Monthly Archives: May 2018

Teak Garden Furniture – Why You Shouldn’t buy it!

garden furniture

Teak Garden Furniture is not eco friendly

With the sun making a rare appearance for so long at the moment, many of us will be looking at purchasing garden furniture to take our dinner, drinks and friends outside. When you are looking for a completely new Teak garden furniture set as a  starting point or a complete upgrade, there are thousands of options available both in stores and online. Size of garden, storage and material preference all play a part in which set you go on to purchase.

But when you choose your garden furniture, do you think about where it actually comes from? (No, I don’t mean Argos). Are you aware of the impact that buying garden furniture made of wood can have on the environment? Or the illegal trade involved in the manufacture of your wooden chairs and table? If you’re looking for teak garden furniture especially, it may be worth reading on before you click on that “Buy Now” button…..

King of the Woods

Teak has been used for many years in the manufacture of anything that needs to last and stay attractive. It has long been known as the ‘King of the Woods’ due to it’s ability to weather as well as its natural resistance to insects, fungus and acids. Teak was a natural choice to build boats out of and now is used as a popular choice for garden furniture. It seems to be readily available. When purchasing, it may be easy to overlook the issues that can arise with it in the way that the wood itself was obtained.

Friends of the Earth estimate that the UK imports enough illegal hardwood every year for garden furniture, decking and other uses to destroy tropical rainforests over three times the size of Luxembourg annually. This not only has an effect on the native animals and indigenous people, but also the environment as a whole. Forests contain over half of the planet’s animal and plant species and over 3 billion people. This is being taken from them illegally and immorally.

The Illegal Teak Trade

It is really important that you find out where the teak is coming from if you buy it. Burma is the only country that still exports Teak from natural forests, mostly illegally. Unfortunately, Burmese teak is the best on the market. Laos and Canadian teak is seen to be of lower quality for Teak Garden Furniture.  It also comes from tropical rainforests which environmental agencies are protecting from illegal logging. African teak is young, which hinders its quality. There are many doubts over it’s legality also.

The growth cycle of a Teak tree is between 60 and 100 years before it is ready for commercial felling. New forests do not provide the quality that older ones do and it can obviously ta -ke years to regenerate the forests that are being felled. Buying Teak from Burma destroys the forests for which the people living in rely on for their homes and income. Up to 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihood across the world.

Teak and Human Rights

It’s not just the lack of places to live or find an income though. The bloodshed and fighting over the forests in Burma  is truly shocking. The military in Burma control the forests and local people are being imprisoned or fined huge amounts. This is just for being in parts of the forest that they are told not to visit and extreme violence is often used. Many of these people are reluctant to leave not only because they live there but also because of a spiritual attachment to the place.

Illegal Logging

The money from the wood that is illegally imported through China (for whom the demand for teak is huge) goes to the people who run the council (the SPDC) in Burma. They pass this on to political and economic allies. This is instead of being invested into improving the country and the lives of the people who live there. Many environmental activists have been killed who were trying to stop illegal logging.  Due to the control through violence that is now seen in the cut and run forestry taking part, teak is now known as “blood timber”. An unfortunate and lesser title than the King of the Woods by which it was once known.

Burmese Teak Trade

Destroying natural primary forests, funding groups guilty of human rights abuse. Depriving animals of their natural habitats and threatening the survival of the indigenous people. It seems that it is certainly worthy of it’s new title through no fault of it’s own. The teak in Burma will disappear in decades if the illegal logging continues at the rate that it is going.  For all of these reasons, the FSC refuses to certify Burmese timber. For more information on the situation in Burma, have a look at the Human Rights Report from 2017 . It may shock you with some of the figures and acts against the Burmese people.

How to Buy Safe Garden Furniture

How do you ensure that you are not helping to fund this destructive regime? Look at these woods as alternatives:

  •  Bamboo and Rattan: but ensure that you check the source via www.inbar.int. It is relied on as an income for people as well as a food source for Giant Pandas and the mountain gorillas of Africa. It is, however, part of the UN’s sustainable development policy and has a negative carbon footprint so definitely worth looking at.
  • Pine: do not buy the pine from Latvia or Estonia which is from ancient forests. Any that has an FSC certificate is fine.
  • Douglas fir: All European Douglas fir comes from managed plantations. Avoid any from North America or Canada.
  • Larch: European Larch plantations are FCS certified and safe to use. Avoid Russian and Canadian larch which have put species at risk of extinction.

Saving the Forests

There are loads of other points to consider to help save the forests. There is loads of recycled timber available on the market which you should use if you can. Locally produced FSC products will have low transportation costs as well as assuring you exactly where it has come from. Look for chain of custody numbers and FSC certification on imported timbers. Support the WWF, Greenpeace and The Woodland Trust in their work to save the natural forests from devastation. Have a look at the ethical buying guide before purchasing to ensure that your garden furniture is guilt free.

Ironfire Sustainability

For your peace of mind when purchasing from IronFire, all of our timber is from a local sawmill (keeping our carbon footprint low) who proudly display their FSC certificate on their website.

You may think that one less purchase of an imported teak garden table may not make much of a difference, but if everyone stops buying…..

 

The Garden Chef: Outdoor dining ideas

Garden Chef

If there are many among you Garden chefs who didn’t eat outside or BBQ’d outdoors in the glorious sunshine of the last Bank Holiday, I will eat more than my slightly raw in the middle and burnt on the outside hat. There’s nothing quite like making the most of the rare warmth and sunshine in the UK and using your outdoor garden furniture to the full – it just puts people in a good mood. Outdoor dining allows you to invite more friends than will usually fit around your dining table. Neither do you have to worry what the ketchup is landing on when it drips out of the bottom of a loosely held child’s hotdog and hand held food cuts down on the washing up. Al Fresco BBQ’s are great and food tastes much better when cooked on them – whether it’s the effect of the charcoal taste or just the eating outside at your garden furniture, there’s definitely something a bit special about it!

Taking outdoor table ideas to the next level

A big current trend is to leave your trusty old BBQ where it lives for most of the year – in the shed. While it has given great service over the years, BBQs are now being whipped up into something special by being integrated into a full on kitchen garden. This not only gives you space to BBQ in style, but also prep surfaces, other cooking devices and even sinks. Sound like something your cheffy self could get excited about? Here are some ideas on how to turn your outdoor dining furniture into a garden galley that even Gordon Ramsay would be proud of.  

  1. Location – where are you going to set up? It’s important to consider things such as route from the inside kitchen to the outside kitchen; if you want the smoke from the BBQ getting too close to your home or creating a fire risk; if you are intending to cook alone and bring the food to the dining area or if you want to integrate the two to stay social while you cook. If you’re planning on installing an outdoor sink, a cheaper option can be to make sure that one wall of your garden kitchen is in line with the external wall of your inside kitchen so that water can be sourced from there rather than running new pipes. If you’re not sure where to put it, why not look at a kitchen island which combines storage, preparation space and a cooking device all in one but which can be moved to the outdoor dining furniture location of your choice as and when you desire.
  2. Budget – quite an important one, and can be the difference between investing in a proper all-singing kitchen area, or one that you create yourself out of reclaimed pallets, bricks or other hardy materials. While it can be easy to simply buy the units, it can be a lot more satisfying to create it yourself, as well as ensuring that it meets your requirements perfectly.
  3. Cook – what are you going to cook? If you’re happy just to grill, then integrate your BBQ into the kitchen on its own – useful if you’re limited on space and can also be a very cost effective way of creating your outdoor cooking space with a pre-made unit.  If you want to really impress, add in a pizza oven or even a side burner for that paella you just knocked up to your outside table ideas list. We even thought “If you have a good supply of kippers, how about your own smoker”?
  4. Storage – if you are going to bring your ingredients and tools in from the kitchen as and when you need them, you don’t need to worry about this part (but please refer to point 1 about being able to easily navigate from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor kitchen!). Hooks in the external walls can make easily reachable utensil storage while cupboard space under worktops, integrated fridges…all can be planned into your space and ensure that none is wasted. Make sure that any fridges are, however, suitable for outdoor dining use.
  5. Shelter – with more cool days than hot in this country, it makes sense to plan for using your garden kitchen on those colder days as well. Shelter can be provided simply with allowing space for a parasol, but also look at awnings or canopies, both of which can be decorated with strings of lights for ambience once the night draws in. Allowing space for a firepit can also make sure that your guests don’t look longingly at your living room when the temperature drops.
  6. Materials – open to the seasons, make sure that all materials used in the construction of your kitchen are up to being battered. Concrete is strong and very on trend, as are dark woods and marble – although these can take the construction into the next price bracket. Try to use sustainable sources where possible as well as ensuring that materials are heat, UV and waterproof so that they last more than one wet summer! Don’t forget to look at our Ironfire Garden furniture for outdoor dining range!
  7. Light – don’t make my mistake of BBQ’ing in the dark and then serving your guests raw chicken at a birthday party (luckily no-one was poorly but then the gin probably killed off any nasties). Make sure that you have plenty of light for both your cooking and so that you can carry on the party into the night. Whether you choose to install electric lights if you don’t plan on having a portable kitchen, or solar lights if you are moving your kitchen around the garden, they will make sure that your chicken is cooked and the kissing is saved for bedtime!

We hope that the above tips help empower the garden chef in you

But if its not enough there are some great ideas on www.landscaping.co.uk who also offer a full planning and installation service. Most of all, make sure that it is somewhere that you can enjoy and relax, and impress your guests by cooking in a way that they will be green with envy at (just not green with food poisoning – if you’re not sure about this, just stick to vegetarian options!).