One of the single largest uses of dimensional tropical hardwoods in the US is for outdoor furniture.This is a ridiculous and wasteful use of wood.

The use of tropical hardwoods in temperate regions for garden furniture seems to have begun with the traditional English garden bench, typically made of teak. When Britain’s colonial navy ruled the seas, teak’s weatherproof qualities made it the first choice for sailing vessels. Britain’s demand for teak for their ships spurred the drive to colonize India, Thailand and Burma.

When tall wooden ships became obsolete, ships’ carpenters fashioned the first teak benches from salvaged timbers, and a tradition was born. Unfortunately, this colonial use of tropical hardwoods has been passed on to consumers in Europe and the US and has become one of the most widespread uses of rainforest wood, also spawning the use of of many other tropical woods.

What to Avoid

Rainforest woods most often used for patio and garden furniture include tropical woods such as teak, mahogany, nyatoh, balau, jatoba ("Brazilian cherry"), garapera, kempas, iroko, ipê and others and temperate rainforest woods such as western red cedar and redwood. For information on these woods, go to the By Species section. Other old growth woods from endangered forests are also being overharvested, such as jarrah from Australia and cypress, a wood native to the old growth sub-tropical swamp forests of the southeastern US.

Now that teak is nearly eradicated from its natural range, nyatoh, balau, jatoba, garapera and various species of the Shorea genus are becoming increasingly popular as teak substitutes.

All tropical and temperate rainforest wood should be avoided for outdoor furniture, unless the wood comes from second growth logging and carries independent certification accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council. Don’t be fooled by companies that tout their chain-of-custody (CoC) certification only. While this is an essential part of a company’s ability to sell FSC-certified wood or products, it is not an assurance that the wood or product is certified. CoC certification gives a company the ability to sell certified wood or products and use the FSC name and logo. But you must ask to see the certificate for the producer of the wood or product to assure that it has come from a certified logging operation. The wood should be marked with the FSC logo.

The following companies are just a few that are manufacturing and/or selling old growth or uncertified rainforest wood outdoor patio and garden furniture. We have active campaigns on the first six.

Restoration Hardware
Pottery Barn
Cost Plus World Market
Smith & Hawken
Country Casuals
Land's End
Kingsley Bates
Marshall Field’s Direct
Tyndall Creek
Lazy Dayz

While (Green Culture) has many good alternatives, they are also selling some outdoor furniture that is damaging to rainforests.

Please send a message to these companies asking them to end their sales of outdoor furniture made from wood from endangered forests. You can click the first six to go to their respective pages in our Campaigns section to send pre-written emails.

Aluminum should be avoided entirely. While a substantial amount of aluminum is recycled in the US, the majority is not. Most of the aluminum imported from rainforest countries is used for beverage cans, a substantial amount goes into other uses. Aluminum production is highly detrimental to rainforests (see the Aluminum subsection in our What to Avoid section). Also, the coatings that are used on some outdoor furniture to prevent it from rusting may be detrimental to produce.

Steel benches are certainly better than rainforest wood, are readily available and will last far longer than wood. However, while a large amount of steel is recycled in the US, there are still large amounts of new steel and iron imported and therefore, steel is not the best choice for rainforests (see the Steel subsection in our What to Avoid section). Also, the coatings that are used on some outdoor furniture to prevent it from rusting can be detrimental to produce.


Many alternatives for outdoor furniture exist.

Recycled Plastic
The environmentally preferable alternative is recycled plastic. This high-tech material is the smart choice for many outdoor applications. It will last far longer than any wood — perhaps even longer than steel — and is made from materials rescued from the waste stream that would otherwise be landfilled or burned. Also, recycled plastic sequesters large amounts of carbon, thus helping to mitagate global warming.

There are a number of companies selling recycled plastic outdoor furniture. Two are:

Poly-wood, Inc.
Barco Products, Inc..

Both of these companies' furnishings are available from numerous retailers on the web, such as, L.L. Bean, Adirondack Furniture Direct and others, some of whom may be geographically closer to you, and can be found by searching their names along with "outdoor furniture" or "garden furniture".

Certain woods can be used that do not originate from endangered forests. These include oak, black locust (also referred to as robinia, especially in Europe), eastern (northern) white cedar and second growth western cedars and redwood. However, without FSC-accredited certification, redwood and western red cedar should be avoided, since, in order to assure that they are from second growth or low-impact logging, it would be necessary to ascertain details about individual logging operations.

Companies In Between

Believe it or not, while Green Culture/ sell recycled plastic outdoor furniture, they are also selling a good deal of outdoor furniture made from the old growth Amazon rainforest wood, jatoba ("Brazilian cherry"). For their line of recycled plastic, see their Nautical Collection. But avoid their jatoba.

Send a message to Green Culture and tell them that jatoba is not "eco-furniture.

Adirondack Furniture Direct sells both recycled plastc furniture as well as destructive woods such as mahogany, jatoba ("Brazilian cherry"), teak, shorea, cedar and cypress. These should all be avoided. For their recycled plastic line, click here.

Seaside Casual Furniture sells both recycled plastic lumber outdoor furniture but also sells mahogany. For their "EnviroWood" line, click L.L. Bean sells recycled plastic furniture but also sells destructive western red cedear. For their recycled plastic line, click