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Home decor ideas

7 sustainable ways to style your outside space for a colourful summer dining experience


Although the weather doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo yet, spring is finally here and the days are getting longer and (a bit) warmer. Soon we’ll be outdoors at any opportunity, including dining outside.

So it’s time to spruce up our outside spaces, whether you have a lush green garden, a modest yard or a sweet little balcony, it’s a handy extension to your home, and the perfect place for socialising when the sun comes out.

There are lots of ways you can get your yard looking good, and if you’re looking for sustainable and ethical ways to decorate your outdoor dining space, you’ve come to the right place.


1. Start with sustainable outdoor furniture

Let’s start with what you’re going to sit and dine upon, as that’s pretty high up on the list of importance.

Garden furniture can be expensive, but buying a set that will stand the test of time, that you’ll want to keep forever (i.e. it has great, timeless style) and is made from sustainable materials makes it worth the money.

This thorough article by One Home runs through the sustainable pros and cons of all types of garden furniture. Wood comes out on top for the most part, as long as it’s responsibly sourced, preferably locally grown, and looked after properly.

Teak is generally pretty unsustainable (as explained in this insightful article about the sustainability of teak) but these lovely tables and folding chairs are made from reclaimed teak, which is sustainable, very hardy (teak has natural oils that protect it) and will last for years if cared for.

If you want your pick of second hand wood, Bristol Wood Recycling Project makes tables to order from reclaimed scaffolding board and timber, and might just be able to whip you up the garden table of your dreams.

Or if you’re handy with tools, you can get all sorts of reclaimed wood from their wood shop and make your own.


Glasses of red wine and a charcuterie board on top of a reclaimed wood outdoor garden table
Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

2. Add colourful ethical tableware

Once you’ve got your garden furniture set up, you’ll need some brilliant tableware to adorn it.

The most sustainable option is to use what you already have, so your everyday crockery is certainly suitable for eating al fresco.

If you want to jazz up your table with something new and exciting, you could choose some colourful glassware, woven bread baskets, a paper wine cooler or carved wooden salad servers for all those delicious summer salads you’ll be making.

The addition of a cotton or linen tablecloth would bring an extra hit of colour, and make your garden party feel extra special.


3. Make it comfy with cushions and throws

For keeping comfy as well as warm, some soft fabric accessories are a great idea. It’s best to avoid plastic fabrics (polyester, nylon, acrylic, and synthetic fleece) as they damage the environment during production, and shed microplastics constantly.

Recycled plastic fabrics are slightly better, but it’s always best to go for natural fabrics wherever possible.

This outdoor cushion is made of waxed cotton, making it waterproof and durable for using outside.

Of course, you can bring out any blankets that you use indoors, but if you want a new one or two that are easy to wash, ethical recycled cotton throws are the way to go.


Lighting a garden for outdoor dining on a summer evening
Photo by Ha Nguy on Unsplash

4. Lighting your garden when the sun goes down

Candles are wonderful for setting a magical and cosy evening scene, especially when they’re nestled inside some colourful, ethical glass lanterns – we love using citronella soy wax tealights, which have the added bonus of helping to keep pesky bugs at bay.

Most tealights are made of paraffin wax generated from petroleum, coal or shale oil, which are not renewable sources. Soy wax is more sustainable, however it’s not perfect – this recent article throws its eco-friendliness into dispute.

There may not be a fully sustainable option for candles, so using them in moderation may be the answer here.


5. Add a recycled fire pit with eco-conscious fuel

Karakorum founder Natasha loves getting outdoors, but doesn’t enjoy the faff of BBQs (or braais in her native South Africa) and gets cold easily too. The answer to that could be a fire pit.

There’s something about looking at a fire which feels really instinctual, magical and calming. The ambience a fire creates is so captivating, plus you can use it to cook over, as well as keeping you warm.

Of course there are lots of fancy new fire pits on the market, but a fire pit can be made using salvaged bricks, stones, or metal to reduce the demand for new materials.

At the moment it’s really popular to use old washing machine drums as fire pits – the metal drum keeps everything enclosed, while the holes provide lots of oxygen to keep the fire burning.

But can burning fuel ever be eco-friendly? It doesn’t sound like an eco-friendly thing to do, at first glance…


Fire pit with roaring wood fire
Photo by Max Larochelle on Unsplash


These days, you can get fuel made of coffee grounds or reclaimed wood which may go to waste otherwise. Seasoned wood enhances burning efficiency and promotes a more sustainable relationship with the environment.

There are also biomass fuels, such as compressed sawdust logs made from recycled wood waste, which diverts materials from landfills.

Plus, carbon-neutral fuel options are available, such as ethanol or bioethanol, which are made from renewable resources like sugarcane and corn. They only release the same amount of carbon dioxide that the plants absorbed during their growth, and they don’t produce smoke, soot or ash.

If you choose to use a fire pit, only keep it burning for as long as you really need it, to reduce any environmental impact.


6. Plant your garden with food and flowers

Planting a garden takes a little more long-term planning, but pots are an easy way to change up a garden. If you rent, you can’t often change much about the garden space, but if you end up moving, you can take your pots with you.

How satisfying would it be to grow your own vegetables, and use them in your summer meals? If you’re limited on space, try planting climbing plants, like beans, cucumbers and squash.

Growing flowering plants is also great for bees and other pollinating insects, which are so important for biodiversity and the health of the entire planet.

“Pollinators allow plants to fruit, set seed and breed. This in turn provides food and habitat for a range of other creatures.”

Friends of the Earth

Plus, if you’re growing flowers, you could pick a few to decorate the table in a colourful hand-painted vase, which will tie your tablescape in with the rest of your garden.


Cucumbers growing in a garden
Photo by Kelly Neil on Unsplash

7. Shop second hand wherever possible

It’s pretty much always better to buy second hand than new (both for the planet and your purse) and it’s easier than ever to do so.

Charity shops stock a wonderful array of things ideal for home and garden, and many towns and cities have second hand furniture shops and reclamation centres.

As well as shops, there are multiple online marketplaces like Gumtree, Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace. You can always find garden furniture and accessories available to buy (and sometimes even for free!).

If you’re buying from an online marketplace, make sure you see and test the item in person before buying, to avoid any disappointment.


We cannot wait for the sun to come back so that we can start dining outside again, socialising with friends and family, and laughing long into those warm, summer evenings…

For more sustainable and ethical guides, have a browse of our Karakorum blog.

About Karakorum

Based in the beautiful Cotswolds, Karakorum is an ethical home decor brand that focuses on creating social change one fair trade item at a time.

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