You may have heard the slogan 'reduce, reuse, recycle' in relation to sustainable living. It encourages consumers to rethink their buying habits by encouraging them to buy less, reuse the things they already own, and correctly recycle the items that can no longer be used.
Upcycling is a process that helps with the 'reuse' element of this sustainability slogan.
The word upcycling first emerged in 1994 when Rainer Pilz, a representative of a German company, mentioned it in an interview. According to Pilz, a process was needed that added value to old materials rather than merely recycling (what he called downcycling) them. He called this process upcycling.
The term really came to prominence in the early 2000s with the publication of a book called Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. As the name suggests, upcycling is transforming something you don't need any more into something new, thus prolonging its life. Upcycling uses fewer resources, is better for the environment, and can help you save money.
Here is how to get started:
DO think twice before buying something brand new. Rather than running straight to a shop when you need new furniture or clothes, consider if you don't already own something you could repurpose to fill your need. If the answer to that question is no, then start by looking at second-hand options.
DON'T be disappointed when you can't find the right thing straight away. The point of upcycling is not to find the exact item you have in mind but rather to make do with what is available and transform it into what you need.
DON'T be put off by damaged items. Slight imperfections might seem off-putting if you're not used to buying used items or even continuing to use your own. The good thing about upcycling is that it encourages you to work with these imperfections! Buy the crate with a chipped edge or the jumper with a small hole and learn how to fix them.
DO get creative. There are no limits to upcycling, and items can receive a completely new purpose in the process. For instance, a dress can become a top, or the wood from an old table can serve as shelves. So, think outside the box and see what you can come up with!
DON'T overestimate your skills. Lots of things appear more manageable than they actually are when you see experienced people do them. If you've never worked with furniture before, start with simply painting it rather than remodeling it, even if it looks really easy in the video you watched.
DO get high-quality materials. To get the most out of your upcycled items, it is vital that you work with durable materials. Yes, that means that you will have to buy some brand new things such as paint brushes, sanding paper, or thread, but if you opt for high quality, then you will be able to use them for a long time and eventually save money.
DON'T start too many projects at once. Once you get the hang of it and start being creative, it can be tempting to begin several projects at the same time because suddenly, you have so many ideas. Avoid doing this; the risk of getting overwhelmed and not finishing anything in the end is just too high. It's better to start one project after the other or work on at most two if you enjoy variety.
DO look for inspiration online. If you find it hard to imagine what potential a piece has, look online to see what other people have upcycled. This great website offers advice on how various things can be successfully upcycled.