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The 411: Upcycling

What in the world is upcycling?

You’ve probably heard this term used amongst your Pinterest-savvy friends or on TV, but what does it actually mean? Upcycling is defined as the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful. Upcycling gives normal everyday items that would otherwise be discarded a chance at a better purpose.


Recycling vs. Upcycling

When we think of recycling, we think of consumer goods - typically plastic, paper, glass and metal materials. Recycling is essentially breaking these items down so that their base components can be remade into a new consumer product, often of a lesser quality than its predecessors.

When it comes to upcycling, you’re taking an item as is without breaking it down into anything less than it already is. You could be repurposing it; for instance, cutting a shirt into strips of yarn or for dish towels is an example of upcycling. It’s still made of the same materials as when you started; it’s just being reassigned. In most cases, the up-cycled item is often of better or of the same quality as the original.

Don’t be fooled by trends

The concept of upcycling is not new. Some of the best examples of upcycling come from the 1930-40s when families had little to no economic resources. In this age, thrifting was born. They reused almost everything, simply repurposing items over and over again until it was no longer useful. Feed sacks for the livestock became dresses, and old doors become tables and shelves.

Thrifting is still a trend today and part of a bigger reason why people decide to upcycle. There are select few who appreciate the artistic freedom that comes with giving an everyday item a new way of life.

The Green Effect

Upcycling is green. It’s as simple as that. If your carbon footprint weighs heavy on your mind at night, you can rest assured you can do your part by upcycling items around your home instead of sending them straight to the dump to be someone else’s problem. When you partake in upcycling, you are removing items from the global garbage system. Upcycling uses fewer resources than recycling, which requires energy to break items down into smaller parts. The only requirement to upcycle is a bit of imagination and some elbow-grease.

So, take a minute and asses what you have around your home. You have the power and the authority to take something ordinary and make it something great. The reward is worth the journey.

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