Have the Healthiest Home on the Block: The Patio

Enjoy the outdoors on a nontoxic, earth-friendly deck.

By Leah Zerbe

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Healthy Homes: The PatioSit on something natural
Furnishing your patio or deck can be tons of fun, but just take extra care to avoid chemically treated furniture, or seating and tables made from wood harvested in ways that destroy our forests. Target, Pottery Barn, and many other major retailers are now carrying FSC-certified patio furniture, often made of eucalyptus, a durable hardwood. But don’t be fooled into buying products carrying the Sustainable Forestry Initiative label. Major environmental groups have claimed that those products come from forests that are not well managed, and the certification is an attempt to greenwash, that is, mislead consumers that the product is truly green. If FSC-certified wooden furniture is too pricey, look for furniture made from recycled plastic, which is very durable. Just make sure it doesn’t contain any No. 3, or PVC, plastic, which has been coined “the poison plastic” because of dangerous chemicals used in its production that leach from PVC products.

Be wary of “water repellent” fabrics
Stay away from outdoor cushions and pillows that are advertised as being water repellent. They contain a Teflon-like chemical called PFOA, which have been linked to infertility problems. Instead, look for hemp cushions, which are naturally water repellent and resistant to mildew. Hemp hammocks are also a good choice for ecolounging. Or keep furniture under a roof, or covered, or store the cushions in a nearby container when rain threatens.

Plant in pots
Even if you’re not that into gardening, growing plants in containers on your deck or patio space can add natural ambiance, as well as yield some succulent veggies and fragrant herbs without requiring a lot of weeding. Plants also help keep the air clean. And there’s nothing quite like pulling mint from your herb garden and dropping it in your iced tea.

Grill green
If you’re in the market for a new grill, choosing a propane-powered model will let you grill with the fewest environmental downsides—unless you get your electricity from a renewable resource like wind or the sun; in that case, go with an electric grill. Charcoal is particularly polluting, unfortunately, because of the soot it produces; it’s also terribly wasteful in terms of the energy used to make wood into charcoal. If you have to use the stuff, at least buy natural charcoal that’s not soaked in chemicals, and light it with a chimney starter instead of dousing it in petroleum fluid.

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