Duraflame makes many claims about their products burning ‘80% cleaner than wood’. There’s even a slogan for their product, “The Cleaner, Greener Wood”. I would point out that this probably isn’t the best name for a wood burning product, because if you’ve ever been camping or were a Boy or Girl Scout, you know that burning ‘Green’ wood is the last choice as it contains too much water to burn well. But of course that probably isn’t what they’re referring to when using the term ‘Greener’.
Their slogan reminds me of ‘clean coal‘. In Duraflame’s FAQ section there is a question; “Can I roast marsh mellows or cook other food over ‘Duraflame products’?” And an answer; “No, ‘Duraflame products’ were not designed to be a cooking fuel, and might leave a bad taste on food directly cooked over the logs. Aside from the punctuation errors, misspellings, and generally poor grammar, there’s are some really big stuff to question here.
Given that they state repeatedly their product burns ‘80% cleaner than wood’, then why should one not cook over something that ‘burns cleaner’ than wood? They didn’t have that FAQ available. Without an available answer, I can’t help but conclude it definitely doesn’t seem that Duraflame products burn ‘cleaner’ if I’m going to taste their product after cooking food over that same product.
What can you do?
Well, if you want to take the easy way, just ever don’t ever buy one of those logs and light a fire. But if you can’t resist the urge to purchase one and then light that ‘puppy’ up, simply don’t do it on a day that you shouldn’t by checking the above mentioned web site(s).
Other Burning Questions
Should we only blame Duraflame or other businesses? No!
When it comes to burning and days that it is acceptable to do so, we each have a responsibility to check whether or not it is OK to burn before we light the match.
To their credit, Duraflame seems to be making an effort to be a ‘good citizen’ by providing a web site called www.WhenToBurn.com to assist with answering the question of, ‘…when is it OK to burn?’ However, when it comes to corporations, I always have my doubts as to altruism and their true motivations.
Case in point. While Duraflame does go to some effort in providing information on ‘No Burn Days’ and even going so far as to provide a national map, it doesn’t actively do anything in preventing burning on ‘No Burn Days’. All they do is pass the buck to you and me, instead of sharing in the responsibility.
They might respond they’re doing everything they can. Well no, they’re not. They’re doing everything they can up until the point they don’t want to do anything else. Are they going beyond reasonable expectations of a responsible party? Ironically, given what I’ve just written, I’d have to quietly say, “…yes.”
But it’s also like tobacco companies ‘educating’ their customers as to the dangers of the product they’re using. The companies don’t really care. They’re just putting up barriers to protect themselves against legal blow back. They’re a business that just wants to sell their product and prevent as many legal liabilities as possible. If they really and truly cared, they’d just stop making the product. It just doesn’t seem to be a sustainable business model and make a product that kills off one’s customer base.
Let’s forego the panacea fantasy of having perfectly pristine air by never burning again or think that Duraflame might simply cease production of their products in the name of clean air. That will probably never happen.
So where does the responsibility lay at this point? Well, individually, it falls to every person with a match that is thinking about lighting a fire. Beyond that, as a society, it depends on if we want to make things different in the future.
At the business level, perhaps not selling this product on ‘No Burn Days’.
Every single day in December that burning was prohibited, Bel-Air was pimping out the Duraflame logs.
Dry Sundays and Burning
OK, getting back to the original subject of What could a re-seller of these products do?
Ignoring all the complexities and cost, what if they connected their Point of Sale (POS) system, AKA cash register, into Duraflame’s WhenToBurn.com web site and make it such that it wasn’t possible to buy their product on ‘No Burn Days’? Or possibly just have the information available to cashiers so they don’t sell the product on ‘No Burn Days’?
There is existing precedence for this. For example, there are counties in the United States, mostly in the southeast, that are ‘dry’ on Sundays, IE, they don’t sell alcohol on the Sabbath . This is a circumstance where there is a time period, during which, the sale of a product is prohibited. It would seem there’s a clear correlation between ‘dry Sundays’, ‘No Burn Days’ and how retailers do, and could handle the sale of a product.
And yes, consumers could use the same strategy they use in the south by just stocking up the liquor on Saturday.
What should be done and what should absolutely, definitely, never be done?
Well, I’ve sort of buried the lede a bit on this one. I acknowledge that the best solution lies with each of us individually, but there’s some simple contributions that can be made by the business community too. Duraflame has made an effort with their WhenToBurn.com web site, but what about retailers? Maybe something like a simple sign posted where Duraflame or other similar products are stocked that asks, “Have you checked to see if its a ‘No Burn Day’ today?” And possibly include a little bit of ‘stick’ that reminds people that they can be fined if they’re caught burning on a ‘No Burn Day’.
That’s what we can do, but what should we not do? I’ll end it with a ‘thousand word substitution’, AKA a picture, and just say, “…this is what should absolutely, definitely, never be done;”
P.S; Stay tuned for Part II where I call Raley’s and ask the question at the beginning of this story.