Upcycle It

Repurpose Just About Anything




Chicken coop made from discarded scrap lumber.

Repurposing possessions saves money by reducing consumption and helps the environment by taking pressure off landfills. Common strategies include using old newspapers for stuffing or wrapping and used tin cans to collect cooking grease. Author Jeff Yeager, in his book, Don’t Throw That Away, expounds on such everyday “upcycling”.

His tips include using a banana peel to shine shoes, sprinkling crumbled eggshells in the garden as fertilizer and natural pest control, and stuffing dryer lint inside empty toilet paper rolls for fireplace kindling. Instead of merely recycling plastic mesh bags, nest a few together and use them as a kitchen sink scrub pad. Fill empty plastic bottles with water and freeze them to make the refrigerator more energy-efficient, and also to serve as dripless ice cubes for the family picnic cooler.

Before discarding old carpet, salvage the best sections to use in smaller spaces, like a bathroom, closet, car floor or pet house. Instead of buying new shelf liners, consider used gift-wrapping paper for kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Scrap lumber, tile and stones can be made into mosaic art designs. A cat scratching post exemplifies another multi-source (carpet and wood) upcycling project.

While about 90 percent of U.S. households now have curbside recycling available, the amount of trash each American produces keeps growing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average citizen currently generates about 4.5 pounds of trash a day, totaling 600 times their body weight over a lifetime unless they seriously practice the three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle.

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