one green planet
one green planet

Admittedly, “old barrels” can be a rather open term. We have old plastic barrels that have formerly been home to pickles. We might have old metal barrels that housed olive oil. Maybe it’s wooden whisky or wine barrels that are available.

The options only increase with this variety of manufacturing materials, but regardless of what the barrels are made of, it’s important to be careful of what was in them. For most home projects, we want to look for food-grade barrels that we know have never housed harmful chemicals.

With that in mind, we can start taking advantage of all the options at our disposal. Plastic barrels can be great because they won’t rust or rot. Metal barrels can be excellent because they won’t melt or burn. Wooden barrels have a classy, classic look that makes them visually appealing.

It’s just a matter of knowing what to do with what.

1. Tumbling Composter

Source: homesteadonomics/YouTube

Compost decomposes much more rapidly when it is turned and oxygenated. Often, we envision this being done with a pitchfork and about half an hour to spare. But, tumbling composters make light work of this sometimes-heavy task.

Rather than turning the compost with a fork, a tumbling composter—best made with a plastic barrel—requires much less energy. It is designed such that the container, a barrel in this instance, is flipped around so that the compost is turned inside of it.

Plus, it keeps the compost nice and tidy.

2. Wildlife Pond

Source: Wild Your Garden with Joel Ashton/YouTube

While plastic and metal barrels would likely hold water better/longer than wooden barrels, using wooden ones just adds the right natural nuance to a water garden. There is nothing more inviting to valuable wildlife in the garden than a pond or body of water.

A repurposed half-barrel is easy to find at garden centers, or it’s possible, though a touch more difficult, to cut barrels in half as well.

3. Rain Barrel

Source: Alberta Urban Garden Simple Organic and Sustainable/YouTube

Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water usage at home. Rather than directing all that rainwater away during storms, we could be catching and storing it for drier times. Barrels, of course, are the perfect storage container: they hold enough to make a difference but aren’t so big as to be intrusive.

To make a good rain barrel, it’s important to locate it well, good for catching plenty of water and easily delivering that water to gardens (or wherever needed). One of the beauties of rain barrel catchments is that the system can easily be expanded to multiple barrels storing water, so the storage can be sized to fit any situation.

4. Barrel BBQ Pits

Source: Roy Starling/YouTube

Old metal barrels have long been the classic backyard barbecue pit/smoker, and now with repurposing being a thing, it’s time to start revisiting these old methods. There was a time when barrel barbecues were actually from old barrels, not box stores.

Building a barrel barbecue pit will require a few tools, namely a grinder and drill, but it is perfectly doable for the average DIY adventurer. It’s perfectly plausible to build an elaborate barrel bbq pit with no welding required.

5. Whisky Barrel Desk/Bar Table

Source: IdeaScape Point/YouTube

Wooden whisky barrels and wine barrels have that old-world charm that makes them work very well for furniture and using them for tables and desks couldn’t be simpler. Either acquire a couple of old barrels and a nice rustically milled slab of wood for a killer desk or bar. Or, a circular glass top will fit well atop just one wooden barrel to make a bar table.

6. Container Garden

Source: HowToDrillAWell/YouTube

Barrels are ideal for making container gardens. A single barrel can be used intact to grow dozens of types of plants, or several barrels can be used to create an oasis of food on a patio or balcony.

Food-grade plastic barrels are probably the easiest to work with here. They can be converted into vertical gardens, self-watering garden pots, as well as massive plant pots by simply cutting them in half.

7. Pet Bed/Room

Source: ImaJawNation/YouTube

It’s fairly easy to imagine how cozy a barrel could be for a four-legged friend. They can be cut in half vertically and then filled with cushions or blankets to make a comfy bed, or an opening can be cut at the end of the barrel so that a kitty or puppy can crawl in for an entirely private room.

Wooden barrels are probably the nicest option for these if they are going to be inside, or plastic barrels can work well outside, as they won’t have the sharp edges metal barrels might have.

With a little ingenuity, old barrels can become something with a whole new, useful lease on life. Plus, completing a great DIY project just feels so good. So, get on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Freecycle, or wherever else to find a few old barrels for next to nothing and get to crafting.

Related Content:

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
  • Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take the initiative by standing up against fast fashion pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
  • Support Independent Media: Being publicly funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
  • Sign a Petition: Your voice matters! Help turn petitions into victories by signing the latest list of must-sign petitions to help people, animals, and the planet.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and important stories involving animals, the environment, sustainable living, food, health, and human interest topics by subscribing to our newsletter!
  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!