Is Rattan Furniture a Sustainable Product?
It's a question we're often asked and the answer is a resounding yes! Here I'm going to tell you why...
Rattan is the most ecological material that is available to us. Common knowledge dictates that cutting down trees from the rain forest destroys our environment and once cut, the trees will not grow back. One has to replant new trees and it takes many decades for a tree to mature. Rattan, however, grows again and at a very fast pace. It can only be found in the rain forest as rattan needs trees for it to wrap on to reach for sunlight. This means that as long as there are trees in the rain forest, rattan will always be a sustainable raw material.
This material can be found in the rainforests in Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Sumatra. There are so many animals inhabiting these areas, including the famous and endangered orangutans. These poor animals are losing their natural habitats by humans cutting down trees illegally for financial benefits.
In this modern world, there are so many different materials used in furniture manufacturing with the main ones being plastic and wood. Now, we've all seen the terrible images of "the great pacific garbage patch" and know the problems created by society's over-reliance on plastic, be it in straws, chairs, coat hangars or Tupperware so there's not much point in dwelling on the obvious.
Wood on the other hand is the most commonly used material in furniture. We think of it as a sustainable resource and indeed a great deal of wood used in furniture production is FSC or FLEGT certified from sustainable sources however I recently came across this frightening article about Chinese made furniture causing deforestation in Africa. It's always worth checking where your furniture comes from hence the purpose of this post.
Across Asia, rattan is an invaluable part of rural people’s livelihoods.
Rattan crops support many smallholdings across South and Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, where it is grown and harvested. It provides people in these local communities with a regular, reliable income in an uncomplicated industry with a focus on labor-intensive management.
How do the rattan furniture brands that Dovetail stock ensure they are eco-friendly?
Desser promotes fair trade ethics across their company. In a statement on their website, they reveal they “abide by a low carbon emission business plan” to “provide [their] customers with environmentally-friendly furnishings.”
In 2011, Daro was awarded a made-aware status for its rattan furniture by LOFA (The Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association). This means they work closely with rattan suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of their products.
What is Rattan?
The Rattan plant is indigenous to the rainforests of southeast Asia. It is essentially a climbing vine (a member of the palm family) which requires the trees in order to make it's rapid ascent to the top of the canopy.
Why is it sustainable?
Growing like a weed, it produces the material used for furniture manufacture 7 times faster than a tree produces wood and each vine can grow to a whopping 200m in length! Harvesting is done by hand and the tip of the vine is then re-planted at the base of it's tree ready to repeat the process. The vine is then broken down into various parts by locals, the stem is graded by the thickness and the skin is peeled to be used for weaving and tying. Our Rattan furniture is then handcrafted by skilled artisans to whom the knowledge has been passed down across generations resulting in exquisite pieces that are built to stand the test of time.
Not only is Rattan itself a sustainable resource but it also provides a cash crop for those living in the rainforest which actually relies on the preservation of the ecosystem and is an alternative to deforestation for the purpose of agriculture or palm oil production. Plus it makes really beautiful eco-conscious furniture, or at least that's what we think!
Check out David Attenborough's speeded up video for BBC Wildlife of a Rattan plant growing in the rainforest.