Most of the outdoor furniture you’ll see at your local big box stores is plastic or metal, but there is a wide array of outdoor furniture made with natural fibers or other eco-friendly materials. Here’s a guide to five types of materials to look for in eco-friendly patio or deck furniture:
1. Wicker made from rattan palm vine. Native to Asia and traced back as far as 2500 B.C., rattan palm vine can grow 600 feet long. What an abundant gift from nature! Rattan cane and reed are both processed from this vine and are used to make the oldest and most traditional wicker furniture. The rattan vine is used as the framework because the vines themselves can grow to 3 inches wide. After the thorns and outer layer of the rattan vine have been removed, the outer bark is sliced into the cane found on chair seats and backs and as the wrapping used at the joints of wicker furniture.
2. Bamboo or willow, both good eco-friendly natural fiber choices for outdoor furniture.
3. Wood labeled as sustainably grown harvested. Examples include western red cedar, which is naturally resistant to bacteria, fungus, and insects; or eucalyptus, another fast-growing hardwood that can be harvested from renewable plantations and is weather resistant. This eucalyptus table has a nontoxic tung-oil-based protective coating, and it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
4. Recycled materials, like a homemade birdfeeder.
5. Aluminum (if you prefer metal for your outdoor furniture), because it won’t rust, it’s very light, and it will last for decades with little maintenance.
I have passed many a tranquil hour in warmer months on the wicker couch on my front porch, with its natural fiber cushions, drinking iced tea and just looking at the garden or listening to the birds. If you don’t have such a place, I urge you to make your own outdoor oasis.