Author – Neeraja Sundar
Dwindling forests and rising global temperatures have led people to realize the need to save the woods. An increasing number of people are opting for eco-friendly furniture, as a gesture toward environmental protection. There is a wide variety of eco-friendly furnishing materials available, which not only offer a rich look, but are also inexpensive. These are proving to be better alternatives to forest wood such as teak, rosewood, sal, deodar, etc.
Sustainable furniture assures strength, longevity, and beauty. Here are some popular eco-friendly furnishing materials, which are used to make furniture:
Bamboo is an ideal alternative to wood. Bamboo, though it grows in forests, is technically not a tree. It is a tall grass, which is also one of the fastest growing plants. Some bamboo species can grow up to three feet in a day.
Furniture made out of bamboo possesses a strength that rivals any wood. It is resilient to weather conditions and does not succumb to breakage or damage easily. Its tensile strength and high compressive strength makes it an ideal construction material. Moreover, it is light in weight. Although it has a high shrinkage rate, it stabilizes once it has adjusted to the ambient moisture content. Bamboo swings and reclining chairs are popular. Bamboo sofa sets, coffee tables, lamp shades, shelves and bookcases, beds, baskets, and fabrics, too, are available.
Rattan and Wicker
Rattan is also a type of reed plant similar to bamboo. It is a naturally renewable palm species, which grows robustly in rainforests. Cane extracted from rattan is light, durable and flexible. Wicker is a woven fiber made from reed and swamp grasses. Natural wicker is known for its strength and durability.
The Indonesian Rattan furniture provides a sturdy base and the European wicker is woven into the seating areas designing authentic baskets and seats. Although wicker cannot be used to make furniture on its own, but it can supplemented as weavings to create an aesthetic product.
Lumber, which was once used as a building material for old factories and warehouses, is being reused for making furniture nowadays. Usually, wood which has lasted for decades can last a few more years. It has surpassed the test of endurance, as it would have experienced various humidity levels and extreme climatic conditions.
Wood fished out of rivers, flawed wood, trees, which were infested by insects and had to be chopped down, are some of the sources of reclaimed wood. Recycled wooden barrels and railway sleepers make interesting beds for children. Teak, rosewood, sal are some of the woods that are resurrected as flooring, walls, tables, and shelves. Reclaimed wood provides aesthetic beauty, since the antique finish provides a hint of rich mysterious history.
Rubberwood is a sustainably harvested wood extracted from mature rubber trees, which have served their full term. Old rubber trees are usually burnt after their harvest, but reusing them as furniture has made it an environmentally wise choice. They are also known as plantation wood.
However, rubberwood is susceptible to pests and fungus. Pesticides can be infused by the process of kiln drying to prevent such attacks. Kiln drying is done by controlling temperature, air circulation, and humidity. Rubberwood does not shrink easily and is a reliable material. Its dense grain can be controlled in the kiln drying process. However, due to its delicate nature, rubberwood is not suitable for outdoor furniture as overexposure to sun and rain can ruin the chemical protective layer.
Lantana is a countryside weed plant that produces beautiful flowers. However, this non-edible ornamental plant brought into India has become an invasive species, spreading across the forests and suffocating local plants. Now an NGO Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) has innovated on utilizing Lantana stems for furniture and handicrafts. ATREE is providing Lantana Craft Centre in Malai Mahadeshwara Hills in Karnataka to train Soliga artisans for creating these items.
Lantana wood is an inexpensive alternative to cane and bamboo, since it is a close match in quality. Its hard stem is not vulnerable to termites and could have the same glimmer and smooth surface if treated with varnishes. Lantana lends itself easily to bending, twining, splicing, interlacing and nailing. I could be used to produce tea-picker’s basket, sofas, chairs, teapoys, book and shoe cases, and all that can be produced out of Rattan cane.
Providing a monolithic landscape, furniture is set in stone. For outside furniture, stone slabs are a beautiful choice. Set against gardens, stones blend well with the natural setting. With grass growing between the gaps and vines intertwining against the surface, the naturalness of this furniture are a sight to behold.
Indestructible, water proof and safe from pests, stone furniture is the best choice for outdoor locations, since they are long lasting. Naturally set stones can be used for outside furniture. More refined and well cut stones can be used to create a posh look inside the house.