By Larraine Roulston:
Upcycling, also referred to as recycling or repurposing, is the new term used for taking something either outdated, worn or basically no longer wanted for its original purpose, and transforming it into something useful. The idea is to become creative and think of ways to retool or simply reuse items differently. Upcycling becomes quite useful when a special need also arises. Rather than purchase new products, examine objects that surround you and adapt them for your requirements. This new green concept not only eliminates something from being trashed but also allows you to take pride in your creativity and save money at the same time.
Long before the term upcycling was coined, homesteaders, who lived through the depression, were extremely skilled at upcycling almost everything in order to survive. Old clothes and worn bedding became handmade quilts to keep people warm at night. Torn fabrics also served as cleaning rags, sanitary napkins, and insulation. Flour sacking was bleached in the sun to make new clothes. My mother is the “queen” of upcycling: she once revamped my dad’s Air Force uniform into my first snow suit, and later, his out-dated top coat into a Vogue patterned coat that served me during high school years and beyond.
Fast forward to the 1985-92 American action-adventure television series featuring the resourceful secret agent Angus MacGyver. With an encyclopedic knowledge of physical sciences and help from his Swiss Army knife, our burly, handsome hero (played by Richard Dean Anderson) solved complex problems each week by creating the tools he required from everyday objects. One of the show’s creators was Henry Winkler of the popular TV sit-com, Happy Days — and nobody was cooler than The Fonz. Even today, some people will refer to homemade inventions from reused things as “MacGyvering,” proving that a resourceful person who upcycles can still be sexy.
Today as we strive to conserve resources, upcycling can provide a business opportunity for someone to gather material such as tarnished silverware in order to create jewelry.
Teachers and parents have great potential to help children create crafts with packaging material that otherwise would be wasted. The very purpose of small children’s crafts is to develop their imaginations and small motor skills. Why not have packaging take the “scenic route” to the landfill site or recycling depot, and at the same time save on the manufacturing, packaging and transportation of new materials. Students can upcycle old shipping pallets, too, by having them serve as planter boxes to attract pollinators.
Industries also have been rethinking the process of manufacturing by finding more sustainable ways to create products by recycling and repurposing. Through Waste Materials Exchange programs, one company’s waste can become another company’s raw material.
Upcycling is about making a conscientious effort to begin reusing what we have, rather than discarding and purchasing anew. If pictures speak a thousand words, the following links provide an amazing collection of upcycling ideas that are both unique and useful.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Revamp, Resourceful, Rethink & Upcycle. The Future is URs.
Larraine authors a children’s adventure books on composting at www.castlecompost.com