Today I Learned About Upcycling

We know–you’re already an avid recycler, composter and all-around green family. Recycling isn’t the only way to be eco-friendly these days. Repurposing used items, found items or otherwise nonfunctional household goods can be an amazing way to teach your child about the value that exists in many “things,” even after their original purpose has been fulfilled. By bonding together with the DIY movement, many eco-aware families have been applying their creative juices to the field of upcycling.

So what exactly is upcycling? Basically, an upcycled project falls into one of four categories:

First, craft or art projects made using repurposed goods. This could be anything from a pretty card made using dryer sheets to creating a party favor from old crayon stubs.

You can also make art materials using things you’d never give a second thought. This article reveals uses for dryer lint, ranging from the silly (dust bunny pets?) to the useful–homemade clay! Don’t just stick to the simplistic. Get inspired! Inhabitat.com is an amazing weblog that shares all kinds of fascinating and gorgeous upcycling ideas such as this room divider made from Ikea hangers!

In the second category, upcyclers often repurpose unused household items to provide storage containers or to assist in household clean-up. Toilet paper rolls become cord holders, an old computer tower can become a mailbox. This is a great way to organize your home without breaking the bank at Crate and Barrel. You can also create your own cleaning items, such as these nifty dishwashing scrubbers made from mesh produce bags. Some of these projects may not provide as much of an “activity” for your family to partake in together, but instead can be a way to help your child understand that we don’t always have to buy new things; we can reuse what we’ve got in new and creative ways. You can make it a game–who can come up with the best (or most creative) way to repurpose household items?

Third, there are upcycled projects that combine crafting with DIY. If crafting for craft’s sake is not really your cup of tea, then these kinds of projects will be more appropriate for you. These are more complicated tasks, that yield useful devices of all kinds. Some ingenious individual came up with a way to make a tiny bbq grill from an Altoid can! This amazing individual is taking it to the next level creating functional toys from old computer parts. The site doesn’t explain how-to imitate the work, so gather all your geeky resources to see if you can whip up something similar.

There are many great resources for upcyclers. In addition to Inhabitat, Going Green is a great web resource to inspire and encourage you. Or check out this book on Amazon: Ultimate Guide to Upcycling Crafts.
To delve more deeply into the philosophical and sociocultural aspects of upcycling, and/or pontificate on the relevance of such a movement, read the seminal book on the matter: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things, co-authored by a German chemist and an American architect.
Now get to work! You’ve got a lot of scavenging, organizing, and dreaming to do!

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