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Upcycling 101: Simple at Home Projects

By April 27, 2020 No Comments

At this point, many of us have cleaned our house, checked things off of the “to-do” list, and said “Well, now what?” This is a great time to better your environmental footprint—diving into Earth-friendly habits and projects. One way to do so is to start upcycling!

The term upcycling was officially coined in 1998, as a way for companies to create and market products made from used materials. This concept reduces the amount of raw materials used and the waste that eventually ends up in our landfills. Let’s reuse as much as we can—keeping upcycling front of mind—and help make our world a better place!

Create something upcycled yourself:

Newspapers and magazines are good for creating small baskets. All you need is glue, scissors, a ruler, and a few pages from a magazine. Cut 2 to 3 centimeter strips of magazine and then fold and glue them into thirds—using the folded strips to create a lattice. Weave the strips in and out to make the box bottom. Use the ruler to fold up the sides and continue weaving in and out. Finally fold the edges down for a clean finish!

Image of Newspaper and magazines being used ot create a small basket

Have your sorted through your closet yet? Find any shirts that don’t fit, but are too sentimental to throw out? Use it to make a pillow or attach it to a canvas to create art! Old shirts can even be made into useful bags for groceries! The pillow we made isn’t too difficult, but does involve a sewing machine, scissors, a long ruler, chalk, and a pillow. Trace the pillow with chalk on the inside of the shirt. Sew under the neckline and cut away the scraps. Plan out where the back fold will go (for this pillow, we cut and hemmed the back of the shirt and used the existing hem of the front of the shirt for the other back edge). Sew the sides and flip right side out. Even a sewing machine novice can make an upcycled pillow!

Old t-shirt being used to create a pillow case cover

Towels can be cut smaller into rags, but they can also be used to make shower mats or even beach bags! For this project, only the handles are sewn—the sides of the bag use an easy “no sew” method. For this project, all you need is a towel, scissors, sewing needle, thread, and strap material (we used a strong ribbon). Cut the towel to the width of the bag you would like. Fold the piece in half (the fold will be the bottom of the bag). Use scissors to cut strips on both sides. These strips should be 3 to 4 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide. Tie the front and back strips in a double knot starting from the bottom of the bag, then sew on some straps!

Towel cut into small rags and being made into beach bags

Not only does upcycling reduce the amount of materials we use and saves us money, it also saves animals! About 100,000 animals die every year by eating or getting tangled in plastic. Upcycling is one way we can help reduce that number and make our world a better place!

Think of other upcycling projects you can do using materials you would normally throw away and together we can work toward zero waste! Care to share below?

AuthorDanielle

Danielle has been with the Education department at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada for over 4 years. Before the Aquarium, she received a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, focusing on lake trout otoliths. That led her to a research assistant position at The Ohio State University. After moving back to Toronto she wanted to inspire people of all ages to share in her appreciation of fish and other aquatic animals.

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