Photo: ITTIGallery/Shutterstock

What’s Up With Upcycling?

Photo: ITTIGallery/Shutterstock
David DeFranza
May 18, 2009
Upcyling is a much-discussed and poorly understood concept of green living. Fortunately, the basics are easy to understand and the results are eco-friendly, creative, and fun.

Spend much time on the green-webs and you are bound to stumble upon the term “upcycling.” First coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their must-read book Cradle to Cradle, upcycling is commonly defined as:

The process of converting an industrial nutrient (material) into something of similar or greater value, in its second life.

So how is this different than recycling? While recycling is mostly concerned with harvesting the valuable raw materials from an item in order to prevent fresh consumption of the material, upcycling is an attempt to repurpose a usually disposable item in a creative and functional way.

Upcyclers are not collecting paper to make more paper, nor are they hunting for cans to create more aluminum (they might want the deposit return though). Instead, they are thinking of clever ways to make trash into something special.

Check out these upcycling ideas to get started:

Old Shopping Bags or Magazines Become Unique Envelopes

Sure, you could recycle that stack of magazines or the pile of paper shopping bags in your closet. Or, you could transform them into unique envelopes.

Cracked Teacups Become Eye-Catching Candles

If you have cracked or orphaned teacups lying around, waiting to be tossed, then this project is perfect.

Make a Purse or Laptop Bag from Soda Tabs

Though a more involved project than the two mentioned above, making a purse or laptop bag from soda tabs is not that difficult. When you’re finished, you can wear this example of upcycling with eco-pride.

Upcycling is great for the environment but more importantly, it’s a fun and creative way to stylishly show off your eco-ingenuity.

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