When the temperatures begin to heat up, we migrate outdoors to begin our summer routines of barbecues, patio dinner parties, and water activities with the kids. But being outside more doesn’t mean sacrificing the well-being of the planet. There are many ways to create an inviting outdoor space that is planet-safe, beautiful, and functional for of all your social gatherings.

 

Reclaimed Pallet Furniture

There’s always someone on Craigslist trying to unload some old, used pallets. Why not take them off their hands and transform them into practical and fun backyard furniture? Create a cozy seating area by stacking pallets three high into an L-shape and top them with store-bought cushions made with eco-friendly vegetable dyes and natural fabrics (such as hemp, cotton, or soy). Pallets also make for an easy coffee table or when hung vertically, a place to mount garden planters. Spray paint each piece in bright, bold colors to create a lively living space.

Second-Life Furniture

Not feeling in the project mood? You can still have environment-friendly furniture without scouring thrift stores and dusting off your power tools. When buying new outdoor furniture, look for products that are made from recycled plastic milk jugs or sustainable woods such as bamboo or cedar. To guarantee your wood furniture is planet-friendly, look for certification from the international organization, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which certifies manufacturers who use sustainable forest management practices. Avoid tropical woods, such as teak, which are often harvested through clear-cutting, unless you know the teak or other woods have been harvested responsibly.

One of the best materials for outdoor furniture is stainless steel, which is a 100 percent recycled material in the United States. Steel is strong, durable, and has a long life. Look for marine-grade steel when shopping as this is the most substantial and able to hold up to weight and weather. Stainless steel requires regular cleaning with soap and water to maintain its beauty.

Trex, Loll, and Polywood are just a few of the recycled plastic outdoor furniture manufacturers and there are many more retailers. Each manufacturer offers unique and stylish designs, from urban to country charm. Recycled plastic furniture has the advantage of being recyclable again when your furniture has reached the end of its useful life.

Put Your Feet Down

Outdoor rugs transform your patio or deck into an extension of your indoor living spaces. One of the best options are rugs made from recycled plastic and polypropylene. These rugs are generally inexpensive and being made from plastic, withstand all forms of Mother Nature. Most will not fade or lose their color, are mildew-free, and are reversible too. If a guest spills a plate full of baby back ribs, cleaning is as simple as spraying the rug down with water.

Incorporate a Natural Pool

When we typically think of pools, we think of concrete and chlorine, neither of which feel very environmentally friendly. But if you want a functional swimming retreat that also is an extension of your garden, consider a natural pool. These pools don’t use harsh chemicals but instead, let nature create the biological balance. Natural pools can be easily incorporated into existing landscape, using rock and plant material to anchor the design. These pools winterize easily and the kids will love looking for amphibians along the water’s edge. Best of all, they are perfectly safe for even the most sensitive skin and a bio filter will keep the germs and bacteria away.

Light it Down

Instead of low-voltage lighting, infuse your outdoor garden and entertainment space with solar or LED options. Line the undersides of deck railings with LED light strips or even reuse the LED holiday lights you have stored in your garage to wrap around decks, trees and the undersides of soffits. Solar lights have the advantage of being easily placed into the landscape without the use of tools or an electrician. They are also easily moved too and not typically considered a “fixture” should you someday sell your home. Make sure to install solar lights where they are guaranteed eight hours of sunlight to ensure they stay lit throughout the night.

Also consider night-sky friendly outdoor lighting. Light pollution costs municipalities money - all the wasted light from street lights, office buildings, and homeowners create 15.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually. You can do your part. Night-friendly options preserve your ability to see the stars as evening descends and make the light you are using, put to more efficient work. These fixtures reduce glare and cast light downward instead of up and out. Bonus: they can also incorporate energy-saving bulbs such as LED.