It’s impossible not to notice this season’s low oil prices. In the wood heat world, where the easiest way to promote a fuel switch is (arguably) to emphasize cost savings, this isn’t the terrific news it is for people whose oil bills have dropped. On the other hand, it gives us an opportunity to look at oil and wood cost trends and to highlight some of the other reasons that modern wood heat makes sense.

If you want to branch out in your gift giving this year, consider giving a gift from the forest.

Skilled woodworkers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York turn out a variety of beautiful, useful, fun and durable products from the region’s forests. Each item is made by a local artist or manufacturer from the renewable resources of the forest. These gifts speak of tradition, creativity, and lasting quality, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase is supporting the forest economy in our region.

I recently posed this question to friends, and most of them – no surprise – said no. They don’t like the cost or distant sourcing of oil and propane, don’t like smoky old wood stoves, and don’t like the environmental impact of natural gas extraction. Heating often seems like a necessary evil for those of us in cold climates, who feel like we have to choose between “least bad” options – and yet heating systems exist that are actually beneficial to the regional economy, communities and environment.

When I made the jump from middle school to high school in the early 1990s, I honestly was not concerned with asking myself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Truth be told, I was fairly certain I was headed to the big-leagues to play the hot corner for the Red Sox, but beyond that, I hadn't really thought about it too much. I don’t know that many 13- or 14-year-olds do.