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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
The post Upcycling: Keep the old & turn it into something new appeared first on Living Off the Grid: Free Yourself.
See How It’s Done
My friends Kim and Bill recently showed me how to make recycled paper fire bricks, and they graciously allowed me to film their process (though they didn’t want to be on film themselves).
These paper fire bricks they’re making aren’t the “fire bricks” used in creating a baking oven or chimney – they’re really just compressed paper “wood” for burning. Like paper logs.
You can make paper fire bricks from just about any scrap paper. Kim and Bill don’t use any glossy paper in their paper fire bricks so they can later add the ashes to their gardens.
Watch my video about making ovens: Building an Oven with Cob
Making Recycled Paper Fire Bricks
First, get yourself a stack of scrap paper. Newspapers, paper plates, napkins, cardboard, shredded paper from the office, $100 bills… whatever.
Then, take those and soak them in a bucket of water until they’re saturated. Bill and Kim recommend letting them sit for quite a while – even a few days – so the fibers can break down.
Once you have them all nice and soppy, shred them up with something. They use an edger blade attached to a drill. An industrial blender would likely work well, too.
Now it’s time to press your paper fire bricks. Any kind of multi-holed receptacle with a follower will work. Bill and Kim used a second bucket with lots of tiny holes drilled in it.
Throw in a good portion of shredded paper. Then press hard and get that water out as much as possible, then put the brick somewhere to dry.
Watch another video: How to Revive an Old Cast Iron Pan – Quick and Easy
Keep it Out of the Landfill
These paper fire bricks look very much like something I want to eat. Hard. To. Resist.
Once dried, they’re ready for use… then the ashes can be used to add calcium and alkalinity to the garden.
Consider it another form of composting.
Though I’ve yet to be convinced of the input of labor to output of fuel efficiency of this project, I greatly admire the ingenuity and the fact that paper is being kept out of the landfill.
This is not my own creation, but I love it when someone takes materials they have on hand and creatively meshes them to repurpose and then upcycle something that not only looks great but adds new possibilities and an expanded role from the original. The owner of these left over windows took a rolling cart, and placed windows on three sides and a top with a wooden back and base. The top is a window which is hinged and therefore opens. These pictures show the greenhouse box as a decorative item housing flowers but most of us would love to have one of these to grow tomatoes, lettuce or to lengthen the growing season for anything we routinely grow, such as herbs. I suppose you could also grow sprouts the way so many of us do on a kitchen window sill.
This miniature greenhouse is surprisingly large inside and this opens up a number of possibilities.
It’s small size coupled with the wheels on the undercarriage mean that this particular greenhouse can be moved taking advantage of the light, or being covered or moved away from it when the sun is too hot, as is so often the case where I am.
Make sure you hinge a lid which is strong and make opening easy.
Now, we have something to do with the older windows which are so often replaced with metal framed or double paned glass.
This is not only a handy and attractive object to make or have yourself, but would be a wonderful gift to a gardener who has cut back as he or she has aged.
Next time you are visiting a garage sale, a Goodwill store, or a Habitat outlet and you see wooden framed windows very cheaply, you’ll know what to do ! Best wishes in all your upcycling adventures.