While Green Garden Furniture is becoming the latest fad for passionately eco-conscious citizens; it's not something that is available readily in the market. But now, a large number of mainstream retailers are offering outdoor furniture made from sustainable wood which is not only good for the environment but is also priced competitively, says new survey by National Wildlife Federation (NWF). According to a National Wildlife Federation survey of major outdoor furniture retailers, a wider variety of styles and prices of sustainable wood garden products are now being sold at retailers ranging from Wal-Mart to Pottery Barn.
"Outdoor furniture can now be good for the environment and good for the pocketbook. Sustainable wood garden products are most often competitively priced with conventional garden furniture," said Stacy Brown, forest certification coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation and overseer of the survey.
This is evident from the fact that the NWF has expanded the number of companies invited to participate in its second annual Garden Furniture Scorecard from 13 to 22.
And the results indicated that Crate & Barrel and Pier 1 Imports scored highest for the second year in a row, with The Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Gardener's Supply Company also scoring well. Particularly, most of the retailers that were part of the scorecard last year improved their scores in 2008, indicating that a higher percentage of their wooden outdoor furniture options are environmentally friendly.
"Deforestation, especially in tropical forests, accounts for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing significantly to global warming. Unsustainable tree harvesting also greatly contributes to the rapid disappearance of the world's remaining natural forest habitats. As more retailers offer wooden garden furniture made from sustainably-harvested forests, and those products become more popular with consumers, trends in tropical forest loss can begin to reverse," said Eric Palola, senior director of the National Wildlife Federation's Forests for Wildlife campaign.
While the major cause of deforestation is the legal and illegal logging of remaining primary forests to meet the global appetite for tropical wood products and at current rates of deforestation, it is estimated that the remaining biodiversity-rich natural forests in countries such as Ecuador, Columbia, Guyana, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to disappear within a decade.
The manufacture of metal or plastic garden furniture requires greater quantities of fossil fuels and releases more carbon than the crafting of wooden furniture. In fact, the amount of carbon a tree collects from the atmosphere and stores during its natural growth processes exceeds the amount of carbon emitted when that tree is harvested and made into furniture. Thus there is a need for consumers to look for green furniture.
According to Brown, consumers should look for and ask for products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, which means the wood is traceable to a sustainably-managed forest. An FSC distinction assures that wildlife and forest ecosystems are conserved through rigorous ecological standards that an independent company audits on an annual basis.
And now its becoming easier for buyers to find FSC-certified furniture as more products bear the FSC label and more stores are using the label in advertising to identify products.
"At Wal-Mart we believe that selling FSC certified furniture not only shows our commitment to the environment but also to quality products that have added value for our customers. Displaying the FSC logo on FSC-certified products and in our advertising demonstrates this commitment and helps our customers feel good about saving money so they can live better, while supporting sustainable forestry practices," said Tom Flynn, Strategic Sourcing Senior Manager at Wal-Mart.
Still, consumer vigilance is necessary as many green marketing claims lack independent verification and may not be truly eco-friendly. By insisting on FSC-certified goods, buyers can influence retailers' supply of sustainably-forested products. And as wood products, FSC-certified goods reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy at all steps of production.