Upcycling transforms unwanted or useless products into useful items or attractive decorations. The idea isn’t new; our ancestors upcycled as part of daily life to get the maximum use out of their possessions. With easy access to a wealth of products we forgot the value of upcycling for a while, but an increasing interest in environmental sustainability allowed people to rediscover the joys of creating treasure from junk.
Upcycling isn’t difficult. Any time you alter an item to use anything other than its original purpose you’re upcycling and extending the item’s life. A set of small mason jars, for instance, makes attractive drinking glasses. Using an Amazon delivery box to store old CDs is upcycling, as is using those same CDs as the base for a craft project.
Below are some upcycling ideas. You can find many more online, or think up your own projects. Remember – every time you upcycle you avoid adding to the millions of tons of waste modern society generates!
Natural Necklace Holders
Next time you’re walking along the beach, keep an eye out for attractive pieces of driftwood. Hammer some nails into the wood, hang the driftwood on your wall and hang your necklaces on the nails—instant rustic jewelry holder!
You can do the same thing with almost any piece of wood, as long as it’s clean and pest-free. An old wooden sign makes an equally interesting necklace holder or can be used as-is for an eye-catching room accent.
Mason Jar Lunch Boxes
Mason jars are an upcycler’s best friend. In addition to serving as instant glassware, they’re great for storing small items. A shelf of mason jars filled with old beads, sand or shells makes an attractive decoration.
You can also use mason jars as on-the-go lunch boxes. Fill them with soup, salad or leftovers and you’re all set to go. Use small jars to make layered Jell-O treats for the kids, letting each layer solidify before you add the next.
Crates, Crates, Crates
Wooden crates aren’t as common in today’s cardboard-obsessed world, so grab them whenever you can. A wooden crate offers all sorts of opportunities to upcyclers. Line the bottom and inside of a crate with a thick layer of newspaper, fill the crate with potting soil and you’ve got a patio flower planter.
Large crates can be used as end tables or used to store gardening tools. If you find a set of small crates, anchor them to the wall to create shelving units, and use them to display those mason jars we just discussed.
With a little thought and some creativity, almost anything can be upcycled. Remember, upcycling can be small scale. Cutting up an old tee shirt to make rags is a time-honored part of upcycling.