Blog Contributor: Erica Harper
In a world full of disposable materials and extreme global waste, it can be difficult to lead a sustainable lifestyle. If you are overwhelmed with the amount of waste created in your household even after making more sustainable changes, upcycling may be a good solution. Upcycling is a term first introduced by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book called “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”. It is defined as type of recycling that transforms the waste materials into items of higher quality or value in relation to the original item. This type of “homemade” recycling is popular for those wishing to reduce their waste because it is a process that allows them to reuse things that they would discard and send to landfills.
Ultimately, upcycling is a way to reduce and slow down the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and waste management facilities to ease the impact on our planet and waste systems as much as possible. Some examples of upcycling include decorating a tin container (like one that holds chickpeas) to create a nice pot for a plant or using old hockey sticks as legs for chairs. There are simple and more complex ways to upcycle but reusing otherwise disposable materials can be done with ease when using a bit of creativity! This article aims to give you answers to the common question ‘Why should I take the time to upcycle?’.
For the Planet
The first reason to upcycle is the most talked about reason: to contribute to reducing waste in landfills, oceans, parks, and waste management facilities. Not only does excessive waste in the environment harm local plant and animal species, some materials breakdown and release harmful chemicals which then causes soil degradation and seeps into the water that people and species drink. You can learn more about this topic by visiting the UN’s Environment Programme news story here. Additionally, upcycling limits trips to the store and decreases consumption behaviours as the ultimate goal is to make new items with what you have, which consequently reduces emissions and overall waste.
To Save Money
Since upcycling entails creating something new from an old object, you will be able to save money by repurposing items instead of buying new ones. For example, instead of purchasing an entryway organizer that can hold keys, coats and displays chalk messages, you can repurpose a window frame or old pieces of wood to create your own organizer. All you’ll need is a fresh coat of paint and some hooks! A simpler upcycling project would be to take an old mirror, clean it and paint it if desired, then use it as a chic candle tray to impress your guests. Another great idea is to use an empty tissue box as desk organizers by cutting the top off and using empty toilet paper rolls as pencil, pen, and scissor holders. By upcycling these common household items, you can save some money while impressing yourself with your creations! Check out this website for more great upcycling ideas.
To Practice Creativity
As you’ve probably realized by now, upcycling projects require some creativity and innovation. Interestingly, creativity is a skill that is valued in school and in the workplace because it allows students and employees alike to think of newer and better ways to reach certain goals. This LinkedIn Learning article describes creativity as the “most important skill in the world” because possessing this skill allows us to be better problem solvers in an everchanging world. More and more, companies and higher education institutes are looking for people who can adapt, think on their feet and keep thinking of new solutions as artificial intelligence takes over process-driven jobs. Therefore, upcycling is a great outlet to spark your creativity and continue to work on it as you ask yourself “what can I create from this object that I would otherwise throw out?”. It’s a great exercise that allows you to pain, sew, glue, cut, and colour as much as you want and it provides you with a sense of pride since you are the artist behind your new item!
Hopefully this introduction to upcycling gave you an idea of what upcycling is, what some examples are, and what are three main reasons to upcycle. There are many benefits of upcycling, although helping the planet through reducing emissions and slowing down the waste production in our landfills is a leading reason behind why so many people love to upcycle. Make sure to check out the resources linked above to learn more about upcycling, examples of upcycling, and the importance of creativity. Happy crafting!