It was 80 degrees last weekend (don’t shoot the messenger; it’s one of the perks of living in the South) and I spent some time relaxing on the patio. Cold glass of water in hand, I surveyed my surroundings: worn furniture and barren pots as far as the eye could see. Time for a patio makeover … and since I wrote a book about making green choices all year long I have no real excuses not to do it green. I’ve learned a lot about how to choose products that are green yet also practical and affordable.
Let my finds from my latest shopping/research expedition guide you before you update to your deck or patio for this summer — with products that are smart for your budget as well as your planet.
1. Use no virgin wood. (It isn’t good.)
Pass on patio sets made from virgin wood. Instead, look for outdoor furniture made from “plastic lumber.” It looks just like wood — it’s even durable and fade-resistant — but it’s made from recycled plastics like milk jugs. (To make each Adirondack chair, more than 240 milk jugs are rescued from the landfill!)
Other eco-friendly furniture options include furniture made from repurposed wood or pieces that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (it’ll be stamped “FSC-certified”) to ensure that the wood has been harvested responsibly.
2. Light up your nights with the sun.
Cast a glow on the garden without using a single watt of coal-generated power. Solar lights are charged by the sun’s rays and light up instantly when the sun goes down — no electricity required.
Concerned about the cash outlay? Consider this: The average home spends 10 percent of its energy budget on lighting, with much of it going to outdoor lighting because it’s left on for long periods of time. The savings on your energy bill will easily cover the cost of solar lights.
3. Just say yes to terra cotta!
Plastic pots might be inexpensive, but they’re made from a toxic material called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that wreaks havoc on the environment. Plus, more than 320 million pounds of plastic nursery pots, flats and cell packs go to the landfill every year, according to the Penn State University College of Agricultural Science.
Don’t add to the piles of plastic. Instead, show off your pretty blooms (or veggie plants) in terra cotta pots. Terra cotta is a natural material — and broken terra cotta pots can be recycled at community recycling centers (type “brick,” not “terra cotta,” in the search field at earth911.com for a nearby location).
Terra cotta pots also hold moisture, so you don’t have to water as often. Other earth-friendly options include planters made from biodegradable coir.
4. Keep it real.
No matter what kind of outdoor accessories you’re putting in the garden this season, look for items made from natural materials. There are eco-friendly options for items ranging from outdoor rugs and hammocks to pest control and fire pits.