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8 Sustainable Bookshelves Every Eco-Conscious Reader Will Love

Looking for ways to store your books and show off your love of reading and the environment? Here's why eco-friendly shelves are a must-have for any bookworm.
8 Sustainable Bookshelves Every Eco-Conscious Reader Will Love
Image by Medley

This Article is 100% Organic: Written and Researched by Real Humans.

Houston, we’ve got a fast furniture problem. No, your bookshelf isn’t sprinting out the door, but it may be destined for the landfill if you don’t choose wisely.

Every single year, Americans throw out more than 12 million tons of furniture, contributing to mountains of solid waste that have grown 450% since 1960. According to the EPA, this represents about 5% of all materials sent to landfills, a significant proportion considering the volume of other waste like food and packaging materials. 

Who’s throwing away these precious holders of literary classics? College students moving dorms,  people looking to ditch the wobbly cupboard instead of repair, and those who just easily tire of a particular aesthetic. Time to start looking at more sustainable furniture brands

Eco-friendly reading isn’t just a trend; it’s a chapter in the larger narrative of sustainable living. Planet forward furniture, from eco friendly side tables to sustainably made coffee tables, represents hope that our bookcases can stick around longer using renewable wood, circular materials, and non-toxic finishes. 

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Zestain's Top Picks

How We Choose These Eco-Friendly Bookshelves

To make the Zestain list of the most eco-conscious bookshelves, those on our list needed to pass an all-around sustainability check. 

We appreciate that every brand can’t do it all – certifications, non–toxic finishes, reclaimed materials, and zero emissions in production. So, instead, we chose companies that are doing it with purpose, striving to tick as many boxes as possible while promising to keep doing better where they can. 

We also made sure they passed the “taste” test as a piece of furniture with timeless appeal and durability because, after all, half the game of sustainability is keeping our furniture around for as long as possible. 

Full List of Sustainable Bookshelves

Iris Three Tier Shelf
Image by Medley
Best Space Conscious

Medley: Iris Three Tier Shelf

  • Sustainability: FSC Certified, Plant Based Finishes
  • Pricepoint: $$$

The founders of Medley like to say, “ Your living space isn’t just your sanctuary—it’s a little ecosystem.” The Iris Three Tier Shelf perfectly blends this ethos with timeless natural simplicity.

We also love the flexibility of a choice between the lighter FSC Certified White Maple or darker, more statement-making American Walnut. The finish used is a plant-based, hard wax oil wood finish that is odorless, 0% VOC, and water and heat-resistant, further underlining Medley’s dedication to eco-friendly practices. 

Another reason for adding this gem to our list? It’s a great space-saving option for small rooms like offices or studio apartments. Its slim profile can tuck neatly into corners or against walls, offering versatile storage options without overwhelming your room.

Z Rack Shelf
Image by Urban Natural
Most Modern

Urban Natural/Ethnicraft: Z Rack

  • Sustainability: FSC Certified, BIFMA Approved (North American Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association), Natural Finishes
  • Pricepoint: $$$$

It’s not just a bookshelf; it’s a sculptural work of art! The Ethnicraft Z Rack is perfect for the first home buyer who wants to start out with modern, well-crafted, and sustainable furnishings. Designed by Alain van Havre, they assure you that sustainability doesn’t mean compromising on design. 

We love this bookcase’s unique look, characterized by a series of honeycomb-style nooks. Its abstract column design is crafted from 100% solid oak or black-tainted solid teak, offering versatility to complement various interior design styles.

The Z Rack’s real sustainable advantage lies in its materials. Ethnicraft has a long-standing commitment to creating solid wood furniture that tells a story, with over 25 years of experience in the industry. This bookcase is made from responsibly sourced, FSC®-certified wood derived from responsibly maintained forests.

In terms of durability, Ethnicraft’s strong wood is not only responsible but also robust. The solid European Oak used in the Z Rack is known for its strength and longevity, ensuring that this piece will withstand the test of time.

Rainbow City Cubes
Image by Alasaw
Best for Kids Rooms

Alasaw: Rainbow City Cubes

  • Sustainability: Treecycling, Tree Concierge Program
  • Pricepoint: $$$

We’ve added the beautiful and versatile Rainbow City Cubes from Alabama Sawyer are an ideal eco-friendly addition to any kid’s space. Brass pins paired with colorful combinations of finishes are perfect for creating a room divider or stacking and fitting into any space. 

Crafted from urban wood, which involves repurposing trees from the Birmingham, Alabama area that have been removed from urban areas due to disease, construction, or wind damage. Saving trees that are heading to landfills, “treecycling”, keeps them from releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change!

Alasaw even has a “Tree Concierge Program,” where they will take your fallen lumber, mill it at the tree facility, and process it into furniture.

The cubes are also finished with non-toxic, durable finishes, ensuring they are safe for children and resilient to daily use’s wear and tear. 

Maderas Shelf
Image by MasayaCo
Best Social Impact

MasayaCo Maderas Shelf

  • Sustainability: Sustainably harvested wood, planted over 1.2 million trees to date
  • Pricepoint: $$$

MasayaCo Maderas Shelf makes an impressive statement not just in design but also in its ethical and sustainable practices. Handcrafted from 100% sustainably sourced hardwood, this piece serves as more than just a functional shelf—it’s a testament to what conscious manufacturing should look like. 

Its design manages to blend modern aesthetics with traditional artisan techniques beautifully, and that’s a balance not easily achieved. The hospitality-grade construction makes it not just a residential choice but also a viable option for commercial spaces, adding to its versatility.

From materials to supply chain, MasayaCo has integrated responsible practices at every level. Their Seed to Seat business model is exemplary, focusing on reforesting lands while supporting local artisans in Nicaragua. 

The company has planted over 1.2 million trees to date, a direct and substantial contribution to environmental restoration. And if you’re a stickler for details, they have a commendable transparency about their materials, featuring responsibly harvested wood like Teak and Royal Mahogany, finished with low-VOC natural oil.

For those looking to make both a style statement and a positive impact, the Maderas Shelf from MasayaCo offers an enticing package.

Nara Ash Collection
Image by Numi
Most Luxury
Best Modular

Numi: Nara Ash Collection

  • Sustainability: FSC Certified, Eco Solvent Finishes
  • Pricepoint: $-$$$

We’re adding Numi’s entire Nara Ash Collection for its modular appeal combined with a decidedly eco-friendly approach. It’s the perfect unit to start with and add on as your space expands. 

This collection of chic mix and match bookshelves is the epitome of planet-friendly sophistication. Each piece in this collection, from the single unit to the 16-unit modular shelf, exudes a minimalist charm that can effortlessly elevate any space while simultaneously promoting sustainability.

The bookcases are crafted from sustainably sourced FSC-Certified Nara Ash plywood, demonstrating Numi Studio’s commitment to reducing deforestation and promoting responsible consumption. 

One of the stand-out features of these bookcases is their finish. This collection uses non-toxic finishes, which render a sleek, modern aesthetic and contribute to healthier indoor air quality. 

Beyond the product itself, Numi Studio’s dedication to advancing the eco-friendly furniture movement is notable. They offer transparency in their operations, and their commitment to sustainability is evident in their shipping practices, where they offer free shipping on every order, reducing the carbon footprint associated with multiple deliveries.

Volume Floating Shelves
Image by West Elm
Best Space Saver

West Elm: Volume Floating Shelves

  • Sustainability: Sustainably sourced wood, Fair Trade
  • Pricepoint: $-$$

Looking for a piece of furniture that ticks all the boxes for sustainability, practicality, and style? Well, you’ve hit the jackpot with this one. 

Crafted from eco-friendly materials, West Elm’s rustic and coastal feeling Volume Floating Shelves are the perfect choice for a room that doesn’t have much floor space, as they instead can be anchored to your wall in a stacked or staggered setup. This makes it a wonderfully versatile option. Whether your room is big or small, this item fits just right, adding charm without clutter. 

West Elm also goes the extra mile to ensure ethical production practices and was one of the first-ever home retailers to join Fair Trade USA, ensuring workers fair wages, healthy working conditions, and community development.

Atlas Shelving Collection
Image by Inside Weather
Best Customisable

Inside Weather: Atlas Shelving Collection

  • Sustainability: FSC-Certified wood, low-impact shipments, Two Trees Planted Program
  • Pricepoint: $$-$$$

Inside Weather’s Atlas Shelving Collection is not just one but multiple units that are both sustainably made and incredibly easy to meld into any existing design. Their signature plywood is FSC-certified & topped with an eco-solvent finish, making the materials sleek and earth-friendly. 

One of the key design features of the Atlas Collection is its versatility. The collection is customizable, allowing customers to create their dream piece by selecting the height, width, shelf configuration, wood finish, and number of shelves. 

Inside Weather is a great example of a company going beyond the product description. They use upcycled plastic water bottles in their furniture, contributing to waste reduction and promoting circular economy principles and biodegradable packaging, further reducing the environmental impact of their products in the supply chain. 

Mammy Wooden Sustainable Shelf
Image by Forest Home Store
Best Overall

Forest Home Store: Mammy Wooden Shelf

  • Sustainability: Carbon Neutral, FSC Certified, and Greenguard Certified
  • Pricepoint: $$

The Mammy Wooden Shelf is pulling double duty as a cube system that can also be used as a side table! Made from Solid Oak, this shelf not only offers a sturdy place for your books and trinkets but also represents the rigorous sustainable standards backed by labels such as FSC, OEKO-TEX, ECOLOGO, and GreenGuard certifications.

Its earthy style adds a touch of nature to your space. Its compact size makes it a versatile piece that can fit in any room, whether you want to display your favorite novels in the living room or need extra storage in your home office. It’s a stylish, practical, and green solution for your shelving needs. 

Forest Home also leans into biophilic design – an approach that seeks to connect humans more closely to nature. Biophilic-designed furnishings incorporate things like natural landscape features in their creation and have been scientifically shown to improve human health!

Comparing Sustainable Bookshelves

ProductPriceSustainabilityOur Pick For
Iris Three Tier Shelf
Medley: Iris Three Tier Shelf
$$$FSC Certified, Plant Based FinishesBest Space Conscious
Z Rack Shelf
Urban Natural/Ethnicraft: Z Rack
$$$$FSC Certified, BIFMA Approved (North American Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association), Natural FinishesMost Modern
Rainbow City Cubes
Alasaw: Rainbow City Cubes
$$$Treecycling, Tree Concierge ProgramBest for Kids Rooms
Maderas Shelf
MasayaCo. Maderas Shelf
$$$Sustainably harvested wood, planted over 1.2 million trees to date.Best Social Impact
Nara Ash Collection
Numi: Nara Ash Collection
$-$$$FSC Certified, Eco Solvent FinishesMost Luxury, Best Modular
Volume Floating Shelves
West Elm: Volume Floating Shelves
$-$$$Sustainably sourced wood, Fair TradeBest Space Saver
Atlas Shelving Collection
Inside Weather: Atlas Shelving Collection
$$-$$$FSC-Certified wood, low-impact shipments, Two Trees Planted ProgramBest Customisable
Mammy Wooden Shelf
Forest Home Store: Mammy Wooden Shelf
$$Carbon Neutral, FSC Certified, and Greenguard CertifiedBest Overall

Make Your Own Sustainable Bookshelf

Crafting your own sustainable bookshelf can be an impactful and rewarding project. Working with mills or even your own naturally felled trees can be your first step into circularity. 

  1. Start by choosing circular or forest-friendly materials like reclaimed wood from another piece of furniture that’s seen its last days or from a local mill.
  2. Grab a bookshelf plan from WoodCraft Designs on Etsy or This Old House and round up your tools and supplies.
  3. Fill it with second-hand books from your local thrift store or library sale!

What Makes a Bookshelf Sustainable?

So how do you know if your bookshelf purchase is going towards a better world or contributing to a fast furniture problem? Make sure your purchase checks these boxes! 

Material Selection
Look for bookshelves made from eco-friendly materials like bamboo, reclaimed wood, or sustainably sourced solid wood. Companies like Ekohunters, Medley, and Sabai offer a variety of options backed by certifications.

Upcycled Options
Many creative artisans on platforms like Etsy make custom shelves from upcycled materials. These pieces are unique and give a second life to materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill!

Ensure the bookshelf is made with non-toxic paints and finishes. Companies like Medley and Alasaw emphasize using all-natural, non-toxic finishes on their solid wood bookcases.

Sustainable Forestry Products
Look for companies that offer bookcases and bookshelves that are Forest Stewardship Council Certified. This means the wood is sourced from forests that are managed responsibly.

How to Know if a Bookshelf is Non-Toxic?

Bookshelves, toxic? Unfortunately, modern production of furniture can include some not so great toxic components. When shopping for a non-toxic bookshelf, there are several factors to consider. 

First and foremost, prioritize solid wood options over manufactured ones, as the latter can contain harmful chemicals like formaldehyde used in the gluing process. Check for certifications such as GREENGUARD, which guarantee low chemical emissions.

Opt for bookshelves that have natural finishes, using oils or waxes rather than conventional varnishes and paints. The U.S. Green Building Council reports off-gassing of oil-based finishes can last for months or even years.

Be aware that labels like “Danish oil” or “tung oil” often contain synthetic resins or solvents. Look for zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in glues, as these compounds are often present in the adhesives used in furniture construction.

Make Your Reading Eco Friendly with a Sustainable Bookshelf

Embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle extends beyond reusable shopping bags and electric cars; it can also infiltrate your cozy reading nooks! 

By choosing a sustainable bookshelf, you’re not just providing a home for your treasured novels; you’re opening a chapter into long-term planet-friendly purchases. These bookshelves, crafted from sustainably sourced wood, upcycled materials, and non-toxic finishes, reduce deforestation and improve healthier indoor air quality. With every turn of a page on your sustainable bookshelf, you’re not just diving into another world but also helping preserve ours!

Alyson Lundstrom

Alyson Lundstrom

Born in the Pacific Northwest, Alyson is a recovering nomad with a degree in Environmental Science. She has had professional lives as a marine biologist, eco-entrepreneur, and community sustainability leader in the Caribbean, China, Mexico, and currently the less exotic, but always green, Washington State. She currently covers movements, brands, and humans as they pursue the elusive quadruple bottom line of people, profit, planet, and purpose.
Alyson Lundstrom

Alyson Lundstrom

Born in the Pacific Northwest, Alyson is a recovering nomad with a degree in Environmental Science. She has had professional lives as a marine biologist, eco-entrepreneur, and community sustainability leader in the Caribbean, China, Mexico, and currently the less exotic, but always green, Washington State. She currently covers movements, brands, and humans as they pursue the elusive quadruple bottom line of people, profit, planet, and purpose.

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