Shopping that supports forests
If you're the kind of person who really uses your backyard--whether for big barbeques or quiet contemplation--you need a special kind of furniture. It should be comfortable and attractive, yet tough enough to withstand years of your area's worst weather. If that furniture is made of wood, it should measure up in other ways, too. Is the chair or table you are about to buy contributing to global warming and deforestation? Will it give off toxic fumes? Here's how to find out--and invest in long-lasting furniture that will help you enjoy your home outdoors.
- Repair, reuse, and recycle. Before you replace older furniture, ask yourself if some simple repair work might add to its life.
- Protect and defend the natural look. Wood furniture needs protection from rain and sun. If possible, bring the furniture inside during winter to protect it. To shield softwoods from the elements, use a low-toxicity antifungal (and anti-termite) borate salt such as disodium octaborate tetrahydrate.
- If you paint, go low. Buy low- or zero-VOC latex paints, which emit fewer harmful chemicals than other paint. Prep and repaint often enough to prevent damage to the wood.
When shopping, look for
- The FSC label. Products with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label come from forestry operations that meet strong environmental, social, and economic performance standards.
- Recycled plastic instead of wood? Recycled plastic is now being made into attractive, durable outdoor furniture. You can even find a reasonable facsimile of that old favorite, the Adirondack chair.
Comfortable, good-looking outdoor furniture makes your outdoor space more pleasant and inviting.
...to your wallet
Buyng furniture made from FSC-certified wood should be more or less wallet-neutral. It costs about the same as the standard stuff, yet provides many environmental benefits.
...to the Earth
- If you choose furniture made from environmentally sound wood, you help slow down global warming by maintaining the healthy forests that soak up carbon dioxide.
- protect tropical forests. One-fourth of the world's global-warming greenhouse gases are emitted because of reckless slashing and burning of tropical forests. Wood from well-managed forests in the Tropics, however, provides income for loggers while protecting forests.
- preserve enough of the forest environment to enable forest creatures to thrive. Sound forestry practices even require healthy growth of lichens, fungi, and insects, which are a vital part of the food chain in a forest.
- prevent erosion and floods by leaving enough trees to absorb water and hold the soil in place. (The rule is to not to take more out of a forest in a year than it can regrow in the same period.)
Some major home improvement stores now carry FSC lumber and wood products. To help you choose among them, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a "scorecard" that rates those retailers' commitment to forest protection.