More Upcycling Ideas For the End of 2013

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Upcycle

Reusing goods is a major part of my life. I can take just about anything and find a new use for it. It’s a cycle, whether it’s REcycle or UPcycle. What’s the difference?

Recycle involves taking an old thing that you own, buy or trade for, cleaning it up and re-using it. You get a dresser from the second hand store, strip it down to wood, repaint it, add new knobs and put it in your bedroom.

Upcycle means taking that old thing and giving it a different purpose than what was originally intended. That dresser now becomes an island in your kitchen or a chicken coop.

Upcycling is more creative and resourceful than just dressing up something that’s tired and in need of rejuvenation. It is popular because of the sluggish economy. Instead of buying new, find something you don’t use, and turn it around into a completely new item for a fraction of the cost of purchasing, or maybe no cost at all!

Upcycling, like recycling, also reduces landfill trash. Why throw something away when you can dismantle it and build something you need? Or put it on its side and give it a whole new name?

Crates, Shelving and Lighting

Half of my closet consists of plastic milk crates that I have stacked as shelving. They hold folded shirts and pants as well as sheets. Wooden crates have a lot of character and can add warmth to the feel of a country room or home. Flip them over as shelving or an end table, or use them upright to store things.

Stack a few crates, secure them, and put the whole thing on casters to be portable shelving. Your interior design would be really flexible! Stack a lot of large crates to create a home office. I love this! Paint simple benches and stack them for another shelving idea.

I don’t know how you would collect washing machine drums to upcycle, but this is a great idea to turn them into ceilng lights. Just because of their size, they’d be best suited to a large space. Also the metal has an industrial feel to it. Any large tin can would make a properly scaled light in a smaller room.

The Ubiquitous Pallet

Pallets pile up behind department stores, nurseries, hardware stores, paint stores, and anywhere large deliveries are made. Ask before taking, because sometimes the store owns the pallets, but more often than not, they are eager to move them out. Pallets are usually made of oak and are very durable. They are designed to hold heavy items, be moved around alot and run into by a forklift or two. I can’t think of a better building material!

Pallets have a zillion uses once they leave the store! Lay one down flat and plant shallow rooted vegetables in it, such as lettuce and radishes. Turn it on its side, hang it on a wall, and it becomes shallow shelving. Stack them end to end to build a barn.

Take them apart and use the separate pieces of wood in bed frames, chairs, coffee tables, shelving, playhouses, art and pet beds. Anything you can do with a 1×4 you can do with a pallet!

Magazines

Magazines pile up faster than we can read them! When my kids were little, we’d cut colorful glossy pages in ¼” strips, weave them together and glue the edges to colored poster board. The effects were surprising and colorful. I framed a few and saved the rest in a manila envelope for them to have later. On snowy days, I think of doing this again, because I love the surprise element of it!

Here you can weave paper to create drink coasters. Or you can make a picture frame, piecing together separate shapes or weaving wide width strips.

About halfway down this page is a tote bag of woven magazine pages. You can also weave baskets.

Glossy pages are good for making beads, too. This is so simple, and another great kid project. We turned our beads into Christmas ornaments by stringing them and making a loop at one end of put over the branch.

These are all excellent kid projects!

It just takes a little imagination and the need for an item to upcycle just about anything. With holidays coming up, you might be able to create some unique gifts while helping to save landfill space and preserve the environment. Everyone wins! Visit my Pinterest board, upcycled everything, for more ideas.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.