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Upcycling Defined: 5 Ways to Upcycle in Your Home

written by: Laura Jean Karr•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 1/26/2011

Upcycling when going green is the hot new trend in personal recycling. Learn more about what it is and how you can start upcycling at home.

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    What is Upcycling?

    Upcycling is term that was coined by German chemist Michael Braungart and American architect William McDonough in their book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Since the book came out in 2002, the term upcycling has spread through the global green movement. All over the world people have begun to upcycle instead of just recycling and in many ways the term is synonymous with “repurpose”.

    Upcycling is all about taking what you have and making it into something else. No need to do traditional recycling or go shopping for new stuff when you can get creative and upcycle at home. Here we are going to take a look at 5 simple ways that you can get started with upcycling, such as mini-projects and resources on where to learn more about upcycling.

    For more information on green living ideas such as upcycling, check out How to Upcycle Old Salvage Doors and How to Recycle Men's Ties.

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    5 Simple Ways to Upcycle

    Bottles and Jars - One way to upcycle common items like used bottles and jars around the house is by reusing them as vases and planters. Spring is here and with Summer just around the corner many people are planting more both inside and out. You can take your old bottles and jars, wash them out, decorate them any way you like and use them for table top vases or planters. Old plastic bottles and jars are better for planting due since you can create water drainage holes easily, while your glass bottles and jars that could heat up with the sun and be too hot for use outdoors are better for table top style vases.

    Old Clothes - Instead of just tossing or donating your old clothes, try getting crafty with them instead. There are many ways to recycle old clothes including making baby and toddler clothes from your older adult clothes. You can create patchwork quilts, curtains and table cloths. Some people are taking their old jeans and making reusable grocery shopping bags out of them and I've even come across a lady who makes halter tops and yoga pants out of old t-shirts.

    Junk Mail - Even those of us who are on the no-mail lists are still apt to get some junk mail. Keeping in mind that a lot of junk mail won't be recycled by your local waste management because of colored dyes so try upcycling all that lose paper into something useful. You can create works of art, decoupage collages, wrapping paper, or weave wallets and coin purses out of brightly colored junk mail. Some people are also making refrigerators magnets and bags out of the materials.

    Old plates - Instead of tossing your old plates, try breaking them to upcycle them. You can use broken plates and cups when you pot plants to help with the water drainage. You can also start making your own mosaic creations with the broken pieces. Decorate table tops, picture frames, sinks and even your old bottles, cans and jars for snazzy vases and containers.

    Cardboard - Upcycling cardboard is a great way to get organized and crafty around the home. I've taken cereal boxes and turned them into silverware drawer dividers and organizers. You can also take cereal boxes and turn them into bookshelf dividers and magazine holders. Some people upcycle cardboard tubes by turning them into cable and cord caddies. Some people go even further with their upcycle cardboard projects and create furniture from the material.