In today’s world, it is important that we focus on environmentally-friendly products. There are simply not enough companies dedicated to using sustainable materials and renewable sources. The earth is directly impacted by every single product we make, especially those containing wood or plastic.
While sustainable efforts are important, the movement towards environmentally-friendly products isn’t just about the way that products are made—the materials that they are made from is important, as well. Your efforts might be in vain if you are simultaneously creating a product that counteracts them.
A material that has only recently gained popularity (though it has been around for hundreds of years) is rattan. It comes from a reed that grows in South Asia. Some people confuse rattan with bamboo, but they are not the same reed. The biodegradable rattan reed grows quickly and can be easily harvested.
If a product is made out of pure rattan, it will be recyclable, and the material itself is actually a superior product to plastic or wood. It is lightweight (lighter than hardwood) and resilient, even when used every day. Given its look, it can be great for indoor or outdoor furniture, depending on the style of your home.
It can be painted, stained, and accepts all treatments that can be used on plastics and woods. In many cases, it can last longer than wood products. One difference is that its grains grow vertically, while the grains of wood grow horizontally. This tends to make it easier to shape.
Plastics are dangerous materials to use. Both the product itself and the process of making it emit tons of gases and cause damage to the environment. Plus, plastic is typically a cheaper-quality product than rattan. Read on to find out the specific reasons why rattan is special.
Here’s why rattan is special:
- It is environmentally friendly and renewable: Rattan grows quickly even after being harvested. It is abundant and can be found all over South Asia. It does not require pollutants or machinery to be harvested or made. It is an eco-friendly solution for the need for chic and high-quality furniture and products.
- It is durable and long-lasting: Rattan is just as strong and sturdy as wood (if not more so) and is built to last for decades when properly taken care of. Outdoor furniture may require more upkeep but can still last for long periods of time if it is covered from rain and snow. Just wiping down the furniture and protecting it from the elements can ensure your furniture lasts for around 20 years or more.
- You can use every part of the reed to make furniture: Unlike some materials which create a lot of waste from their unusable elements, you can use every bit of rattan in the furniture-making process. All of its exterior and interior parts are pliable and can be shaped as desired. You could make an entire piece of furniture using only rattan.
- When it’s hand-made, no two pieces are exactly the same: This makes for a cool conversation starter and ensures your furniture is unique yet cohesive. It is a testament to how well the product was made when you can see the craftsmanship throughout.
Is Rattan Sustainable?
Yes, rattan is sustainable. In fact, the reed is so widely-available, some say it grows like grass. It has been used in products for hundreds of years, but with the recent spike in environmental interest, it has increased significantly in popularity.
People are starting to see that eco-friendly designs can be extremely chic and suitable for any home style. All elements of designs can be eco-friendly, from the fabrics to the wood and metals. Rattan is the solution to many of the design world’s problems, as it’s completely sustainable and renewable. When the reed is cut down, it grows back the same way grass does.
When used to create products, it also happens to be very durable and long-lasting. It is also sustainable because every part of the rattan can be used for making products. Rattan is made up of a hard skin, an inner core/pole, and wicker (when it is turned into strips for weaving).
How Is Rattan Harvested?
Another reason why it is sustainable is that it does not require a lot of energy in order to make it or harvest it, meaning you do not need machinery. In fact, you can actually harvest rattan products by simply using a few hand tools.
Similarly, it is much easier to harvest than other types of materials like wood. You need simpler tools, and once harvested, it is also easier to transport.
With the growing popularity of rattan also comes the danger of over-use and exploitation. If harvesters cut the stems of the rattan when it is too young, it can inhibit its ability to re-grow. If it is harvested unsustainably, then it can lead to forest degradation. This has an impact on all forest ecosystems. But when rattan is harvested traditionally and at a moderate pace, it is one of the most sustainable processes out there.
What Products Are Made From Rattan?
There are a lot of products that can be made from rattan, but it is mainly used for furniture. There are some pieces of furniture that are made entirely of rattan, but it is more commonly used as wicker or on smaller parts of furniture, such as the lining or trim.
Some examples include couches, chairs, tables, and outdoor furniture. It can also be used to make items such as baskets and decorations such as wicker balls.
Rattan is useful for much more than home decor, though. Besides furniture, rattan can be used to make shelters and homes in rural areas. In 2010, scientists discovered a way to make artificial bones out of rattan (which is a testament to how durable it is).
When rattan is hand-made (the traditional way), it ensures every product is unique. Many of these handmade products can be found in Thailand and the Philippines. While you can obviously produce pieces of furniture with the same design, weaving them by hand makes it very difficult to make everything identical. You can proudly say your piece is one of a kind. But don’t worry, the differences are minuscule and will not affect having matching pieces and sets.
Rattan is a special material for a few reasons. It is environmentally-friendly and sustainable, it is more durable and long-lasting than plastic and wood, and you can use every part of the reed to make things. It grows very quickly, even after being harvested, so you don’t have to worry about exhausting the resource in the same way that you would with wood. You can apply any stain or paint to it, and it will hold.
It is easier to transport than wood, and it creates less of an environmental impact when it is harvested. You do not need machinery to cut it down, but simple hand tools instead. The same goes for turning it into furniture. You can use hand tools to craft it into furniture, which saves energy and is better for the environment.
You can make many different products out of rattan. Pretty much any piece of furniture can be made from it, such as couches, chairs, and tables. It is also commonly used for the production of outdoor furniture. It can also be used for creating shelters in underdeveloped areas and as fake bones for humans.
When it is used as the material for furniture in the traditional way, you will typically find that each product is unique in some way since the pieces are made individually by hand. It is never noticeable to the naked eye and still allows for matching furniture sets to be made.