The simple act of being outside just feels eco-friendly, doesn't it? Using nature's heating and air conditioning, soaking up Mother Earth's natural light and enjoying the serenity of a starlight night is not only good for the soul, but it's excellent for your energy bill. And the more comfortable and appealing your patio, garden or deck area is, the more time you'll spend out there. Make spending time outdoors even more eco-friendly by following some of these suggestions.
Light it Up
Enhance your outdoor space with some subtle lighting so you can enjoy it well into the evening hours. Today, there are lots of eco-friendly lighting options available, including no-energy solar, low-energy LED and light-pollution reducing fixtures.
Simple, solar-powered post lights placed around your patio or deck will soak up their light during the day and deliver a soft glow for you at night. These are excellent low-cost, no-energy solutions for areas where you don't have (or want) wires.
If you do have an electrical line installed, LED lanterns will offer a little more brightness. These low-powered, long-lasting, eco-friendly lights are an excellent solution for lighting up your patio area, as there is a wide-variety of shapes, sizes and styles on offer to suit any aesthetic.
To really maximize your view of the stars, consider investing in "Dark Sky" lighting fixtures that are designed to reduce light pollution.
Relax in 'Green' Comfort
The "green" patio furniture space has really blossomed in recent years. There are many great designs and styles to choose from, meaning you no longer have to sacrifice style to be kind to the planet.
One particularly interesting product is POLYWOOD. This manufacturer offers a range of attractive outdoor furniture. Similar to the recycled plastic alternatives I wrote about in my article on choosing eco-friendly decking, this product is essentially a wood substitute made from recycled plastic (predominantly milk jugs).
It resembles wood but requires none of the maintenance. It is also resistant to salt, oil and other corrosive substances, and you can clean it with soap and water. It's expensive, but its 20-year warranty means it lasts long, so you won't have to buy a new set every few years.
Plus, the minimal maintenance means there’s no need for applying sealants, paints or stains, helping keep those potentially toxic products out of your outdoor space.
If you live in a very hot climate, however, the plastic can get uncomfortably hot and potentially warp. In this case, furniture made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified hardwood is probably your best bet for longevity and low maintenance.
Teak is an excellent option, but whenever you shop for hardwoods, make sure they are FSC-certified to know for sure that they come from a renewable source.
Of course, the most eco-friendly option is to reuse someone's unwanted patio furniture. However, recycled and vintage outdoor furniture can require significant upkeep, and many of them are what I like to call "project pieces," where you'll need to do a fair bit of restoration to make them fit your space.
But it's hard to beat the satisfying feeling of having rescued a piece of furniture and put it to good use!
Beyond the staple pieces of furniture you need on your patio, there are other sustainable items to consider adding that can enhance and extend your outdoor comfort. An outdoor rug is an excellent option for bringing some color and style to a concrete patio area.
As I've written about before, there are many great eco-friendly options for outdoor rugs. Another must-have accessory is a deck box. These can double as impromptu seating, but are most useful for storing items such as pillows and throws. Deck boxes protect them from the elements when not in use, which helps to extend their useful life. After all, longevity is a cornerstone of an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Add Eco-Friendly Features
Finally, consider enhancing your patio space with some aesthetically pleasing features that will also help the environment. Add a water feature to attract birds and wildlife. (Bonus points if it uses reclaimed water and can be used to water the plants on the patio!)
Surrounding your patio space with tall planters is a great way to create a natural barrier, rather than using up materials to build a fence. Plant them with native plants and edibles, such as herbs and vegetables, to create a kitchen garden.
Plant bright colors and fruit to attract butterflies to your patio, or wildflowers and native species to attract bees (blues, purples and yellows are their favorites).
Any or all of these tips can help you create an eco-friendly patio space, so you can enjoy the outdoors longer while keeping Mother Earth safer.
Jennifer Tuohy writes on eco-friendly home topics for The Home Depot. Jennifer shares her knowledge on energy efficiency and cutting energy usage from her home in Charleston, South Carolina. You can review a selection of patio furniture to use in your eco-friendly patio renovation here.
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