Environment

Normal People, Innovative Upcycling

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ATTN: is partnering with Coors Light to highlight sustainability efforts focusing on waste reduction and innovative ways we can all upcycle.

The growing issue of environmental sustainability has more Americans wondering: what can I do to reduce my environmental footprint? Many people choose to recycle their paper and plastic, or even compost their food scraps—but for some Americans, upcycling has become a popular way to find new uses for what might otherwise be considered "trash."

Recycling Containers

But what is upcycling?

Upcycling is the process of taking waste and transforming it into new, different, and useful products. Or, as described by Upcycle That, a guide for all things upcycling, it is a process, "where waste is looked at as a resource," and "materials are reused in a clever new way, giving them a second life and function."

Is it different from recycling?

Yes. According to SFGate, upcycling is a specific type of recycling. Most recycling involves breaking down raw materials for reuse, like old newspaper, plastic, or glass. But upcyling focuses on taking used consumer goods and using them to build new things. 

What does upcycling look like?

At its most basic, upcycling could be a tin-can flower pot, or a milk-crate bookshelf. Many people choose to make coffee tables out of worn-out industrial pallets. But upcycling can go way deeper than that. Check out these wild projects that take the concept to the extreme:

Milk Crate Shelf

You can use beer bottles to make cool drinking glasses. 

If your apartment is short on glassware, you can try turning your leftover beer bottles into cups, like so:

Coors Cup

It's not only a great way to make sure the bottles don't end up in a landfill, but also lets you showcase the great graphics on your favorite beers. 

Pallets can be used to make all kinds of furniture:

Chairs, tables, benches—they can all be made with some inexpensive shipping pallets. 

Pallet Bench

Or make a shelf out of an old ladder, using some spare wood.

Ladder Shelf

You can even turn a used suitcase into a boombox

With a little bit of technical, and electrical know-how, that is. 

Suitcase Boombox

And some people are taking sustainability even farther, by using their skills to generate their own power. 

Instead of buying an expensive wind turbine for his remote Arizona land, where electricity was not available, amateur astronomer Mike Davis decided to build his own, using some PVC pipe, plywood, and a generator he purchased on eBay. According to Davis, "The turbine provided enough power for the interior 12V lighting and enough 120V AC at the power outlets to keep my battery charger, electric shaver, and mini vacuum cleaner...all charged up and running."

Or check out this completely off-grid house in Maine. 

But you don't have to go that far to make a difference. 

Simple projects can be a great way to get started with upcycling. By simply getting creative with items you have lying around the house, you can access a powerful tool to help environmental sustainability, improve your craft skills, and introduce some personality into your decor.