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Outdoor living

Garden furniture

A timber outdoor dining setting


Garden furniture comes in a range of materials including metals, synthetic and natural—but which ones are better for the environment and give you lasting use? Things to consider:

  • Selecting quality products. If you're in the market for garden furniture, ensure you're paying for pieces that will stand up to harsh outdoor conditions including sun and rain. Cheaper items may look affordable but costs will quickly add up if they need to be replaced or expensively maintained.
  • Going for the good wood. Wood is a renewable resource when it comes from a managed plantation. It is better to choose certified wood furniture with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. Do your research so you know which timbers are the low impact options.
  • Picking preferred plastics. If you do go for plastic, choose one of the recycled varieties now on the market. These plastics often have the look of wood without the worry of rot, warping or splintering. Look out for sets built from up to 100% recycled plastic. You can also match these with cushion covers and umbrellas from recycled materials. Cheaper plastic products tend to fade and peel and have fewer options for repairs. Besides not being long lasting, plastics such as PVC can also emit toxic chemicals and pose problems when it comes time to dispose of them as they are not easily recyclable.
  • Watching out for wicker. Real wicker is made from various natural fibres, including rattan, which bends easily to make chairs, and other products. Wicker furniture that is made from FSC Certified timber is a better option. It does deteriorate over time, so it is best used under cover or indoors and treated with lemon or linseed oil to help extend its life. Resin or synthetic wicker has become a popular choice for patio and poolside furniture due to its durability and easy care. Synthetic wicker can cope with different temperatures and humidity so will last a lot longer if cared for.
  • Protecting metals from rust. If there are metal parts, ensure these are powder-coated and rust-resistant so they'll be long lasting. Stainless steel, aluminium and wrought iron are not renewable resources. Look for furniture with metals made from recycled content, and which are designed to be easily taken apart so the metal parts can be recycled when no longer in use.
  • Maintaining it well so it lasts longer. Anything left out in all weather will age. You can preserve the life of your outdoor furniture by stowing it or covering it when it's not in use, such as during winter or when you're away on holidays. A durable plastic cover will protect items from exposure to rain and sun and save you time by reducing maintenance needs. You can also keep your furniture protected by installing it on a covered veranda. Lightly oil your wooden furniture at the end of every season or when it begins to look dry. When treating furniture choose oils and paint that are labelled low impact, as these create less damage to waterways and air quality.
  • Reducing waste by buying second-hand. Used furniture can be renovated or restored to serve you for years to come. You can even transform indoor furniture that is no longer up to scratch into outdoor pieces by giving it a protective coat of paint, re-covering cushions with water and stain resistant fabrics or simply placing it under covered verandas where it will be protected from the elements.
  • Getting inspired with upcycling. Television, magazines and the internet are filled with creative DIY ideas for outdoor living. You might want to have a go at upcycling. It's all about turning old objects into something useful and decorative that expresses your personal style. A quick online search for 'upcycling' will reveal all kinds of ideas.