Going outdoors doesn’t always mean venturing off and sightseeing. Don’t forget about the greates outdoor attraction literally just a few steps away: your own backyard…
Your backyard is an outdoor sanctuary where you and your family and friends can enjoy each other and the beauty of nature. Not to mention, it’s a perfect place to create a nature-friendly environment, and now is the perfect time.
In the spring, we’re busy getting ready for summer. Then we’re busy enjoying summer. Now we need to give some thought to our outdoor space, especially how to make it greener for when spring arrives again. It’s also the time of year when outdoor merchandise is on sale.
Here are a few ways that your outdoor living space can make a difference in conserving our environment.
Sometimes we don’t notice how dreary the outdoor furniture looks until it’s sitting there unused in the fall. If it’s time for you to shop for replacements, here are some eco-friendly recommendations.
FSC-certified teak: Teak is a perfect wood for outdoor use. It’s beautiful, durable, and weather resistant. Its natural oils repel water (as well as pests, such as termites and marine borers) and reduce the risk of warping and cracking. The Forest Stewardship Council stamp of approval certifies that the wood originated in environmentally responsible forests.
Polyethylene wicker: Also known as resin wicker, it looks like natural wicker but is more durable in all weather conditions and is stain resistant. It also will not break, chip, or scratch. The resins are extracted from plant matter; are non-toxic, and the wicker is 100% recyclable.
Recycled materials: There are manufacturers who produce attractive and sturdy outdoor furniture from high-density recycled plastic milk bottles (HDPE). The furniture lasts for years with minimal maintenance.
Reclaimed wood: All that wood that has been used for centuries—why waste it? Wood that built homes and barns, flawed wood, scraps discarded by factories, even wood from the logs that sunk to the bottom of rivers as they were floated the sawmill. Not only are you being a friend to our plant, you will have furniture that has real character. If you have been longing for a do-it-yourself project, scouting out the wood alone will lead you to new adventures.
Cushions: Look for organic cotton or hemp covers, both are grown without harsh chemicals. The filling should be made from organically grown soy, corn, or cotton instead of synthetic fiber. Natural dyes are made from fruit and vegetable extracts and bring vivid color to your outdoors.
Rug: If you like the cozy look of a rug and the feel of it beneath your bare feet, choose one made with natural fibers such as jute, seagrass, or bamboo or woven from all-weather yarns made from cotton and corn. They are mold and mildew resistant and look fresh year after year.
Cleaners: There are easy-to-find natural cleaning products out there, or you can use the ingredients you have on hand. Mix one gallon of water with a quarter cup of mild dish detergent and a half cup of distilled white vinegar in a pail. Scrub the surface of your cushion with a bristle brush, hose off and let air dry.
Incandescent lights have a short lifespan, consume a lot of energy, and emit carbon dioxide. Why not ease them out of your life? Solar lighting is the most eco-friendly means of illuminating your outdoor living area, and it’s improving all the time with the rapid advances in technology. It also has a warmer, softer glow than harsh incandescent lights. There are solar powered lights now for just about your every outdoor need. Including solar caps in every imaginable style for your deck or fence, flood lights for your driveway and front entrance, and solar stake lights or rope lights to place along pathways.
As you change to wireless lighting, be sure to remove the outdoor wiring that is buried. You don’t want it endangering children or animals who decide to do some digging.
We often forget that the water sources we use outside have been filtered for drinking and are tied to the sewer bill. Making it an expensive, as well as wasteful, way to water lawns and gardens. Not to mention outdoor watering restrictions that get implemented in southern areas like Birmingham, AL where residents are limited to two-day odd/even schedule with no watering between 8am and 8pm. Rainwater is a more efficient resource in these cases and will allow you to water your yard more frequently as you are essentially recycling water.
There are rainwater harvesting systems that range from simple to complex. Check them out to see what would work for your home and your budget. If you find you aren’t quite ready for that step, look to the humble rain barrels. Eco-friendly and cost efficient, they come in a wide variety of sizes and prices. Get creative and release your inner artist and decorate on or around them.
Set the trend in your neighborhood by demonstrating that conservation can be fun and ornamental. Every time you receive a compliment on your outdoor furniture or solar lights, or how clever you were painting the rain barrels, you are spreading the word that eco-friendly is also beautiful, comfortable, and thrifty.
Katie Marie is a writer, avid yogi, and outdoor explorer. She spends most of her time practicing meditation and wellness using organic elements within nature.