These early days of spring cleaning will have you eyeing your possessions with a bit of should-it-stay-or-should it go mentality. Before you're too quick on the draw to either "trash them" or "donate them," consider the word "upcycle."
Not to be confused with recycling, upcycling is taking an old or useless object and turning it into something better. Your boxes of cassettes? A recycle bin full of egg or yogurt containers? That unloved container of small green army men? Pure design gold!While authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart may have made the word famous in their 2002 book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things," many designers have been in the upcycle mindset.
And now we can learn from a new batch of young designers. An entire set of innovative thinkers are really pushing the upcycle limits (or maybe the entire concept has no bounds). Re-creating some of the designs featured below requires skill sets many of us do not share; luckily they're all for sale. But if nothing else, these products are launch points for your own creativity.
Who knew that our trash would have so much potential?
Upcycle Your Junk
Upcycle Your Junk Into Treasures
Ooo My Design, a Spanish design studio, has ingeniously taken discarded cassette tapes and given them a second life as a lamp.
Are you throwing out your kids' yogurt containers? Big mistake! With a little electrical know-how, you could transform your trash into this colorful lamp. Or, you could just buy it from Ooo My Design
File under, "Why didn't I think of that?" Junktion, a young Israeli design firm has made a science of upcycling - we could learn many lessons from their product line. An old piece of luggage is used as a table with a most obvious place for storage.
In this project, Junktion used pallet racks to create a shoe holder.
The crafty people over at Addicted2Decorating have taken egg cartons and transformed them into a light pendant for the cost of only $30.
Wondering what to do with the toys your kids (or you) have outgrown? Irish designer Ryan McElhinney laquered an array of small toys to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
A close up shot if his whimsical lamp uncovers some pretty iconic toys in the mix.
McElhinney’s London-based studio must be a graveyard of toys. He also covers mirror frames with discarded figurines. What objects could you cover with your green plastic army men?
Ok, so for this type of project you might need some glass-working classes. But think about all the beautiful bottles you discard - they could easily be used in an upcycling project. And speaking of bottles, our article on creating decor with wine bottles gives many other examples of upcycling.