We live in a throw-away society. A culture based on how much “stuff” we have. The media gears our life towards replacing things because it’s fashionable rather than because we actually need to. It is also causing us to rush headlong into a lack of natural resources.
Recycling is of course an option to help combat the use of natural resources. But that requires more energy and water to break down a product into its base materials before remaking it into something else, normally of lower quality.
Upcycling however is completely green.
It’s not about breaking things down, but simply refashioning it into something new and of the same or perhaps even better quality. The conversion process means nothing gets sent to land fill, requires no extra energy (other than a little elbow grease on your part) and allows you to be creative. By reusing and upcycling products to perform different purposes to what they were intended, you are also saving money. Instead of going out and buying a brand new product, find something you are not using and use your creativity. Voila! Upcycling magic has occurred!
The complete opposite of consumer culture, more or less anything can be upcycled, from furniture to clothing to electronics – the only thing stopping you is your imagination. The same thing doesn’t have to be upcycled in the same way. Take a plastic bottle for instance; this could become a planter for the garden, a bird feeder, a lamp or anything else you can think of.
Old electronics, something that often gives us grief when trying to dispose of, can also be upcycled. Old smartphones can become alarm clocks, or if you’re tech savvy a smartwatch! An old school computer monitor can be cleared of internal wiring and become a fish tank! Or if you remove the screen itself, how about a cat bed? The fan in your old computer can be converted into a regular desk fan with a bit of know-how. Plus, if you’re a fashion fanatic how about some quirky keyboard letter cufflinks or earrings?
Upcycling also encompasses larger projects too.
How about wood pallets becoming a stylish piece of decking or front porch? Or how about going for the ultimate upcycle – a whole home!
Shipping containers are becoming a popular option to upcycle into a tiny home. Although you’re unlikely to come across these 8ft wide by 8ft tall containers for free (expect to pay around the $3000 mark for each one), they offer a good opportunity for an upcycle project! Rylan and Brook Naylor, took two of these containers and have converted them into a home. Although not completely off-grid they are hoping that in the coming years they will be.
Canadian Joseph Dupuis bought three shipping containers and did succeed in turning them into a 355 square foot off-grid home. Located 35 miles west of Ottawa Canada, Joseph’s off-grid container cabin is powered by a two kilowatt solar system and heated by a wood fire stove. The space is completely open plan and is designed to be dismantled, so it can be moved and erected in a new location. The whole project (excluding the solar system) cost Joseph $20,000. Having lived in his container cabin for two years, Joseph is looking to sell to give someone else a taste of upcycled off-grid living.
To have a guided tour by Joseph himself, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=njjz-xTs67M
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