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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Outdoor Furniture: Eucalyptus – A New Type of Wood

eucalyptus table

The most familiar wood on the market for outdoor furniture is Red Cedar, treated Pine, Teak and Oak. But another type of wood available on the market is eucalyptus. Eucalyptus which is native to Australia, Tasmania and nearby islands is a fast growing very hardy plant. It has been harvested for years in its native lands as timber and for fuel; but the trees have been introduced worldwide. In California, San Diego, eucalyptus was introduced as wood for the railways. In China the trees were introduced through reforestation efforts; but were turned to plantations now exceeding 170 million hectares.

eucalyptus bench

So eucalyptus is an abundant wood. But what makes eucalyptus a good option for outdoor furniture is that it is strong, long lasting and as attractive as teak yet less expensive. Also its straight grain, smooth finish and high oil content make it exceptionally durable and weather resistant. Aside from these attributes which make eucalyptus ideal for outdoor furniture, eucalyptus has the following pros.

eucalyptus chair

  • Eucalyptus has a fast turnover rate, harvest can be done in 3-5 years.
  • Eucalyptus can grow in heavily eroded soil and needs only limited amounts of artificial fertilizer.
  • Eucalyptus can be harvested and grown back from the trunk allowing for plantation like planting instead of logging in natural forests.
  • Eucalyptus oil is used in medicinal, cleaning, deodorizing and bug repellent products.
  • Eucalyptus can be used in paper making, tissues and for fuel.

sproutSome of the problems that might make eucalyptus less sustainable are the following. Firstly – eucalyptus is a heavy water consumer. The trees put a strain on the environment drying up water tables, local streams and ground water. Secondly – not only is eucalyptus invasive everywhere except for its native lands it also provides few environmental services to other species and in some cases the trees hinder them.

So in areas of high rain fall, controlled plantations of eucalyptus can be sustainably grown without causing too much damage to the native environment. But in the meantime if you are on the market for patio furniture eucalyptus is a good and abundant candidate. You can check out some furniture options on Plow and Hearth but they are widely available.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Designer Spotlight: Joining Wood and Metal – Hilla Shamia

Hilla Shamia bench 2

Designers have always sought out wood for its natural beauty and warm organic feel. A designer turning out a new twist on wood furniture is Hilla Shamia. Shamia’s work is a beautiful example of contrasting materials that work together. Shamia developed her technique while studying for her B.Des. in the Department of Industrial Design at Holon Institute of Technology, Israel.

Hilla Shamia casting

Shamia’s stunning pieces come in a range of tables, stools and benches. They are made by first positioning the wood into a mold. Molten aluminum is then poured into the mold filling in the cracks and crevasses of the wood. Because wood has a burning point around 250 degrees Celsius (482 degree Fahrenheit) and aluminum has a melting point of about 660 degrees Celsius (1220 degree Fahrenheit); where the molten metal touches the wood, charcoal forms.
Hilla Shamia benches

The layer of charcoal creates a transitioning barrier between metal and wood. The process preserves the natural form of the wood while joining it to the metal. Shamia calls this process wood casting. Because no two trees are the same and you can never predict the final outcome; each piece is one of a kind. Being one of a kind means you won’t be finding one in your local furniture store, however some pieces are listed on Discover Deliver, price upon request. The current pieces listed are composed of cypress and aluminum.

Hilla Shamia table

You can check out Hilla Shamia’s Facebook page for posts about availability, article mentions and more. But aside from the natural beauty of these pieces they are keeping it sustainable as well. Her metal of choice aluminum is recyclable. And although some designs are made with Cyprus the designer also works with Eucalyptus which is a fast growing sustainable wood.

related: more innovative design featured on The Alternative Consumer

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

old is new – a roundup of reclaimed and salvaged wood shelves

salvaged fir shelf

Furniture and accessories made of reclaimed or salvaged wood can not only save living trees from the sawmill, but they can add all the inherent character, patina and charm embodied in the old wood to your home’s decor. Here are few select items we’ve uncovered.

This woodsy shelf unit (above) is created from live edge slabs of wood salvaged from forest restoration activities. The tree has been milled, kiln dried, sanded, cavities have been filled and it’s sealed with hard matte wax. Each shelf is priced separately – by Real Wood Works

handmade reclaimed wood shelfbox

If you’re taste runs toward the rustic – this wall-mounted set of boxed shelves (above) will provide a myriad of decorating and presentation possibilities. Handmade entirely of reclaimed wood. A very tasty $99 @ Del Huston Designs   (more…)

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

green home: designer lamp made from recycled pizza cans

margherita lamp kids

The funky little Margherita lamp features reused materials – the shade is made of recycled pizza sauce cans – and is created in an end-to-end environmentally conscious production process. The lamp is a playfully green lighting solution appropriate for almost any modern loft space, kid’s room or home office – and it’s eco-friendly.

margherita lamp bedside

To kick off Margherita’s debut, the Italian design collaborative, Izmade, is hosting a crowdfunding campaign over at Indiegogo. All contributions to the campaign will help Izmade meet minimum order quantities for the local Italian beech tree plywood and soybean adhesive required in the manufacture of the lamp (the recycled pizza cans are free). The utilization of these readily available local materials will allow Izmade to continue its commitment to truly environmentally conscious design – even as the lamp is marketed to a larger audience.

margherita lamp pizza cansmargherita lamp cans

Howz it made?
Every day in Turin, Italy, nearly 15,000 tomato sauce cans are used and thrown away by restaurants. Izmade recognized this source of raw, recycled materials as an opportunity to build a beautiful, useful object while simultaneously sharing their philosophy of global sustainability. The recycled tomato cans are collected from local restaurants in Turin. The recovered cans are then washed, cut, and painted to create the lampshade.

The stand and the plywood
The plywood stand comes from fast growing beech trees, a species native to the Piedmont region of Italy. The layers of plywood are bonded by a renewable, eco-friendly soybean adhesive – while the lamp itself is assembled without any glue and utilizes the friction between the stand and the connecting parts to hold its shape.

2 Margherita lamps

Parts and process
The wooden pieces of the lamp are cut with a proprietary CNC milling machine built by Izmade in collaboration with Paolo Giacobbe and Paolo Di Napoli. Named the “Woody Router”, the machine was built for an open-source project that allows citizens free use of the machine inside the Officine Creative workshop. All electrical components (including the cables, the plug, and the switch) are locally sourced from Italy.

Production is hosted by Officine Creative, a community workshop project which promotes the artisan culture and enables shared creation. Officine Creative is part of Cecchi Point, a multicultural hub located in the heart of Turin.

margherita colors

8 different colors
Margherita is available in 8 snazzy colors, so you can match you can match your space’s color scheme or add a fun color accent.

Izmade is offering a wide range of rewards for those who contribute to their Indiegogo campaign which runs through February 6th, 2015.

related: more eco-friendly home decor items featured on The Alternative Consumer

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Countertop Challenge: choosing the greener counter-top

Icestone eco-friendly kitchen countertop

With so many “green” counter top options on the market it’s difficult to know how to make the right choice. If we are interested in something truly environmentally friendly first we need our material of choice to be one that is sustainable or made from recycled materials. Avoiding virgin materials and opting for recycled ones also has the benefit of reducing harvesting or sourcing costs. Because of this our contenders all utilize recycled material. Secondly, the product itself needs to be recyclable – otherwise, at the end of its lifetime it ends up in the landfill. With this in mind here are my top 3 contenders.

3-Form recycled plastic countertop

Contender number one: Recycled plastic countertops by 3-Form. Recycled plastic is made from 100% post-consumer plastics satisfying the first of our requirements. And at the end of its lifespan the product is 100% recyclable, satisfying the second requirement. The plastic that 3-Form uses in these counter tops is high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This product is available under their 100 percent material option and comes in various striped, solid and speckled color choices.

  • Pros: no sealing required, is lightweight and easy to install
  • Cons: the product isn’t very hard – so it is easy to scratch.

alkemi recycled aluminum countertop

Contender number two: recycled aluminum by ALKEMI. ALKEMI-acrylic is made of waste aluminum flake, solid surface scrap and recycled acrylic. This product almost meets our first requirement by being comprised of 84-97% recycled material. As for our second requirement (more…)

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