Sustainability

12 Ideas to Upgrade Your Outdoor Space, Sustainably

Furniture, dishware, and more that you can actually feel good about.

May  5, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

There is no better feeling than breaking out your outdoor decor for the season. You know the day: the weather has finally hit 60 degrees and you can’t wait to blissfully sit out on your porch (slash deck, slash apartment terrace) and finally finally feel the sun warm your face again (with SPF 45 on, of course). Whether you have just enough room for a bistro table and chairs or a whole outdoor living room to play around with, our fresh-air spaces quickly become sanctuaries for the next several months.

My partner and I have been in the market for some new outdoor decor now that we own a home and finally have a backyard of our own to deck out. And, while there are so many beautiful options out there, the "consume, consume, consume" mindset that comes with buying (and decorating) a new home can often feel like… a lot. To help ease our environmental footprint a bit, we decided to approach shopping for our very own oasis from an eco-conscious mindset, and look to items that were sustainably made to outfit our outdoor space.

I have to admit: When we first began our hunt, I was pretty convinced I’d have to sacrifice style on nearly everything. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by the options out there that let you fancy up your green space while still, ya know, staying green. Looking to add a few upgrades to your outdoor space? Peek at my favorite finds, below.

1. Harriet Outdoor Chair, Wayfair ($570)

One brand making waves when it comes to sustainable (and stylish!) outdoor decor is Yardbird. They’ve made greening up the outdoor furniture industry their company’s goal, spending years collecting over 300,000 pounds of ocean-bound plastic liter and designing each of their pieces to be 100 percent recyclable with a completely offset carbon footprint. The best part? Once you’re ready to retire your pieces (not that you’ll want to ever—they’re that good-looking!), you can give them back to the company, who will happily repurpose them into new items. So good.

Photo by Yardbird

2. Seville Accent Pillow, Fab Habitat ($29)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while decorating our outdoor space, it’s that finding stylish weather-proof pillows is hard. Enter Fab Habitat. Not only do they boast colorful patterns that will make any porch sing, but each of their pieces are created using 100 percent recycled plastic, much of which was destined for landfills or the ocean. Plus, the outdoor pillows (and rugs) are UV resistant and mold-proof, so they’ll stay stylish for years to come.

Photo by Fab Habitat

3. Recycled Bamboo Picnic Set, Food52 ($70)

Calling all city dwellers with this next pick! If you live in an urban jungle, the entire city is your outdoor playground. For your next visit to Central Park or hike in Runyon Canyon, pack this picnic set full of yummy goodies to keep you going. Made entirely from recycled bamboo, it has everything you need to dine al fresco, including four cups and four plates that are deep enough to pull double-duty as bowls.

Photo by Ty Mecham

4. Double Hammock, Nakie ($103)

If you’re all about the go-anywhere adventurous attitude that summer brings, you’ll want to snag this hammock from Nakie for your next escape. The design, which fits two, can basically be attached to anything and is made from around 37 recycled plastic bottles. Plus, the company plants four trees for every hammock purchased—now that’s a buy you can feel good about.

Photo by Nakie

5. Traditional Side Table, Wayfair ($108)

Made from 93 percent post-consumer recycled materials, this table from Sol 72 Outdoor combines the charm of planked wood with the durability and sustainability of Polywood. Though it may look like it's made from traditional wood, it’s actually designed using a high-density recycled plastic that is weather- and fade-resistant and suitable for year-round outdoor use. Bonus: Any piece from this collection comes with a 20-year warranty, so you’re set for many summers to come.

Photo by Wayfair

6. Purple Martin House, Sol72 Outdoor ($100)

Treat your winged backyard buddies to some new shelter this summer with this charming birdhouse, made from reclaimed Pennsylvania barn wood. Made with martins in mind, the house is totally suitable for any backyard birds you may be keen on, and has a removable roof for easy cleaning.

Photo by Plow & Hearth

7. Solar Globe String Lights, Crate & Barrel ($45)

I’m convinced there’s nothing more charming than a set of string lights. Illuminate your deck or sunroom in the evenings with these bistro bulbs, which trade electricity for solar power. Each strand is equipped with rechargeable AA batteries that juice up from the sun’s rays during the day in order to give you that perfect glow come evening.

Photo by Crate & Barrel

8. Recycled Plastic Planter, Lowes ($4)

Go green while adding green, thanks to these recycled plastic planters by Bloem Living. They’re made from 100 percent recycled ocean plastic, so you can feel good about the new home you're giving your favorite hydrangea bush or landscape tree. Bonus: Bloem’s “ocean series” comes in three different planter styles, so it’s easy to coordinate everything from your window boxes to your container garden.

Photo by Bloem

9. Lidded Bowls, Food52 ($62 for three)

Whether you’re serving up pasta salad, laying out the makings for a s’mores station, or slicing up watermelon, these blue bowls will complete your barbecue scene. Sustainably made from recycled plastic bottles, each bowl comes with a handy lid to keep pesky bugs away and is dishwasher-safe, which means more fun in the sun for you.

Photo by Ty Mecham

10. Original Puffy Blanket, Rumpl ($99)

This handy blanket from sustainably-minded outdoor company Rumpl is about to be your summer MVP. It’s waterproof, washable and the perfect plush perch for reading on the lawn or cozying up next to the bonfire. Now for the (green) fine print: Each blanket is made from recycled materials (one blanket is made from about 100 plastic water bottles) and a portion of every blanket sold goes towards environmental causes like forest conservation.

Photo by Rumpl

11. Indoor/Outdoor Rug, Annie Selke (From $64)

It may seem backwards to put a rug outdoors, but they’re actually a key component in making a deck or sunroom feel like a true “room” and not just a forgotten space. The trick? Finding a style made for indoor/outdoor use, which will make it impervious to the elements and easily cleaned using a damp cloth or hose. This cheery style from Annie Selke is made using 100 percent recycled P.E.T., is waterproof and UV-resistant, meaning it won’t fade no matter how many direct rays it gets.

Photo by Annie Selke

12. Rainwater Urns, Gardeners.com ($149)

Make the most of those rainy days by placing a few of these stylish terracotta urns around your property. Not only do they evoke an old-world splendor reminiscent of an Italian garden, but they help you conserve runoff water from your roof, collecting up to 50 gallons (!!) at a time. Thanks to their handy spout, you can then use that water to feed your plants or garden directly, cutting down on your overall usage throughout the season.

Photo by Gardeners.com

Which outdoor brands do you think are doing sustainability well? Tell us below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns a commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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