How to Buy “Green” Porch and Patio Furniture
“Green,” of course, doesn’t refer to either the color of the porch furniture, or the unseasoned condition of the wood it’s made from.
We’re talking about furniture that brings with it a minimal environmental impact as well as utility, comfort, and maybe even a little design pizzazz.
While you’ll have to be the judge of how comfortable a chair is or whether a table has enough flair, the criteria that make porch and patio furniture eco-friendly are pretty straightforward. Here is what “green” furniture should not be:
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What Not to Get in Porch Furniture
- Not made from wood that comes from endangered forests – Teak, for example, has been a highly desirable wood to use outdoors because it doesn’t rot very easily. But most teak comes from tropical rainforests that might be clearcut in order to harvest the trees. The same may be true of redwoods, cedar, and other wood harvest from “old growth” forests. Before you buy new wooden furniture, ask where the trees came from.
- Not coated with toxic chemicals – The U.S. EPA advises caution when it comes to exposure to arsenic, pentachlorophenol (PCP), creosote and other powerful chemicals that may be used to treat and preserve wood. This is especially true for outdoor furniture like dining tables, as you wouldn’t want your food to come in contact with such toxic elements. No matter how your table is preserved, it’s probably always a good idea to cover it with a weather-resistant table cloth before you set out your meal. Here are EPA’s recommendations on what chemicals to avoid, as well as what safer wood preservatives to look for.
- Not shipped half way around the world – You buy locally grown food, right? Why not get furniture that’s made locally, as well – or at least in the U.S.? Search “patio furniture made in the U.S.” to find many listings of domestic manufacturers.
What to Look for in Sustainable Porch Furniture
- Refurbished or recycled pieces – Before you buy new, what is already available that you can acquire and perhaps spruce up a bit? Check eBay, Craig’sList and Freecycle for outdoor furniture that needs a new home. Swing by a neighborhood yard sale or local antique shop to browse what’s for sale. If you like the style of a piece more than the finish or color, don’t be afraid to apply a new coat of paint or brighten the stain. Snazz up the seats with new cushions and pillows, and voilá! You’ll feel great about your new decor, and won’t mind saving money on the deal, either. These tips for repurposing furniture and decor might inspire you!
- Furniture made from wood grown sustainably and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – If you can’t find what you like in the “used” or “second hand” department and opt to shop new, look for wood that’s been produced from trees raised in a sustainably managed forest. Manufacturers who meet the sustainable criteria established by the Forest Stewardship Council are the safest bet. Keep the wood stained or painted and protected from the harsh elements so it will last many years. West Elm, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, and Plow & Hearth are among the retailers who sell FSC-certified outdoor furniture.
- Steel or cast iron – Steel or cast iron are durable, fashionable, and often made from recycled materials. Give them a quick hosing down with a power washer in the spring and they’re good to go all summer long. You can get stainless steel outdoor furniture made from recycled steel, as well.
What About Recycled Plastic?
The more we learn about plastic, even when it’s recycled, the less appealing it is. Plastic chips and shreds into micro plastic and can end up in streams, rivers, lakes, and ultimately, the ocean. It loses its sheen pretty quickly, and once it does, it starts to look drab. With all the other options you have to choose from, there’s really no need to opt for plastic.
Hopefully these suggestions have inspired you enjoy your outdoor living space in some stylish, comfortable and sustainable patio furniture.