By Elizah Leigh on July 25, 2012

Shelving and storage, oh my! Did you know you can take old scrap pieces and recycle them into beautiful shelves and storage units?

One-stop organizational havens such as IKEA and The Container Store have some sort of magical power over people, and at least on the surface, our fierce loyalty seems justified. The reason is pretty simple. No matter what, these palaces of possession perfection always seem to know precisely what the chronically storage-perplexed population can’t live without.

Glossy, quadruple-tiered shelves are a perennial favorite, as are texturally alluring and infinitely stackable cubbies, but those items, while tried and true, pale in comparison to such mind-blowing, can’t-possibly-live-without-‘em innovations like highly customized corrals for our assorted cupcake sprinkles or day-of-the-week pet collars.

There is no doubt that amid their incredibly well-lit and spacious aisles, we are repeatedly asking ourselves how we managed to get by so long without a miniature fruit leather-drying rack or alphabetized energy bar caddy. Unfortunately, but by the time we navigate the 10,000 square feet of storage space, our shopping carts typically runneth over while our credit cards take a beating.

You know where this is going. Make that brilliant shelving unit yourself and chances are excellent that you will spend significantly less than a brick-and-mortar store retail price. Up the ante by using scavenged materials, and before you know it, you will be able to duplicate that storage idea you ogled at IKEA for nothing more than the cost of your sweat equity.

Oh, except that the ideas below are way cooler than what you would find at a big-box shop, not only in regard to the design concept, but also the eco-execution. Instead of your shelf being made out of VOC-laden pressurized particleboard treated with 16 potentially carcinogenic fire-retarding chemicals, it will rock a reincarnated glow made even more notable by the fact that it will be as unique as your own individual fingerprint.

recycled shelves

Make a wall-mounted shelf out of...

Make a freestanding shelf out of...

Reclaimed glass wine bottles and wooden boards

An old barn door or a conventional door cut in half and clamped at a 90-degree angle

A recycled wooden cable spool

Painted wooden boards separated with reclaimed tree branch ‘spacers’

Old skateboards

Window shutters

A ladder — modify it with wooden boards and wire crates for extra storage potential

A bookshelf… made of books (You can create a wall-mounted version as well.)

A vintage whiskey barrel

Recycled plastic container "cubby holes" embedded in rigid polyurethane resin

An upcycled vintage produce box mounted on casters

An old dresser fitted with vintage suitcases

Several stacked computer monitors or televisions; a solo TV will also work wonders

About the author

Elizah Leigh is an eco-inspired wordsmith capable of captivating readers in just the right manner to facilitate subliminal greenlightenment. If it hasn’t yet happened to you, dear reader, don’t worry... it soon will. She believes that walking on the green side of life isn’t so much about random actions like recycling household materials and eschewing bottled water as it really should be about committing to long-term lifestyle changes that naturally become effortless the more frequently they are practiced — and believe it or not, if you’re looking at the world through green-colored glasses, it’s never a chore.

Working as an eco-journalist for a number of online venues, including Ecorazzi, WebEcoist, WebUrbanist and Causecast, this self-confessed eager greenie and knowledge hound has become deeply entrenched in the world of green living and makes a conscious effort at all times to practice exactly what she preaches. Elizah feels that no one is an "expert" in this field as long as they continue to keep an open mind by acquiring new eco-feathers in their cap — something that she aspires to do with each new article that she authors.

Extremely passionate about greening perspectives as well as lifestyles one carefully selected word at a time, this eco-writer feels privileged to add the 1-800-RECYCLING audience to her increasingly expanding network of green-minded readers. When she’s not tweeting her ever-lovin’ greenie heart out or adding new eco-themed articles to her portfolio, she can be found frolicking outside or shooting the breeze with her menagerie of impossibly needy geriatric felines.

As for what Elizah hopes to bring to 1-800-RECYCLING? Believe it or not, she is convinced that we are all capable of carving out individual and collective legacies in which caring enough about what we do while we walk this earth ensures that future generations enjoy the same basic privileges that we currently do. Can collections of carefully crafted environmentally themed words help facilitate this lofty plan for eco-friendly ah-ha! inspiration? Stranger things have been done to honor Mother Nature. For now, that’s her eager greenie goal, and she’s definitely sticking to it.

Learn more about Elizah Leigh


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