There are so many amazing people in this world who have dedicated their lives to reducing waste and creating a better world for all of us to enjoy. Here are seven ways you can contribute, support, or get involved by turning something old into something new. We have a feeling you’ll just love these upcycling ideas!
1. Upcycle sails into seasonal decor
Sea Bags has breathed new life to over 500 tons of sails that would have otherwise gone to a landfill. Sea Bags creates fun, functional, and stylish totes, bags, wine bags, and home goods from reclaimed sailcloth in Portland, Maine. Meticulously designed and produced by Maine craftspeople, the bags are “as rugged as they come and each one is a little different than the next.”
If you’re a seaman (or woman), you can become Sail Trade Partner. You’ll earn a free Sea Bag product as thanks, or you can turn your trade into a donation to teach a child to sail. Sea Bags will even arrange to pick up the sail or pay to have it shipped to them.
2. Upcycle juice boxes into kids crafts
Feed your kids a snack, then create upcycled craft projects with them using the leftover pouches and boxes. Juicy Juice is made with 100% juice and contains no high fructose corn syrup, no cane sugar, and no artificial sweeteners. You’ll feel better about your kiddos sipping on something healthy, get your creative juices flowing and avoid creating waste.
- Splashers Pencil Pouch: Why waste money on new back-to-school pencil pouches? Spend time with your kid while making a craft they’ll be proud of.
- Upcycled Juice Box Seed Starters: This is a clever way to give your kids’ favorite juice boxes a second life. Get endlessly creative in how you decorate these seed starters, and watch new life appear on your windowsill or in your backyard.
- Juicy Juice Piggy Bank: Don’t waste money on toy store piggy banks; instead, make your own by using supplies you can find in your craft drawer and an empty bottle. Not only are these absolutely adorable, but piggy banks are also a fun and simple way to get kids counting, adding, and subtracting on their own.
3. Upcycle your TV cable into an HDTV antenna
A TV industry first, ReLeaf by Mohu is an eco-friendly OTA antenna made from discarded cable set-top boxes and post-consumer recycled cardboard. In fact, one pound of plastic from cable set-top boxes can make parts for 40 Mohu TV antennas. Kudos to Mohu for literally repurposing cable’s garbage.
4. Upcycle a pizza box into plates and storage
GreenBox is truly the 100% recycled and recyclable “Swiss Army knife of pizza boxes.” Multifunctional (it transforms into four plates and a compact storage unit for leftovers) and eco-friendly, the GreenBox completely eliminates the need for wasteful storage materials like paper plates, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and more. Eat pizza, save trees and water, and reduce pollution. Now that’s appetizing!
5. Upcycle your old makeup into cash
Girls, I know you have old, unused makeup stashed in your bathroom drawers. Let’s face it, we all possess a little makeup hoarding shame. Whether you were swayed by an over complimentary salesperson or splurged on that perfect color for one night, cosmetic waste is real. But, now you can actually sell your new or pre-owned makeup products and makeup tools (i.e., brushes and palettes).
Glambot is here to help upcycle your old makeup — and they even pay for shipping. Your unused or lightly used makeup must be
- Have at least 50% original product remaining
- Be free from contaminants (i.e., dirt, mold, pet hair)
- Have labeling attached to product
- And the exterior packaging cannot be not cracked, damaged, or too worn
Get a full program run down, including the full list of accepted brands.
6. Upcycle jeans into home insulation
At some point, even the most comfortable of denim gets too worn or no longer fits. But why throw away good material when it can be turned into (healthy) home insulation? Yes, you read that right. After you send your jeans to the ingenious peeps at Blue Jeans Go Green, it’s upcycled into UltraTouch Denim Insulation made from 80% post-consumer recycled denim. They accept jackets, skirts, and shirts.
This denim insulation is not only environmentally friendly, it’s not carcinogenic, contains no formaldehyde or chemical irritants, offers extraordinary thermal performance, and provides 30% better sound absorption than traditional fiberglass insulation. Goodbye pink, hello blue.
The giving-back-buck doesn’t stop there. Many retail partners offer a discount on new jeans when you return your old pair. Plus, you can apply to receive insulation for your local community, be it a Habitat for Humanity project or even a civic building. Bonded Logic, Inc., the manufacturer of UltraTouch has donated to over 30 Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the country and provided insulation to Hurricane Katrina victims.
7. Upcycle your furniture to benefit veterans
The great people at Furnishing Hope in Santa Ana, California, have created a program that rewards wounded heroes while keeping unused furniture and décor items out of the landfill. Tired of witnessing thousands of dollars worth of furniture being disposed of from high-end clients, Furnishing Hope was created by Beth Phillips, a former interior designer. Beth sought a way to bring together people in need with those who have more than enough.
Today, the nonprofit works with a network of designers and volunteers who transform home environments. By partnering with the U.S. military’s Family Readiness Officers, they offer veterans in crisis the opportunity to experience the transformation of an empty house into a nurturing and comfortable home. You too can get involved by donating new or gently used furniture or your time, adopting a family, or making a tax-deductible donation.
No act is too small.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only way it ever has.” –Margaret Mead
Feature image credit: Sea Bags. Originally published on September 9, 2016, this article was updated in August 2020.