The 8 Best Sustainable Bookshelves of 2021

Keep your library and environment flourishing.

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The Rundown
Floyd’s customizable shelving system is meant to work in any space, no matter the size, and moved easily.
Teak wood is durable by nature, and resistant to moisture, rot, decay, warping, and cracking.
Beautiful walnut wood combines with joinery to create a bookshelf that can be passed down from generation to generation.
Smaller spaces still deserve attention, and this funky bookcase is sure to wow with its varying sizes of nooks.
These bookshelves are great for filling up large walls in offices, living rooms, and even retail spaces.
Let kids showcase their favorite books on this display shelf that makes it easy to see all of their reading choices.
Whether you want a small bookshelf for a tiny space or enough shelving to fill up a large wall, Burrow has you covered.
Best Upcycled:
Chairish at Chairish.com
Chairish offers luxury, vintage, antique, and contemporary upcycled pieces of furniture, including numerous bookshelves.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 alone almost 10 million tons of furniture ended up in landfills, with wood being the largest material category. That’s about five times the amount of furniture that ended up in landfills in the 1960s.

The reason? Fast furniture, which has similar environmental issues like fast fashion: toxic chemicals, cheap materials, and unfair labor wages in overseas factories. Unfortunately, lots of furniture produced today isn’t made the same as it was decades ago. Companies rely on flimsy, cheaper materials and don’t worry about environmental effects, which makes products cheaper on the marketplace. When something gets broken or is too inconvenient to move, many people simply throw out used furniture and buy new, contributing to the endless cycle of fast furniture. 

Bookcases and bookshelves are unfortunately one of those furniture items often thrown out. Commonly tossed from dorm rooms and apartments when moving, bookshelves often don’t get thought of as a valuable item of furniture, unfortunately. But there are numerous eco-friendly bookshelf and bookcase options on the market that are worthy of taking with you through moves and throughout life.

Here, the best sustainable bookshelves.

Best Overall: Floyd The Shelving System

The Floyd Shelving System

Tall, short, narrow, or wide, Floyd’s customizable shelving system is meant to work in any space, no matter the size. Floyd designed this shelving system to be moved from place to place, with a tasteful look that won’t go out of style in a few years.

The pieces are serviceable and manufactured in the United States, making it easy for customers to replace parts over time, with no pegs, screws, or tools. Shelves are constructed of durable, scratch-resistant powder-coated steel, and the wooden components are birch plywood with an FSC-certified walnut veneer. Each shelf can support up to 65 pounds, and is easy to adjust in case you want to rearrange the look of your bookshelf.

By 2025, the company aims to launch a resale and refurbishment program to extend the life of products even further. Its other sustainability goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ensure that 70% of materials comes from recycled or renewable resources, eliminate single-use plastics and minimize packing materials, and use 100% FSC-certified wood across all products.

Best Budget: Viva Terra Recycled Golden Teak Takara Column Shelves & Ladder

Viva Terra Recycled Golden Teak Takara Column Shelves & Ladder

Made in Thailand from recycled golden teak wood, these vertical shelves work well in smaller spaces like offices, and allow users to display colorful book spines and tchotchkes for a modern, simple look.

Teak wood is durable by nature, and resistant to moisture, rot, decay, warping, and cracking. Viva Terra’s teak wood is sourced sustainably from either regulated plantations where restrictions are enforced to control harvest rates, or sourced by reclaiming and recycling existing teak. Mounting hardware is included. Add on the teak ladder if you wish for additional space to display magazines, newspapers, or even blankets and decorative throws.

Best Splurge: Alabama Sawyer Walker Bookcase

Alabama Sawyer Walker Bookcase

Beautiful walnut wood combines with joinery to create a bookshelf that can be passed down from generation to generation. The simple design means this bookshelf looks great in any space with any style of decor from modern to rustic.

Alabama Sawyer’s wood comes from fallen trees in the Birmingham, Alabama area, and the company diverts hundreds of logs from landfills by transforming them into beautiful pieces of furniture. Saving trees that are heading to landfills (treecycling) keeps them from releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change.

The company even has a Tree Concierge Program, where they will take logs off your hands, mill them at the tree facility, and process them into furniture.

Best for Small Spaces: ABC Carpet & Home Invisi 7-Shelving

Invisi 7-Shelving

Smaller spaces still deserve attention, and this funky floating bookshelf is sure to wow with its varying sizes of nooks. It measures 39 x 6 x 37 inches, so it's shallow depth makes it a good fit it all kinds of narrow spaces. It works equally well in a snug bedroom or small kitchen.

It's made in Italy from recycled steel and finished with powder coating, so it's sturdy and will last. When it's time to move, just unscrew it from the wall, and pack it up.

Best for Large Rooms: UrbanWoodGoods Custom Solid Reclaimed Wood Bookshelves & TV Media Stand

UrbanWoodGoods Custom Solid Reclaimed Wood Bookshelves & TV Media Stand

Whether you want to mount it on the wall or have it free standing, these bookshelves from UrbanWoodGoods are great for making the most of large walls in offices, living rooms, and even retail spaces. They’re made from old-growth, reclaimed timber planks (walnut, barnwood, etc.) that come from deconstructed century-old homes and buildings in the Chicago area, and are held together with hand-welded steel shelves.

The bookshelves can be made to spec for your specific space, with multiple stain options, wood types, and custom bracket colors. The industrial, raw look of these bookshelves work great in numerous decor styles and are a great statement piece for larger spaces.

Best for Kids: Lexico Book Display Shelf

Lexico Book Display Shelf

Let kids showcase their favorite books on this display shelf that makes it easy to see all of their reading choices. The angled shelves keep books in place, which making them easy to access. The second shelf is adjustable to fit varying sizes of books, and the shelf has easy assembly with no tools necessary and a wall-anchoring kit.

The shelf is made in the United States with Baltic birch wood, which is a plywood product made of birch veneers sourced from the northeastern region of Europe around the Baltic Sea. Baltic birch is strong, lightweight, crack- and warp resistant, and appealing in look and feel. All Baltic birch that this company uses is CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant. CARB regulates the emissions of some chemicals in composite wood products such as Baltic birch, and all Baltic birch used here complies with or exceeds standards. Clear or natural finishes are made with a non-VOC, UV-cured finish.

Best Flexible: Burrow Index Wall Shelf

Burrow Index Wall Shelf

Whether you want a small bookshelf for a tiny space or enough shelving to fill up a large wall, Burrow has you covered. Start out with the smallest option, three shelves, and build it however big you want with ease. The frames of these shelves can go in the outer position for solo or vertical arrangements, or the inner position to accommodate a larger, horizontal arrangement.

Wood here is milled from all-natural, sustainably forested solid ash. The shelves include all the hardware you need, including a template poster that makes mounting easy. Burrow also plants trees to restore all wood used. Each shelf can hold 30 pounds each, which means you can stock quite the library on these bad boys.

Best Upcycled: Chairish

Chairish Regency Style Mahogany Tiered Bookshelf

Of course, one of the most eco-friendly ways to shop is to shop for upcycled and recycled items. Chairish offers luxury, vintage, antique, and contemporary upcycled pieces of furniture, including numerous bookshelves up for grabs. More than 2,000 expertly selected items are added every day, carefully curated by a select team of experts.

Chairish also connects more than 10,000 small businesses, artists, and makers with design gurus from around the world, and since it began, Chairish has kept almost half a million upcycled items in circulation, which in turn extends the life of already-made items and keeps them out of landfills.

Final Verdict

We love Floyd for its versatility and sustainable features (view at Floyd). The basic yet tasteful design means the bookshelves work great in practically any space, and the customizable sizing means you can constantly redesign your living spaces and add additional shelving as needed. We also really like Chairish for providing upcycled shelving, as anything upcycled is a great move away from fast furniture, and continues the life of already existing great pieces of furniture (view at Chairish).

What to Look For in a Sustainable Bookshelf

FSC Certified Wood

When choosing shelving made from wood, opt for wood that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. FSC-certified wood comes from products from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. FSC provides a base for forest management standards globally, which ensures that you know your products have the eco-friendly approval stamp. 

Sustainably-Certified Finishes

Be sure to check that any veneers, glosses, paints, and finishes are non-toxic, sustainable, and/or eco-friendly. Some finishes contain harmful chemicals that emit VOCs (volatime organic compounds) that can harm indoor air quality for workers and even in homes after the furniture is in place. 

Recycled and Upcycled Materials

Any materials that are being used again are a win for the environment, as it’s keeping new products from being made. Reclaimed and reused wood such as barnwood or wood from already existing pieces of furniture is great. Other materials like upcycled metal and steel are also good. 

Why Trust Treehugger?

Treehugger is committed to helping our readers reduce the environmental impact of their day-to-day lives. Author Amanda Ogle is a veteran reporter who loves writing about sustainability and believes it is important that we all strive to be as environmentally friendly as we can. She enjoys giving readers an honest idea of where to buy sustainable products that make a difference in our environment.