Upcycle_symbolAs part of my effort to learn more about sustainable decision-making, I’m going to be looking into some of the key terms, topics and “buzz words” that often come up in discussions of sustainability. This week’s topic: “Upcycling” – what does it actually mean to “upcycle” something, and how is it helpful (or not) to humans and the environment?

So first, what is upcycling, and where does this term come from? You know the old hippy mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”? Well, if we look at those three “R”s, they’re mostly about reducing waste.

Reduce” means making/buying less new stuff in order to cut down on the amount of new, virgin resources we take from the planet, such as chopping down trees to make wood or paper products, or mining iron, aluminum and other metals.

Reuse” means eschewing “disposable” products for items that can be reused again and again instead of ending up in landfill after only one use. For example, according to the Sierra Club, using reusable grocery bags rather than plastic bags could potentially prevent 8 billion pounds of plastic per year ending up in landfills, where they take over a thousand years to decompose. That is, if they decompose at all. A study of U.S. landfills by researchers at the University of Arizona in the year 2000 found hotdogs and lettuce from the 1960s that remained completely un-decomposed due to lack of sunlight and oxygen need to break down items buried under the trash piles, so imagine how much longer it must take to break down a plastic bag under these same conditions.

Recycle” – Hopefully, by now most people are familiar with the idea of Recycling. Although, Americans still only recycle or compost about 35% of municipal solid waste, according to the EPA,  which means the rest is either burned (~11%) or just sits around in landfill (~54%). Much of that material actually could have been reused or recycled, and some of it, such as the rare earth metals (e.g., gold and platinum) used in electronic devices, is actually extremely valuable! In addition, over 95% of biodegradable materials, such as food waste and yard trimmings, end up in landfill, rather than being composted to become valuable, nutrient rich soil for use by farmers and gardeners who are in need of higher quality soil to grow healthy fruits and vegetables. So, obviously, there’s a lot more we could be recycling beyond just bottles and cans.

The problem with recycling, however, is that it takes a lot of money, water and energy to sort, wash, melt down and re-use plastic bottles, metal cans, and other recyclables (although still less than to make new ones from scratch). Plus, every time a plastic item is recycled it degrades in quality a little bit, until, after a few iterations, it’s no longer recyclable at all. This has led some environmental thinkers to re-term recycling “down-cycling” because the item becomes lower quality and less useful with each cycle.

This is where “Upcycling” comes in. Originally introduced in the 1990s in Germany, the idea is that we can break the cycle of waste by redesigning and repurposing old items by making them more useful and more valuable instead of less. This idea was first popularized in the U.S. by the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Written by two pioneers in sustainable design, this book talks about how designers, builders and manufacturers can stop the inevitable march from factory to consumer to dump by designing products and even buildings that are intended to be repurposed, or disassembled and reused once they’ve out-lived their usefulness, thus changing our consumer culture from “cradle-to-grave” to “cradle-to-cradle.”

But it’s not just big corporations that can upcycle! In my next post, I’ll be looking at a few examples of upcycling projects, large and small, (including one of my own!) as well as some of the potential pitfalls.

Stay tuned! And remember: Reduce, Reuse, UPCYCLE, Recycle! :)

 

EDIT: Part II is finally up! Check it out here.

94 Thoughts on ““Upcycling,” Part I: Reduce, Reuse, UPCYCLE, Recycle

  1. Pingback: “Upcycling,” Part II: Creative Re-purposing at Every Scale and Budget | JennyCooper.org

  2. Pingback: Hey Cupcake! I’m on Etsy | JennyCooper.org

  3. Pingback: Upcycling, Part III: Building a Movement – Upcycling Architecture | JennyCooper.org

  4. Pingback: budowa

  5. Pingback: tier2

  6. Pingback: tier2 junk

  7. Pingback: buy viagra

  8. Pingback: generic viagra india 100mg

  9. Pingback: purchase viagra

  10. Pingback: sildenafil citrate

  11. Pingback: sildenafil

  12. Pingback: generic cialis

  13. Pingback: cialis generic

  14. Pingback: viagra online

  15. Pingback: cialis

  16. Pingback: viagra overnight shipping

  17. Pingback: cialis coupon walmart

  18. Pingback: generic viagra

  19. Pingback: viagra

  20. Pingback: cialis super active

  21. Pingback: cialis from canada

  22. Pingback: Order viagra usa

  23. Pingback: Generic viagra usa

  24. Pingback: cialis coupon walgreens

  25. Pingback: cialis.com

  26. Pingback: canadian pharmacy cialis

  27. Pingback: cialis 20mg price

  28. Pingback: cialis online pharmacy

  29. Pingback: viagra generic

  30. Pingback: buy hydroxychloroquine

  31. Pingback: cialis for sale

  32. Pingback: cheap viagra

  33. Pingback: viagra 100mg

  34. Pingback: best ed medication

  35. Pingback: buy erection pills

  36. Pingback: new ed pills

  37. Pingback: buy generic 100mg viagra online

  38. Pingback: cvs pharmacy

  39. Pingback: pharmacy online

  40. Pingback: generic cialis online

  41. Pingback: Buy cialis online

  42. Pingback: levitra pills

  43. Pingback: buy vardenafil

  44. Pingback: levitra pills

  45. Pingback: online casino real money us

  46. Pingback: cialis price

  47. Pingback: slot machine games

  48. Pingback: buy viagra online cheap

  49. Pingback: casino online games for real money

  50. Pingback: real money casino

  51. Pingback: buy cialis online cheap

  52. Pingback: pay day loans

  53. Pingback: cash loans

  54. Pingback: online loans

  55. Pingback: play baccarat online

  56. Pingback: viagra 100mg

  57. Pingback: casino real money

  58. Pingback: buy pfizer viagra in canada

  59. Pingback: sugarhouse casino online nj

  60. Pingback: cialis 20

  61. Pingback: real vegas online casino french

  62. Pingback: real online casino

  63. Pingback: cialis to buy

  64. Pingback: generic viagra 24 hours delivery

  65. Pingback: cialis buy

  66. Pingback: 5 mg cialis

  67. Pingback: cialis 5 mg

  68. Pingback: buy hydroxychloroquine online

  69. Pingback: viagra online

  70. Pingback: casino online games

  71. Pingback: casino games

  72. Pingback: online casino games

  73. Pingback: viagra buy

  74. Pingback: sildenafil viagra

  75. Pingback: buy viagra online canada

  76. Pingback: cheap generic viagra

  77. Pingback: cheap viagra generic

  78. Pingback: purchasing cialis online

  79. Pingback: viagra prescription

  80. Pingback: buy generic ed pills online

  81. Pingback: buy viagra without prescription

  82. Pingback: tadalafil 10 mg

  83. Pingback: viagra alternative

  84. Pingback: cheapest generic viagra

  85. Pingback: cialis cialis online

  86. Pingback: cheap cialis

  87. Pingback: slot machine

  88. Pingback: best real casino online

  89. Pingback: buy non prescription viagra online

  90. Pingback: viagra dosage

  91. Pingback: buy viagra online without

  92. Pingback: where to buy cialis

  93. Pingback: buy real viagra online without prescription

  94. Pingback: can you buy viagra in bangkok

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation