Upcycling and Its Role in a Circular Economy
by Richard Rowell, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
How many times have we seen perfectly good furniture and other household items simply discarded? Well, the trend of upcycling has become increasingly popular among artisans, hobbyists, and others, and that’s a good thing. In mid-October 2015, Zero Waste Scotland launched a social media campaign to inspire upcycling called “Design Doc.” This is cool news, and I’d love to see more programs like this. But what stood out to me was my introduction to the concept of a “circular economy” through the comments of Scotland’s Environmental Minister, Dr. Aileen McLeod:
“The Design Doctor campaign is an ideal fit with the Scottish Government’s approach to creating a more circular economy in Scotland.
“The attraction of a more circular approach to our economy – where we keep materials flowing through the economy at as high a value as possible, for as long as possible – is that it tackles a number of economic, environmental, social and moral imperatives.”
So what is a circular economy? Wikipedia has a rather technical article about the term ‘circular economy.’ But in essence, it’s all about moving away from a purely consumerist society to one that focuses on reuse and upcycling as a way of life. So how do we get people to stop simply throwing stuff away?
You have to give them a reason. Scotland has a system in place already to help people be rid of their unwanted items. Dr. McLeod mentions the Revolve program, which gives second-hand goods sellers a re-use quality standard. She adds:
“The pieces destined for upcycling will be sourced from a range of second-hand stores accredited by ‘Revolve’ – a re-use quality standard for shops who sell second hand goods in Scotland.
“Scotland’s Revolve programme is a great way to empower people to upcycle household items instead of throwing them away – and this is a concept that makes sense for business, industry, the public sector, and individuals.”
This is a really cool thing that Scotland is doing for their country, and I’d love to see more countries adopt this model of thinking. Upcycling has already become quite trendy in the fashion and interior design worlds, and properly supported, it could become an extremely profitable industry that also helps the planet. Imagine a world where you could unload your unwanted furniture and other goods with reusable material or purpose for some extra income. Sure, dumpster diving can be fun, and many upcyclers love the treasure hunt. But think of how much we could keep out of landfills and allow upcyclers an endless source of materials with which to work if more programs were in place to make it easy to be rid of things in a better fashion.
The fact is that the world’s resources are finite, and human beings are most definitely creative enough to work with what we’ve already created for the most part. Having a “Revolve” program in place in the US and other countries would minimize waste to a great degree, helping sift out what is truly unusable and basically scrap and what can be actually saved. Such a venture should be able to essentially fund itself, as upcyclers will be happy to pay a minimal amount to not have to dig through landfills and drive around all day searching sidewalks on trash day. Not only does that save gas, but it makes things a lot more convenient and offers even more creative outlets.
There are upcycling shops cropping up all over the place, but it would be great to see them showing up in more communities all over America and the world. Our world needs to find ways to be more sustainable, and it’s clear that upcycling is already a profitable business if you know where to source your materials. The easier that sourcing can be made, with a grassroots or perhaps even a government-sponsored program like Scotland’s, the less we’re polluting the planet and the more we’re saving quality goods that just need repurposing or a simple facelift.
Of course, what it really comes down to is that people need to change their mindset about what an unwanted or imperfect piece of furniture or older household goods that may still have a little life left in them. Even something that is broken is material for something else. If people can think more like upcyclers, the benefits could help everyone. All I think most people need is to be able to visualize things in a new way and the more upcycling programs we have, the more I believe this will be able to happen.
Go Green by Upcycling Junk
by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
How many times have you seen people throw out furniture that can still be used just because they got something new? How many times have you done it yourself? Go green and upcycle that so-called junk to prevent it from going into a landfill too soon.
Check Craigslist's free section. Among the sales and want ads, Craigslist also has a section with people offering items for free. Many times they stick the items by the dumpster and they get thrown out before anyone can make use of them. Not a great way to go green, is it? Whether you rescue one item or do it regularly, you will be helping. Rescue the items for yourself, your friends, those in need, and the Earth.
Repurpose old items. Take your own old items or those you may have found on Craigslist or elsewhere and use them for something new. For instance, if you get a new entertainment center, but your old one can still be used (even if it needs to be pieced back together), you can use it for another reason. Turn it into a decorative shelf where you can store your plants, books, and more. Refinish an old table or just drape a cloth over it and use it for decorative purposes. Saw an old table in half and add legs to each new half to create two desks. There are so many different options.
If you can't use it, be green and donate it. If you really just cannot use the item, consider donating it to the less fortunate. Think of people you know who are in need first. But if none of them can use the items, upcycle by donating to organizations. Many programs give used furniture, clothing, baby items, household items, and more to those in need. Chances are that what you may consider junk could be exactly what someone else needs but is unable to get at the moment.
If you need the extra money, garage sale it. Donating is a good deed. But if you're strapped for cash, hold a garage sale. You'll still be helping someone by offering something at a lower price than the original sticker. Why throw things away when you can fulfill a need, make some money, and prevent waste at the same time?
Don't let good things go to waste. If you're walking around the neighborhood and see perfectly good items being thrown out, rescue them. Even if you can't use the items yourself, save them from unnecessary destruction. Find someone who needs the items or sell them in a yard sale. Even post your own Craigslist ad if you can't figure out what to do with them. At least you will be biding the Earth some time and possibly helping someone in need of the item.
Lyn Lomasi is founder and owner of the Brand Shamans Content Community. Services include ordained soul therapy and healing ministry, business success coaching, business success services, handcrafted healing jewelry, ethereal and anointing oils, altar and spiritual supplies and services, handcrafted healing beauty products, and more!
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