Rattan is part of the plant family of the Arecaceae. It is a close relative of the palm tree; it is a type of rapid growth vine. It is originally from the tropical jungles of Africa, Asia and Australia but it predominantly grows in Indonesia, in the jungles of Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Sumatra.
The main reason why rattan is used so much is due to its strength, it is one of the strongest woods and can grow as high as 30 meters. Unlike, bamboo, rattan has a solid core which makes it very durable and hard to break. In addition, it will not break and split, it is very flexible and ideal for making furniture, baskets, and decorative works.
But, back to our main concern… is rattan furniture and home decor eco-friendly? YES IT IS! When it comes to naturally sourced materials rattan is one of the safest from an environmental point of view; it is, in itself, easily renewable and the impact of its sourcing can be considered close to zero. In fact, rather than harm, it is considered to benefit the environment as it is used to replace other types of wood.
Moreover, according to the WWF the harvesting of rattan provides alternatives to timber in areas where forests are scarce and, indirectly, as a result of planting rattan it protects tree cover along with forests.
Something important to have in mind, when looking for materials, is if the forests where they are harvested from are FSC certified (the Forest Stewardship Council is an international NGO, established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests, it sets standards on forest products and certifies them as eco-friendly). Unfortunately, there aren’t any FSC certified forests of rattan in Indonesia at the moment, which means that the prices paid to rattan harvesters in Indonesia are a little lower that they should be.