Sustainable outdoor furniture: What to look for
Written by Neighbor Editorial Team | @neighboroutdoor | Opens in a new window. |
We design sustainable furniture with more responsibly-sourced materials and a longer lifespan.
Sustainable outdoor furniture has become more popular over recent years, and for good reason. Using sustainable materials in outdoor furniture design helps reduce our carbon footprint, minimize waste and maximize furniture lifespan. With the right selection of furniture, you can create a beautiful, sustainable sanctuary in your own backyard.
This is your guide to sustainable furniture for outdoor seating, dining and lounging on eco-friendly materials made to last for years to come. Learn about popular sustainable furniture brands, sustainable materials, and how buying sustainable outdoor furniture helps the environment.
In outdoor furniture design, sustainability means making a conscious effort to choose materials that help preserve the resources on our planet, that minimize or eliminate the use of harmful chemicals throughout the manufacturing process, and that are capable of lasting for 5 to 10 years or more.
There are plenty of options in sustainable materials for outdoor furniture design, from recycled materials, upcycled materials, salvaged wood, reclaimed wood, to recycled plastics like high-density polyethylene made from post-consumer materials.
Recycled plastic furniture is an eco-friendly solution that helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, and reduces the demand for new plastic. Recycled plastic is particularly advantageous when used as an outdoor furniture material, because it’s extremely durable, and resistant to water and moisture. Neighbor’s recycled plastic Adirondack chairs feature POLYWOOD plastic made with recycled ocean and landfill-bound HDPE (high-density polyethylene). Keep reading to learn more about our recycled plastic Adirondack chairs.
Reclaimed wood is an eco-friendly alternative to newly-harvested wood in outdoor furniture manufacturing. Reclaimed woods may be recovered from old buildings, demolished structures, and old furniture. Sustainable outdoor furniture made from reclaimed wood is incredibly durable and can be treated to repel water and prevent decay and rot.
Sustainably-sourced and harvested wood
Wood that is sourced and harvested through sustainable processes promotes biodiversity, helps to reduce deforestation and preserves wildlife. Responsible resource management in wooden outdoor furniture manufacturing ensures that the wood is being harvested through processes that ensure continued growth of forests. Sustainably-sourced and harvested wood is also often of higher quality and durability than other types of wood. Furniture made from sustainably-sourced wood can last longer and require less frequent replacement, saving money and resources in the long run.
Teak wood, which Neighbor sources from sustainable FSC-certified forests, is known as one of the best materials in outdoor furniture. With powerful natural oils that enable the wood to repel water, resist rot and fungi, and withstand extremely hot and cold temperatures, teak wood can maintain its strength through all seasons without needing to be replaced.
Benefits of using sustainable materials
Purchasing outdoor furniture made from sustainable materials is an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint, preserve resources, and ultimately, protect the environment.
Reduce landfill waste and carbon emissions
Sustainable outdoor furniture makes use of materials that are already manufactured, or materials that require less energy to produce, instead of promoting production of new materials and contributing to carbon emissions. This helps reduce the amount of waste entering landfills. Outdoor furniture made from durable, recycled materials have a longer lifespan than fast-produced furniture, which also minimizes the need for replacing furniture and prevents more furniture pieces from going to landfills or polluting the earth. Carbon neutral materials, such as bamboo, absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce, making them an excellent sustainable material that reduces our environmental impact.
Sustainable furniture aims to minimize the use of harmful chemicals, like VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which have considerable effects on human health. Fewer chemicals used during the production process means fewer chemicals in our atmosphere and homes.
Increase furniture lifespan
Not only are recycled and sustainable materials eco-friendly and beneficial to our atmosphere, but they’re beneficial in terms of cost-effectiveness too. Sustainable outdoor furniture is highly-durable and built to last for years or decades due to the construction materials. They’re designed to withstand the elements, resist wear and tear and require less maintenance, which saves you money in the long run. Sustainable furniture can then be up-cycled, recycled or reused when you want to change your backyard design style and replace furniture.
What to consider when purchasing sustainable materials for furniture
When it comes to buying outdoor furniture that is sustainable and eco-friendly, there are a few important factors to consider.
Research the materials used to make the outdoor furniture pieces. Look for high-quality materials with woods that are FSC-certified.FSC®, which stands for the “Forest Stewardship Council”, is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible forestry. It certifies forests to ensure that they are managed in a way that is sustainable to the environment, the ecology, and the livelihoods of those living and working in the forest.
FSC certification also ensures that the timber and products from the forests are produced in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible. FSC certified forests are managed in a way that respects indigenous peoples’ rights, conserves biodiversity and habitats, and reduces carbon emissions. Neighbor is dedicated to using resources that won't harm the environment, which is why we only use teak wood from FSC-certified forests throughout our outdoor furniture collection.
Similar to FSC certification, Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification ensures sustainable practices in furniture manufacturing. This certifies that pieces used in furniture can be easily disassembled to be repaired, recycled or replaced. Furniture that is Cradle to Cradle certified has a longer lifespan and prevents the need for materials ending up in landfills.
Modular design is a thoughtful furniture design concept that uses interchangeable, independent modules to create one furniture piece. Excellent for sustainability, modular furniture ensures that furniture pieces can be redesigned and rearranged to adapt to changing needs of space, or changes in design preference. Modular pieces can be built upon over time or disassembled to furnish different rooms or areas. They create a modern design in your patio or backyard space and can be customized to complement a wide range of styles and color schemes.
When you want to redesign your space, modular pieces can then be re-customized by simply replacing a cushion cover or adding another module, instead of tossing the piece in a landfill and replacing it with new furniture. Take a look at Neighbor’s modular outdoor sectional to see how different modules can be re-configured to accommodate different patio layouts, sizes and styles.
Warranty and supply chain
Warranty and supply chain are two more important factors to consider in furniture manufacturing. Look for brands that have a clear warranty policy in place and a transparent supply chain, so you know where and how furniture pieces are sourced and manufactured. Does the brand work to reduce waste and landfill pollution? Do they have any certifications (like FSC-certified or C2C certified) related to sustainability? These features indicate a company’s commitment to sustainability.
Outdoor furniture options to consider
With a variety of sustainable materials being manufactured and harvested by eco-conscious outdoor furniture brands, nearly any type of outdoor furniture piece can be made sustainably. Adirondack chairs, coffee tables and dining tables are particularly common in sustainable outdoor furniture collections.
Neighbor is proud to partner with POLYWOOD to manufacture our durable, comfortable Adirondack chair made from 100% recycled plastic. Made with recycled ocean and landfill-bound HDPE plastic by POLYWOOD, our recycled low chairs are sturdy and comfortable with a relaxed recline, curved back, and wide armrests. If you’re looking to design a more relaxing outdoor space, our Adirondack chair is the perfect sustainable addition. POLYWOOD is an outdoor furniture brand that manufactures quality outdoor pieces from recycled consumer products, like milk jugs, laundry detergent containers, plastic bottles, bottle caps and more.
They recycle millions of landfill-bound and ocean-bound plastic containers to turn them into HDPE (high-density polyethylene) lumber through a sustainable recycle process. This recycling process helps reduce our environmental impact, reduces landfill waste, and prevents the need to manufacture new plastics and emit more chemicals into our atmosphere. It also creates a beautiful plastic lumber strong enough to withstand the hot sun, snowy winters, salt sprays, and heavy winds. We’re proud to offer a 20-year, all-weather warranty with our sustainable low chair.
Designing your outdoor space with a sustainably-made coffee table can extend your indoor kitchen and dining space outdoors for family dinners, parties and gatherings, or casual lounging. Neighbor offers a beautiful, durable, sustainably-sourced, outdoor coffee table with FSC-certified real teak wood, a slatted top and a rugged roped shelf for added storage. Featuring marine-grade hardware, our coffee table is built to hold up in rain or shine for years to come.
You won’t have to replace your Neighbor coffee table next season, next year, or in the next decade with proper care. Its modern, minimalist design can complement any outdoor living room style, even when your design preferences change a few years down the road.
Outdoor dining sets
An outdoor dining set can bring life to your backyard, inspire conversation and connection with friends and family, and provide additional seating for any type of event. Purchasing a furniture set is also a quick and easy way to create a cohesive, consistently-designed outdoor living space without having to make separate purchases for dining and seating.
Neighbor's best-selling outdoor dining set is made of natural teak wood sourced from FSC-certified forests, and all-weather woven rope designed for comfort, durability and a long lifetime. Designed to seat four, six or eight people, our dining set is comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate family dinner, or host the next BBQ with friends.
At Neighbor, our entire seating collection of outdoor sofas and chairs features industry-leading sustainable Sunbrella® performance fabric for our cushion covers. Sunbrella upholstery fabrics minimize the use of chemicals, have been verified in an independent laboratory and tested for harmful substances according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. Sunbrella is designed to last longer, be replaced less often, and ultimately, create less waste. Sunbrella also created the Renaissance Yarn program that makes use of leftover fiber, yarn and fabric from the manufacturing process.
Through the program, the waste is segmented into color groups, reduced back to its fiber state and then mixed with Sunbrella virgin fiber before making its way back through the fabric manufacturing process. Not only are Sunbrella fabrics sustainably made and engineered for a long life, but they’re comfortable, soft to the touch, come in a variety of contemporary colors and designs, and are water repellant, stain resistant, mold resistant and UV resistant.
Shop Neighbor’s sustainable outdoor furniture collection
With a number of popular sustainable outdoor furniture brands on the market, it isn’t difficult to find quality pieces made from sustainable materials to complement your outdoor space. Before purchasing patio furniture from a brand, do your part to research their sourcing and manufacturing processes to ensure that they are truly an eco-friendly outdoor furniture brand. Neighbor is proud to use sustainable materials throughout our outdoor furniture collection, from FSC-certified teak wood to sustainable Sunbrella cushion covers.
Our pieces are capable of standing beautifully for decades with proper care and maintenance, and won’t need to be replaced in the foreseeable future. It’s important to us that we do our part to minimize our environmental impact, eliminate unnecessary waste, and create pieces that we can be proud of. Check out our outdoor furniture buying guide for more tips, and shop our outdoor collection today.