Teak Furniture That's
Good for the Environment

Vast tracts of Costa Rica’s forests have been depleted to graze cattle for low-cost beef.
Vast tracts of Costa Rica’s forests have been depleted to graze cattle for low-cost beef.

Teak furniture poses a real dilemma for the gardener. Teak is a beautiful, durable and weatherproof natural material—perfect for use in the garden or anywhere outdoors. On the other hand, it’s well known that in Asia the teak industry has severe environmental impacts, plus it can have catastrophic effects on local communities. But there’s good news for conscientious teak buyers: Reforest Teak™, a line of furniture that benefits the environment and the community.

First, it’s important to understand how teak is usually harvested. Most teak comes from Indonesia or Myanmar (Burma), where native forests are clear-cut, thousands of acres at a time. Non-teak “waste trees” are often burned to further clear the land, which may be used for abusive agricultural practices or left vulnerable to erosion. These practices show no signs of abating; in fact a few years ago the Indonesian government signed a deal with China that will level much of its remaining tropical forest. The situation has gotten so bad that the Forest Stewardship Council has withdrawn certification from most Indonesian suppliers. (For more on this story, see The Earth Needs Trees—Now More Than Ever)

Poor planting and harvesting practices
Poor planting and harvesting practices in monoculture teak plantations lead to erosion and the release of toxins into surrounding waterways.

Some teak is “plantation grown,” which—while an improvement over clear-cutting natural forests—is a long way from being sustainable. That’s because most plantations comprise no other tree species, just row upon row of teak trees. These monocultures do little to provide needed animal habitat. And because the trees were planted at the same time, they are harvested at the same time—clear-cutting under a different name.

Reforest Teak wood is grown using an entirely new, sustainable approach to forest management. Grown in Costa Rica under the approval of the world’s most ecologically advanced government, Reforest Teak is actually re-foresting, rather than de-foresting, the land. This is land that was cleared decades ago to make pasture for cattle, to feed America’s demand for inexpensive hamburger. Stripped of trees, the land became unable to retain water in the dry season, and unable to stop soil erosion during the rainy season. All that is changing now that the land is forested once again.

A Reforest Teak forest is not a monoculture, but a mosaic of different tree species that provide plenty of animal habitat. Trees are carefully thinned so they grow straight (resulting in a better-quality wood) and are harvested in succession—the whole forest is never cut at once. That’s good for the environment, and it also means steady, sustainable work for the local craftsmen for decades to come.

Well-managed teak forest
In a well-managed teak forest, trees are thinned out so there is room for them to grow straight, with less lateral branching.

Reforest Teak timber operations also support the local community by providing fair and above-market wages, social security and insurance plans, an industry-leading pension plan designed to empower women and extra incentives for sustainable forestry practices. Workers are craftsmen who put pride and experience into each piece, not just hands on an assembly line. Profits support the local schools or are reinvested in expanding ecological forestry. Reforest Teak attends to environmental and social concerns at every step, from the teak seedlings in the nursery to the shipping of finished products. That’s why it has been awarded the Forest Stewardship Council’s prized Chain of Custody Certification.

When you buy Reforest Teak furniture, you’re helping us achieve our commitment to sustainable forestry. You are also getting a top-quality product that will last a lifetime. We use First European Quality (FEQ) teak, marine-grade, stainless-steel hardware, aircraft-grade adhesives, fine joinery and careful hand-finishing. There are no compromises with our furniture. For more about the quality construction of our furniture, see Choosing a Better Teak.

Before you consider purchasing other teak furniture—that may have a questionable social and environmental history—we hope you’ll take a close look at Reforest Teak.

Share This Article