The environment and your guests will thank you for these outdoor fireplaces.

Just when you think that there’s nothing new under the sun – or in this case, since we’re talking about outdoor fireplaces, the moon – something completely different and innovative sparks our interest.

When you’re thinking about an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, you’re probably familiar with the first choice you have to make, which is choosing a fuel type. Up until now, the traditional choices have been woodburning, propane, natural gas or electric. Now, however, several manufacturers are offering more environmentally friendly options that don’t produce harmful emissions, such as bioethanol. What exactly is bioethanol? It’s the formal name of ethanol – a fuel made by fermenting the sugars and starches found in the by-products of plants like sugarcane, corn and grain by using yeast.

ecofriendly outdoor fireplaces

This renewable and adaptable energy source (it can also be made from potatoes, milk, rice, grapes, bananas and more) has some surprising benefits. First, ethanol doesn’t produce any harmful emissions – just heat, steam, and small amounts of carbon dioxide. As a result you don’t have to vent an ethanol fireplace, which makes it an incredibly efficient heat source, since no heat is lost up a chimney. Although that’s not normally as much of a concern outdoors as it is in confined interior spaces, ethanol literally can have you breathing easier (since it doesn’t produce soot or ashes) and it does allow for more open flame designs. Lighting the fireplace or fire pit is much easier, too. Simply fill the burner with ethanol and light with a stove lighter. The fireplace or fire pit turns itself off when the fuel runs out; and if you want it to burn longer, simply refill the fuel burner.

But how does it look and feel? Ethanol produces a yellow flame that starts small and grows larger over time. It also produces less heat – about half the output of a traditional wood-burning stove – which makes it a good choice for summer evenings. Plus, high-end manufacturers have jumped on the ethanol bandwagon, delivering some spectacularly beautiful design choices.

There’s Brown Jordan Fires, which offers almost all of their models in natural gas, propane or ethanol. There’s a striking Arroyo linear fire pit; Equinox, which combines a dining table with a round fire pit; and our favorite, Loop, which is a circular fire pit wrapped in marine grade rope. For a traditional fireplace look, turn to EcoSmart Fire, which offers single- and double-sided square and rectangular fireboxes that can drop in to whatever outdoor living space you can envision. Our favorite offering from them is a completely new twist on tradition. Stix is made to mimic the look of a campfire, with a fire centered in the middle of varying-sized tubular stainless steel ‘sticks’, creating a visually striking piece.

So when it’s time to add some spark to your outdoor living areas, consider the hottest choice around; the environment and your guests will thank you for it.