Good wood for a garden partyHome » Latest issue » Good, issue 11 » Good wood for a garden party
Where to buy the best outdoor furniture. Plus: Why can’t I buy refills for eco-dishwashing liquid?
We are looking to buy some outdoor furniture. We’d like to be as ecologically sensitive as we can afford. Any suggestions?
A good option for outdoor furniture is to look for secondhand items on Trade Me, at garage sales or in secondhand furniture stores. You may end up with an eclectic mix or need to make a few repairs, but it’s great to re-use whenever possible.
If you fancy a bigger project, head to a demolition yard or look on Trade Me for reclaimed timber, then draw up some plans and contract a builder to put together a table and a couple of bench seats—or have a go yourself if you’re handy with a hammer.
If you’d prefer something new, wood is the best solution. Greenpeace publishes a good wood guide (goodwoodguide.org.nz), where you can search for ethical and ecologically sustainable outdoor furniture. Bunnings, Mitre 10 and The Warehouse, among other retailers, sell outdoor furniture made from ‘good wood’. Some of the recommended timbers are eucalyptus saligna, flooded gum and kamarere. Avoid kwila, an endangered tree that is often illegally logged from old-growth tropical forests. If possible, buy wooden items with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
If the timber is untreated, protect it from the elements with a natural oil-based product. Buy solid pieces that look set to last the distance, and think about where your furniture might end up once you’re done with it.
Why can’t I buy refills for eco-dishwashing liquid?
Refills are usually sold for cleaning products with a trigger or a pump that can be reused. As dishwashing liquid doesn’t need any special type of dispenser, refills would cost around the same as the original bottle and use a similar amount of material, so most manufacturers don’t produce them.
What about the ‘eco’ brands? Ecostore recommends refilling its dishwashing liquid bottles from the bulk bins at health stores, or from its five-litre bottle ($37.95, www.ecostore.co.nz). “It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start,” says Ecostore’s Melissa Fletcher. “Ideally we’d like to avoid plastic altogether. We’re currently exploring new technologies.”
Meat scraps can’t go in the compost, and stink in the rubbish. How can I dispose of them?
Some claim that small meat scraps, buried deep, will be fine in an ordinary compost heap. But this doesn’t work with larger quantities or if there are roaming cats, dogs or rodents in your garden.
A Bokashi bin really is a good solution. Bokashi is Japanese for ‘fermented organic matter’ and a Bokashi bin is sealed to keep odours in and pests out. The system uses a mixture of sawdust, bran and microorganisms to ferment food scraps much more quickly than traditional composting. You can put small quantities of meat scraps into it along with other solid food scraps, and you’ll end up with nutrient-rich, liquid compost that’s great for the garden. You can find out more about Bokashi bins and where to get them at www.bokashi.co.nz.
If you have an established worm farm you can cut up meat scraps and give small quantities to them. Wrap them in a bit of newspaper if you’re worried about odour, as the worms can compost this too.
Do your neighbours have a dog? Provided the meat scraps aren’t off they may be happy to feed them to the pooch.
What grains and pulses are commercially grown in New Zealand?
It’s great that you prefer to buy local. When you do, you’re supporting New Zealand growers and businesses and lowering the food miles of the produce on your plate. It turns out there is a handful of grains and pulses grown in New Zealand. If you’re shopping at an organic supermarket the bulk bins will often label country of origin, so you can search for Kiwi products.
The biggest commercial grower of organic grains in New Zealand is Biograins, which produces wheat bran, barley, oats, semolina, linseed, buckwheat and durum wheat, plus wholemeal and semolina flours on its South Island farms. You can find Biograins products in New World, Bin Inn and organic stores around the country, or you can order online at www.biograins.co.nz. Alternatively, if its just oats you’re after, check out the Otago company Harraways, which only uses Southland oats, including an organic range, and is available in most supermarkets.
Local pulses are harder to find. Biograins grows several pea varieties and occasionally manages to produce a lentil crop, but often the growing season is not long enough. You can find puy lentil seeds for sale on Trade Me, so perhaps you could try growing your own.