We don’t want to bash recycling. We just wish it were a little more fun. The sad truth is rinsing empty jars and taking the recycling bags out every Thursday morning make recycling feel like another humdrum routine.
Don’t get us wrong. We still want to stay faithful to our environmental values. It’s just that maybe bringing a little more spice into our ordinary eco-friendly ways can rekindle our passion for the planet.
Upcycling saves old, unwanted items from certain destruction and recreates them into something wonderful. Now that’s exciting. And what’s even better is that upcycling gives your creative spirit free rein.
What Is Upcycling?
Upcycling repurposes discarded items, like clothing or furniture, into something new. The average person throws aways 70 pounds of clothing each year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. According to the EPA,nine million tons of furniture go to a landfill every year. Upcycling is a way to keep these usable items out of the garbage by transforming them into something unique and durable. And upcycling is happening in many different ways.
Manufacturers are increasingly using upcycling to create stronger, more long-lasting products. The fashion industry, in particular, is finally paying attention to upcycling.
When the pandemic made materials scarce, designers turned to reimagining vintage clothes. As Sarah Arnold of Fashion Act Nowsays, “We have enough textiles that we’ve already produced to last us, and yet we’re still producing masses of clothes from virgin materials.”
Professional artists and crafters are using upcycling in their creations. Sites like Etsy provide these artists and crafters with a way to earn a living with their art.
Upcycling is becoming a grassroots trend as everyday people are creating their own upcycled projects for creative, one-of-a-kind pieces in their homes.
Which Is Better: Upcycle or Recycle?
Recycling certainly beats manufacturing items from scratch. Anything recycled leaves a smaller carbon footprint than that same item made from “virgin” materials. Still, recycling isn’t as widespread as it needs to be. According to the United States Census Bureau, our rate of recycling has only increased seven percent since 1960 to a paltry 32 percent. Recycling is still an important tool for overcoming our environmental challenges.
But we need another, better tool in our green toolbox. That’s where upcycling comes in. Upcycling boasts important advantages over recycling.
- Upcycling uses minimal energy and resources.
- Upcycling produces less pollution than recycling.
- Upcycling saves non-recyclable items from the landfill.
- Upcycling reduces mass production.
18 Ways to Reduce Waste Using Upcycling
Look for Non-Craft Ways to Upcycle
You don’t have to own a glue gun to bring a little upcycling into your life.
- Find a dressmaker you love. Did you know there are over 55,000 people making a living with their sewing machine? Instead of throwing away damaged clothes, take them to a tailor for repair. Better yet, brainstorm ways to remake your old clothes into something fabulous.
- Put new knobs on an old dresser. Take the old knob to the hardware store and find an updated version that’s the same size.
- Turn an old ladder into a shelving unit with just a couple of distressed wooden boards.
Purchase from Companies That Upcycle
Our purchasing power is an effective catalyst for change. You can promote upcycling when you seek out and purchase from companies that use upcycling in their business model.
- Preserve makes a variety of items, such as toothbrushes and tableware, from upcycled material.
- Looptworks created a travel bag collection using leather from airline seats. The leather Looptworks saved from a landfill was enough to cover 43 acres of land.
- Perform an internet search of the product you’re looking for with “upcycled.” Chances are, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind, sustainable product.
Donate or Sell Your Old Items
You may have thought your teenager abused his old dresser too much for it to be useful to anyone. But now you know that crafty upcyclers are looking for pieces that need a little love. Besides the standby thrift store, try these outlets.
- List your items on Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle.org.
- Check with churches in your area. Some churches sponsor refugees or other underserved families. Churchgoers can often repair and upcycle old items for these families to use.
- Check with your animal shelter. Many animal shelters are placing old recliners in cages to make the dogs more comfortable and more adorable for would-be adopters. Some shelters also take old clothes to use for bedding.
- Check with local quilting and craft clubs. Some of the organizations will take your old clothes or other items and turn them into new creations.
Buy from Upcyclers in Your Community
Chances are, someone in your own backyard is turning old dressers into play kitchens or sewing discarded fabric into beautiful quilts. Support these environmental entrepreneurs and score a one-of-a-kind piece for your home.
- Look for area art and craft shows.
- Peruse antique shops. Many furniture upcyclers sell their creations in stores that sell antique furniture.
- Shop an online marketplace. People often sell their reimagined creations on the same sites as those listing their unused items.
Embrace Your Crafty Side
Buy a glue gun and try your hand at creating upcycled items with easy projects for beginners. You may find a passion for a new hobby. Try these easy projects.
- Spray paint an old window shutter and hang it on the wall to use as a mail organizer.
- Use your old garden tools and empty seed packets to make a wreath.
- Make a basket out of colored trash bags.
- Turn an old vase into a chic decoration with a glue gun and wine corks.
- Wondering how you can upcycle your wine bottle? Try making tiki torches for all your friends.
Upcycling Is More Than a Feel-Good Environmental Exercise
Don’t abandon recycling out of boredom. And let’s not pit recycling against upcycling. There’s room in our hearts for both. More importantly, the environment needs both — and so much more. So, keep finding ways to make eco-friendly habits part of your routine. And when it’s time to blow off steam with a creative outlet, make your imagination large enough to embrace the planet.
Article Submitted By Community Writer