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Garden Furniture

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There is no point having a gorgeous green garden if you do not spend any relaxing time in it - which is where garden furniture comes in. If you have comfortable seats in which to flop and listen to the bees buzzing on a hot summer's day then you will appreciate your garden all the more. But before you rush off to get your picnic table and sun loungers, take time to consider what materials have been used to make them.

If you are buying hardwood tables and chairs for example, then be sure of the timber's origins, especially if they are made from teak, iroko or nyatoh - again look out for the FSC mark.

If plastic furniture appeals to you, check the recycled content. There are now many suppliers of recycled plastic furniture.

Cast-iron furniture is also popular in gardens, but it is important to check what paint has been used to coat it. Is it lead-free? Does it contain solvents? And also, how far has the furniture travelled from manufacturer to retailer?

Barbecue

As soon as the evenings get lighter and warmer the urge to cook and eat outdoors gets stronger and by the middle of summer the barbecue season will be in full swing. They are a great way to get you and your friends out in the garden, but are barbecues environmentally friendly?

The first consideration is the kind of barbecue you plan to use. Probably the best type is home-built, using old bricks or an old tin drum, but if you have to buy one then check that any wood used as shelves and knobs is from a sustainably managed source.

When it comes to what you burn in the barbecue, most people opt for charcoal, which has an uncertain environmental record. Ideally, charcoal should be produced from old wood that is a byproduct of good forestry, that is, the thinnings. But there have been concerns that in some countries trees are being felled for the sole purpose of making charcoal. There are also worries that some countries are destroying environmentally sensitive mangrove forests in tropical coastal areas in order to produce charcoal.

Given the question marks over the sustainable nature of charcoal, production overseas and the amount of polluting air miles notched up to bring in this kind of charcoal, it would be best to buy your charcoal locally, where it is likely to have come from managed coppiced woodland.

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