Another reason to try upcycling is that many of us want to reuse or repurpose things, but don’t know how, and in our desire to reduce the amount we contribute to landfill, we hold onto things longer than we’d like, waiting for inspiration to strike. If you find yourself involuntarily wincing when you’re deciding whether or not to throw out those plastic bags or leave that unsightly (perhaps outdated) dresser on the sidewalk, the following suggestions for upcycling commonly-discarded household items might be just what you need.
The Many Facets of Cork
Cork can be repurposed in myriad ways, for example, it can be collected and held in a frame, tray or the bottom of a box to use as a bath mat. This is an ideal use, since cork breathes well and is easy to clean. Because of cork’s heat resistant properties it’s a great substitute for a trivet. Corks also make great coasters – you can let them be free form or cut them to suit the shape you desire.
Something Old, Something New: Upcycling Pillowcases
Adding a slit at the closed end of a pillowcase, can transform these into new garment bags.
Pouring New Wine in Old Wine Bottles
Wine bottles can be upcycled in innumerable ways. Take an old bottle and cover it with newspaper, magazines, yarn, twine or old book pages (a great way to reuse these) – and you create an interesting and artistic vase. Cutting the bottoms off of wine bottles, they can be placed over votive candles as candle tops.
Renew Old Clothes
Tees are fantastic for upcycling! A few cuts can change a tee-shirt into a tote, perfect for the gym or shopping (especially as more cities and counties ban plastic bags and charge for paper ones). Tees also make great decorations for pillows. Got an old sweater that doesn’t suit you anymore (or maybe never did)? Switch it up without giving it up, by using it as the cover for a decorative pillow. Most of the work is already done; all you’ve got to do is take a plain pillow and sew the sweater around. If you price many of the decorative pillows at Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn, textured pillows like the one you can make with an old sweater can be many times what yours will cost. Tee shirts also make great pet toys. Just stuff them with cheap foam or cotton, sew, and voila! Jeans can be reinvented as bottle holders, pillow covers, laptop sleeves, area rugs, wallets, you name it. So, before you throw them out, give them a second look.
Upcycle Your Unwanted Furniture
Dresser drawers can be repurposed a number of ways, for example by adding a plank of wood, wallpapering the back, and painting them (or whitewashing them or simply restoring them to their original finish) you can transform these into charming medicine cabinets. Drawers can also be repurposed as a bulletin board, by simply following the steps above, minus adding the plank. Old ladders, unsafe to carry your weight, could be ideal for holding your books.
Don’t Throw Out the Paper (or Plastic) Bag with The Garbage!
Strips from paper bags can be used to make baskets to hold all manner of nicnacs, from table fruit, to pens, clips and letters on your desk. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, which is all the more reason to upcycle them. These bags can be turned into yarn and then made into totes, plant hangers, and anything you can think of.
Odds and Ends
You probably did this in kindergarten or Pre-School, but it’s a fantastic upcycling project at any age. Soup cans scan be covered with buttons, photos, or anything you can adhere to them, transforming them into holders for pens, makeup brushes, or anything you like. Another sweet tip for the odd thing is to use broken or cracked teacups as candles.
Ethan Malone is a strong advocate for conservation and sustainability. He has worked with many organizations to bring environmental changes in corporate and personal lifestyle. Sources collected for this article can be found at http://www.fasthaul.com/ecoblog/2013/04/12/turning-trash-into-treasure-infographic/.