To most people upcycling is as simple as turning trash into treasure but the key to real upcycling is to think of the final products complete life cycle. If the materials used are in no way reusable, recyclable or repairable then use it!
It probably isn´t news to you that mass consumption has dramatically increased in the past years. Our economic growth is depending on continued marketing of new products and the path from the sales floor to the landfill has become shorter. We put over millions of tonnes of trash into landfills each year. What can artists, makers, and crafters do to avoid adding to the landfills and instead contribute to a more sustainable environment? A good start is to have an understanding of the product lifecycle.
Do you want to be an environmental crafter?
First of all, most crafters have loads of material in their stash, use that to start with. Reducing consumption and consuming less new raw materials can result in a reduction of energy usage, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions etc.
We can learn a lot about upcycling from the past. Before trash pick-up was available nearly everyone upcycled in one way or another. Old dresses were fashioned into aprons and rags were made into rugs. If you do find something laying around your house that you might want to throw in the trash, consider possible uses. The more you reuse, the fewer resources are needed to create, transport, and dispose of new items.
We recycle by selling our layaway objects and garments at a lower price, export in bulk and sell in developing countries or chemically recycle into raw materials. Most of the time energy and water is used to change the physical properties of the waste material. Recycling helps the planet because it keeps your trash out of landfills but it will eventually end up there.
The pollution from your transportation when visiting the store for shopping is a significant part of the total carbon footprint if you must stock up on craft supplies, visit the store travel by bike, or walk there.
If you at the end of an items lifespan give it a new start by moving it up the supply chain and increasing the value in worth and quality, that’s upcycling. For example turning a bed sheet into a dress and making use of what you have.
What if you decided to cut up those cardboard boxes and glue them together or give your DVD´s a second life by using them as a mosaic, how bad is that? Being an environmentalist it would probably be better to recycle, however, water and chemicals are used in the process. Instead, you consumed less new raw material and maybe you even succeeded in creating a masterpiece that increased in value as a true upcycler.
What would you say is the best advice if you want to be a sustainable crafter?
Feel free to add your thoughts and comments!