I usually consider a product’s environmental impact and how safe the materials are for my health before every purchase, so I’m super excited to share this bookshelf from Way Basics with everyone!

A little background first: I did a term of AmeriCorps service with Habitat for Humanity International where I designed a workshop and wrote + produced an accompanying documentary on sustainable/green living for low-income homeowners. The workshop covered a lot of information, but decreasing VOC exposure in the home was one of my main priorities. (If you’re not sure what VOCs are, check out the info here).

I’m concerned about the air quality in my own house for health reasons, so I avoid composite wood or that MDF stuff a lot of shelves are made of because I spend so much time next to my books. So far, most of my bookshelves are made entirely of metal (I think they were meant to be some kind of industrial shelving, but they don’t look too bad once the books are on them). Aside from metal, some other safer options are solid wood or used shelves that have been allowed to outgas for a long time.

In my search for a nontoxic bookshelf, I remember coming across Way Basics and bookmarking them for future reference. Their products hit every single requirement I was looking for: they’re easy to assemble, VOC-free, nontoxic, eco-friendly, and free of formaldehyde (which was the biggest selling point for me). The shelves are made from post-consumer recycled paper, which means the manufacturing process consumes fewer resources and less water (freshwater conservation is super important to me as well). And you can recycle the shelves instead of throwing them away whenever you’re done. Plus, Way Basics is a carbon neutral brand.

So I was pretty excited when Way Basics let me pick out a shelf! Their customer service reps are seriously some of the friendliest, most helpful ones I’ve ever talked to, by the way. I’ve seen their shelves at Target and Bed Bath & Beyond, but I’d recommend contacting the company if you have any questions. I ended up going with the Madison bookcase:

The shelves were surprisingly easy to put together, too! (Ok, fine. I didn’t assemble them… my dad did. BUT those were his thoughts). There’s some kind of 3M tape on the edges you just peel off and then you stick another side with pegs on it into the tape/hole edge. I was a bit worried the shelf would be wobbly or not hold a lot of weight since it’s made of recycled paper, but it was surprisingly sturdy.


I wanted to keep this post short, but if you have any questions about sustainable living or anything along those lines, feel free to message me or leave a comment below! (I know this is a book blog, but most of my knowledge base is in political theory and sustainability so I’m loving this chance to geek out about one of those along with books).

I was sent this product in exchange for an honest review/post.


10 comments on “Healthier Bookshelf Options”

  1. This is so awesome!! To be honest I never thought about the potential for bookshelves to contain toxic materials…yikes! I would also be skeptical of a recycled paper bookcase but it looks quite sturdy. Your aesthetic is lovely!

    • Thank you! Yeah it’s something to look into I guess… and it definitely was surprisingly sturdy!!

  2. I love love love this shelf and the way you have it styled! So gorgeous! I try to buy healthier options as well, but I haven’t thought much about bookshelves. I’m going to look into this company.

    • Thanks so much! Yeah, I was super impressed with the shelf — hope you find something you like! 🙂

  3. I never even thought of this aspect and I have several health issues! Good to know – going to save this for someday when I need to build my massive library!

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