From Earth911's Mary Mazzoni:

Pallets, those ubiquotous platforms used to ship everything from food to construction materials, are one of the most common waste products in American industry. About 40 percent of all hardwood harvested in the U.S. is used for pallets, and about 20 percent of all wood waste in U.S. landfills is from tossed pallets, according to research conducted by the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products at Virginia Tech University. Add wooden crates used to ship products like wine, bread and produce to the mix, and you're talking about a whole lot of wood waste.

To reduce wood use, many companies are turning to pallets and shipping crates made from other materials such as plastic, metal and even cardboard. Others offer take-back programs for used pallets to make recycling easier, but a staggering amount of pallets and shipping crates still find their way into American landfills each year. Luckily, unwanted pallets and shipping crates are often offered up by businesses at little or no cost - making them a great source of low-cost, high-quality wood for home decor projects.

So, add something new to your reuse repertoire, and "rescue" unwanted pallets and shipping crates from businesses in your area for use in new furniture, garden accessories, storage solutions and more - saving you money and making use of something that would have otherwise gone to waste. To get you started, Earth911 assembled this list of 12 cool household items you can make from used pallets and shipping crates - no matter what your level of handiness. Not sure how to source your pallets and crates? Scroll through to the end of our slideshow for tips.

List, captions and photos courtesy of Earth911

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  • Outdoor Sofa

    When she was redesigning her patio, Jaime Morrison Curtis wanted to add a place to sleep outside with her daughter and a sofa to relax on with friends. But the <a href="http://prudentbaby.com/">Prudent Baby</a> contributor didn't have the cash to invest in a fancy new piece of outdoor furniture, so she decided to make her own. Made mostly from pallets, pipes and a twin mattress, this pretty outdoor sofa and daybed may look tricky to make, but Morrison Curtis insists it's simpler than you'd think. "I built this myself, with no help at all, in just a few days," Morrison Curtis <a href="http://prudentbaby.com/2011/07/prudent-home/how-to-build-a-pallet-daybed-2/">said of the project</a>. "I'm a crafty person and comfortable with tools, but I'm not an advanced woodworker by any stretch of the imagination." "This project was simple enough for me, so I know you can do it if you want to," the blogger continued confidently. To get started, gather up your materials, and head to Prudent Baby for a detailed <a href="http://prudentbaby.com/2011/07/prudent-home/how-to-build-a-pallet-daybed-2/">photo tutorial</a> that will guide you through every step in the process.

  • Succulent Table

    Looking for a unique way to spice up the backyard? Take a page from green-thumbed couple Matti and Megan's book and try constructing a "living" piece of furniture with old pallets. Using nothing but pallets and four junked table legs, the <a href="http://www.faroutflora.com/">Far Out Flora </a>bloggers created an eye-catching outdoor table with a removable center section for succulents. The process may seem tricky, but the plant-loving twosome's <a href="http://www.faroutflora.com/2011/06/04/diy-succulent-pallet-table/">detailed tutorial</a> makes it look surprisingly easy - even if you're not the best with a hammer and drill. Once you've constructed your table, choose a few of your favorite plants, and watch new life grow from old throw-aways. Tip: Taking your pallets apart will probably be the trickiest part of the job. So, start with a few pallets to factor in a bit of board-breaking and trial-and-error. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/08/15/photos-reused-planter-ideas/">Recycle in the Garden: PHOTOS: Rad Reused Planter Ideas</a>

  • Flower Box

    Add some recycled charm to your tablescape with this gorgeous flower box made from reclaimed pallet wood. Dreamed up by <a href="http://camelotartcreations.blogspot.com/">Camelot Art Creations</a> blogger <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Camelot-Art-Creations/146552790831">Desiree Guy</a>, this project is perfect for the not-so-handy crafter who is still looking to repurpose some pallets and add a new home accent on the cheap. After disassembling her pallets, Guy completed this pretty project in less than 20 minutes (not counting painting time). Head to her<a href="http://camelotartcreations.blogspot.com/2012/07/diy-pallet-flower-box-tutorial.html#.UFitH41lRD1"> tutorial </a>at Camelot Art Creations, complete with step-by-step instructions and stunning photos, to find out how she did it. Tip: Keep your flower box indoors, or use brackets to attach it to an exterior window sill. Once you've attached your pallet window box, fill it with small potted plants for a cheery fall look. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/09/05/diy-hanging-k-cup-planters/">Get Creative: Eco-Friendly DIY: Hanging K-Cup Planters</a>

  • Kids Crafting Table

    Share the joy of reuse with your little ones with a fun kids crafting table made from used pallets. Not sure how to make your DIY dreams a reality? Check out this <a href="http://vintagemellie.blogspot.com/2012/01/kids-pallet-table.html">tutorial</a> from Melissa Urban, who blogs about her upcycling adventures at <a href="http://vintagemellie.blogspot.com/">Shabby Love</a>. Made from four deck spindles and a stack of reclaimed pallet wood, Urban's cute crafting table is perfect for her 2-year-old's creative art projects. And with a few coats of paint and stain, the little table made a perfect match for the crafty mom's rustic decor, too. Tip: Even if you don't have kids, you can still give this project a try at home. Just use the same method to construct a full-sized table for your dining room or a small-scale end table for the bedroom. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/08/08/lazy-day-craft-ideas-for-kids/">Reuse Fun for All Ages: Lazy-Day Craft Ideas for Kids</a>

  • Daybed

    When planning out a nursery for the newest addition to her family, photographer and <a href="http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/">Under the Sycamore</a> blogger <a href="http://ashleyannphotography.com/">Ashley Campbell</a> wanted to include a spot to read with her kids and relax on lazy afternoons. Inspired by a pallet daybed made by photographer and stylist <a href="http://blog.piajanebijkerk.com/">Pia Jane Bijkerk</a>, Campbell got to work on a kid-sized version made from reclaimed pallets and an old door. One of her young sons even got handy with the palm sander to lend his crafty mama a helping hand. To give this pretty pallet daybed a try in your own home, head to <a href="http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/2009/06/29/diy-pallet-reading-bed-for-the-nursery/">Under the Sycamore</a> for detailed instructions and stunning photos that will help you achieve a look you love. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2010/04/19/how-kids-are-saving-the-planet/">Get Inspired: How Kids Are Saving the Planet</a>

  • Pretty Storage

    Keep cluttered items organized in style while finding a good use for shipping throw-aways with painted storage boxes made from upcycled pallet wood. Inspired by painted white fruit crates at one of her favorite stores, <a href="http://frenchlarkspur.blogspot.com/">French Larkspur</a> blogger Tracey Leber decided to make her own version using pallets left over from a recent shipment from Europe. After enlisting the help of her husband to remove the boards from her pallets, the Chicago-based crafter easily assembled this simple storage box in just a few steps. Leber used her storage box for tea-time necessities in the kitchen, but feel free to use yours wherever you need a bit of organization. Check out her stunning <a href="http://frenchlarkspur.blogspot.com/2012/04/lilacs-and-salvaged-wood-projects.html">photo tutorial</a> at French Larkspur to learn how to build your own. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/08/08/diy-organization-for-the-office/">Kick Clutter the Eco Way: PHOTOS: Clutter-Banishing DIYs for the Office</a>

  • Lounge Chairs

    Why pay more for luxe and trendy Adirondack chairs when you can make your own stylish alternatives from reclaimed pallet wood? Sweden-born crafter Titti (pronounced Tee-Tee) constructed these bright-colored lounge chairs for her Texas backyard and documented it all for your DIY pleasure on her blog, <a href="http://shoestringpavilion.blogspot.com/">Shoestring Pavilion</a>. To give this project a try on your next free weekend at home, check out this detailed <a href="http://shoestringpavilion.blogspot.com/2010/06/pallet-loungers.html">tutorial</a> for tips and step-by-step instructions to guide you along the way. <em>Tip</em>: To make the chairs a bit comfier, add a few throw pillows or cushioning from a local secondhand store, and your loungers are ready for backyard bliss. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/08/27/12-ways-to-upcycle-thrifted-furniture/">Dare to DIY: 12 Ways to Upcycle Thrifted Furniture</a>

  • Pet Bed

    <a href="http://home-frosting.blogspot.com/">Home Frosting</a> blogger Lesa Maloney was getting a bit fed up with her pooch, Daisy, sleeping on the sofa. To give little Daisy a comfy place all her own, Maloney got crafty with some reclaimed wood to assemble this crate pet bed that's perfect for those mid-afternoon naps. After assembling the bed and attaching a set of castor wheels, Maloney added a cushion made from an old feather pillow to help Daisy feel comfy and at home. To give your furry friend a chic new sleeping space, check out Maloney's <a href="http://home-frosting.blogspot.com/2011/09/daisys-crate-bed.html">tutorial</a> at Home Frosting for instructions and DIY inspiration. <em>Tip</em>: Maloney made her own crate out of recycled wood to complete this project. But if you have a shipping crate on hand, such as those used to ship wine or produce, your project will be even easier. Simply detach the front board from your crate, sand down the edges and it's ready for nap-time. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/07/18/local-pet-food-options/">Did You Know?: How Your Pet Can Eat Local, Too</a>

  • Coffee Caddy

    <a href="http://cfabbridesigns.com/">Family Chic</a> blogger Camilla Fabbri was torn between tossing a stack of old clementine crates in the trash or saving them for a bit of DIY. Of course, the crafty blogger chose reuse, and she dreamed up four creative projects for her fruit crates: Chalkboard place cards, a planter, a reusable gift tag and this fun kitchen caddy for napkins, sugar and other coffee necessities. To creatively repurpose your old crates, head over to <a href="http://cfabbridesigns.com/holidays/christmas/creating-with-clementine-crates/#.UFjoYo1lRD2">Family Chic</a> for photos and step-by-step instructions detailing each of Fabbri's fab creations. Tip: You'll likely have a few odd-sized pieces left over after your fruit crate projects. Rather than tossing them in the trash, set them aside for future projects (or turn them into a fun game for the kids <a href="http://cfabbridesigns.com/holidays/christmas/creating-with-clementine-crates/#.UFjoYo1lRD2">like Fabbri did</a>) to keep your project zero-waste. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/10/24/how-to-green-your-cup-of-coffee/">Find Out: How to Green Your Cup of Coffee</a>

  • Potting Bench

    The weathered texture and color of pallet wood makes it a great fit for the garden. So, rather than pay big bucks for a potting bench for her backyard, <a href="http://bec4-beyondthepicketfence.blogspot.com/">Beyond the Picket Fence</a> blogger Becky Lamb decided to make her own from pallets and other bits of reclaimed wood. Constructed from pallets and old window sash pieces, this painted potting bench adds a rustic feel to Lamb's gardenscape - and she did it all for free with wood throw-aways. For a closer look at Lamb's pallet potting bench, head to <a href="http://bec4-beyondthepicketfence.blogspot.com/2012/03/pallet-potting.html">Beyond the Picket Fence</a> for photos and DIY inspiration. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/05/30/7-more-reused-items-to-boost-your-garden/">Gardening with Trash: 7 More Reused Items to Boost Your Garden</a>

  • Seasonal Planter

    With autumn in full swing, you may be craving a touch of warm color for your home decor. So, why not add to the rustic appeal of a seasonal vignette by transforming that old shipping crate into a planter for mums and marigolds? <a href="http://www.beneathmyheart.net/">Beneath My Heart</a> blogger Traci scored this crate at a yard sale for $1. After painting it white, aging the edges and adding a few seasonal phrases, that forgotten crate became the focal point for her fall decorations. To copy her look at home, head to Traci's <a href="http://www.beneathmyheart.net/2011/09/autumn-word-art-crate/">tutorial</a> at Beneath My Heart for photos and tips that will help you finish this project in record time. <em>Tip</em>: Don't restrict yourself to autumn fun for this one. After fall has come and gone, simply paint over your autumnal phrases and replace them with a few winter words to use your crate all year round. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2010/09/27/12-ways-to-green-your-fall/">Try Something: 12 Ways to Green Your Fall</a>

  • Rolling Storage Unit

    Using crates for storage is nothing new, but when we saw this innovative rolling storage unit made from old crates, we had to take a closer look. Dreamed up by handy Minneapolis couple <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hammers-High-Heels/129925963738379">Carla and Alex</a>, this vintage crate shelving unit is super-simple to create and will only cost you about $20. To give it a try at home, check out this <a href="http://hammersandhighheels.blogspot.com/2011/03/diy-vintage-crate-shelving-unit-and.html">tutorial</a> on their blog, <a href="http://hammersandhighheels.blogspot.com/">Hammers & High Heels</a>, for tips and tricks to help you out along the way. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/06/05/top-10-reuse-ideas-on-flickr/">Still Feeling Crafty?: Top 10 Reuse Ideas on Flickr</a>

  • Where To Find Crates And Pallets

    Saving crates and pallets from household deliveries is a great way to start collecting for your DIY projects. But if you still need a few more pallets, it shouldn't be tricky to score some on the cheap. A simple Web search with your town's name and the word "pallets" should yield a trove of pallet distributors in your area, where you can purchase new or used pallets and shipping crates for $5 or less. If purchasing from a distributor, be sure to ask for pallets that are free of chemical treatments and have not been used to ship chemically-treated items. Some small businesses in your area may also be willing to give you their unwanted pallets and crates for free. Retail outlets, construction companies and restaurants are the most likely places to find used pallets. So, give a few businesses a call to see if they'll let you take a few old pallets off their hands. Please note that pallets and crates are used to ship all kinds of things, including potentially hazardous materials and items that may carry bacteria. Be sure to ask about the materials your pallets were used to ship before repurposing them in a home decor project.

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    Embrace a greener lifestyle by recycling old wooden crates and turning them into something you can use forever.