Upcycling is a term that has its origins in the 1990s, but the practice is ancient. Upcycling is the practice of making something useful or creative from unwanted materials. Making a planter from a chipped bowl is upcycling something that might, otherwise, have been thrown away. People who have long cared about reusing materials instead of trashing them have been upcycling. With today’s emphasis on sustainability, upcycling material is even more important; preventing unused items from winding up in landfills is an excellent way to protect the environment.
Upcycling may have long been popular among people who are thrifty, but it is catching on with the main stream. Upcycling taps into the “innovative spirit and environmental consciousness” (1) of people. Moreover, people can protect the environment and save money at the same time. If you are looking for ways to save money, upcycling allows you to create unique gifts as well as useful items for around your home. Each member of the family can recycle so that the practice becomes a habit, a highly environmental-friendly habit. Not only are families focused on upcycling, but even schools and many organizations are working to upcycle old or worn-out materials.
Upcycling versus Recycling
Both upcycling and recycling are worthy endeavors that benefit the environment. Recycling, however, generally involves turning over commercial materials like plastic or metal and turning it over to a manufacturer who reduces the materials to their basic elements so they can be used again. Upcycling doesn’t necessarily involve this reduction; upcyclers simply change the item so it can be reused as something else. For example, someone with a basic knowledge of sewing might take a men’s dress shirt with a stain on its sleeves and refashion it into a young girl’s dress by cutting off the sleeves and refashioning the collar. Again, both these are great pursuits, but each is different in its own way.
How to Begin Upcycling
Upcycling begins by looking around your home, attic, and garage for items that need or make-over or might be remade into something else. For instance, an old tire in the garage can be revamped into a toddler’s sandbox. Sometimes upcycling involves small but clever ideas like making a “cardboard coasters.” (2) Have an old bicycling wheel? Transform it into a pan rack to hang from the kitchen ceiling. Transform an old pair of denim jeans into a cute denim purse. Create a coffee table using scrap wood and a wood pallet.
What You Need to Upcycle
All you need to upcycle is a willingness to invest some time into a worthy upcycling project. You don’t even need to be creative. You can search “upcycling” on websites like Pinterest to find amazing upcycling ideas. You may need to use various crafting materials like tools, paint, varnish, sewing materials, glue, etc…to achieve your designs, but often you’ll have these items on hand or can purchase them inexpensively.
Upcycling can become a great hobby to enjoy. Affordable and eco-friendly, upcycling allows you to make unique and useful items that you and your family can enjoy!
1. Upcycle Magazine, “What Is Upcycling?” http://www.upcyclemagazine.com/what-is-upcycling
2. Fast Haul, “Turning Trash into Treasure,” http://www.fasthaul.com/ecoblog/2013/04/12/turning-trash-into-treasure-infographic/