An ongoing renovation at my house has included the purchase of some outdoor furniture. I had some difficulty finding durable items for a reasonable price. I also wanted to minimize the impact my purchase had on the environment.
One major cause of tropical deforestation is the demand for tropical timber used in manufacturing outdoor furniture, according to the Forest Stewardship Council.
The vast majority of garden furniture available in U.S. stores is made from tropical hardwoods. These woods are prized for their durability and good looks, but illegal logging and destructive forest-management practices continue to harm many endangered tropical forests.
Americans import more outdoor furniture made from tropical wood than any other country, according to the FSC. As responsible consumers, we can encourage and patronize those stores that sell wood products that come from well-managed forests.
To support sustainable forests, look for the FSC tag on furniture. FSC-certified furniture is available at Crate & Barrel, Home Depot, JCPenney, Kmart, Sears, Target and Walmart. For more information, visit fscus.org/productsearch/retailers.
Most outdoor furniture will last for years if properly cared for. Oil your wood furniture and clean wrought iron, aluminum and other metal on a regular basis. Make sure the cleaner you use matches the furniture manufacturer's recommendations. Webbed or mesh furniture must be cleaned often so mold does not form. A mixture of bleach and water usually works well.
I have found wrought-iron furniture to hold up nicely over time, even in rough weather. Make sure to clean and repaint it as necessary before the rust starts.
If your outdoor furniture is under cover, such as a lanai, there are many more options. I oil my 8-year-old wood furniture a couple of times a year and gently clean the cushions at the same time. All of the items have held up well and I predict many more years of use from them.
You should also think about using your indoor furniture outdoors. If it's under cover, simply paint it to match what you already have. You'll feel like you have totally redecorated your garden space.
To stay within a budget, look for used outdoor furniture. A good cleaning and new cushions will make most furniture look like new.
Don't feel compelled to replace all your furniture at one time. I recently disposed of two wrought-iron chairs, but the table is in great shape. Purchasing two chairs has given new life to the table. At $15 each, the chairs fit both my patio and budget. They won't be family heirlooms, but with proper care should last for years.