Fun and simple ways to repurpose items for other uses

Laboratory glassware with common zinnia fixed with cords hanging on a wall

What do you do with your old sofa, kitchen strainer, or clothing? Most of us throw or give them away. But what if you could repurpose them into something more useful and beautiful?

Upcycling is the process of taking something old or unwanted and converting it into something fresh and useful. It’s different from recycling, though, because it isn’t breaking something down to create an entirely new product. Instead, upcycling gives an existing item a new purpose. The beauty of upcycling is that the possibilities are endless. And the benefits are endless as well.

Upcycling saves the environment.

A recent study found that the average American produces 1,704 pounds of garbage per year (approximately three times the global average).1 Upcycling can help turn this trend around. Now items that were once on the way to a landfill can be reclaimed and given new life. You can feel good knowing that resusing items will save natural resources and protect the environment, shrinking your carbon footprint.

Used red boots that have been recycled to be planter pots

Upcycling is good for your psyche.

It’s a great way to unleash your creativity — and it can be a lot of fun as well. Consider transforming old t-shirts into a quilt as a gift for your college-bound child, or refurbishing an old nightstand to use as a shoe rack in your guest room. Upcycling allows you to express yourself and possibly do something you’ve never done before. Plus, slowing down a bit to upcycle an item can be relaxing.

Upcycling may help you save money.

When you upcycle simple things around your home or items picked up at a yard sale, imagine how much money you can save. Turn old shoes into plant holders, or create a new rug using old sweaters. Rather than buying something mass-produced, create something that reflects your personality and style — at a fraction of the cost.

Where do you start?

Nothing’s off-limits when it comes to upcycling. But most people start with furniture and clothing. If you don’t feel creative, visit some upcycling blogs or Pinterest to get ideas. You’ll be amazed at what some people have done — and that may trigger new ideas. You’re probably more creative than you think!

Upcycling is something everyone can do in one way or another. Don’t overthink it. Start small and find ways to refurbish items you’d typically throw away. As you practice upcycling, it’ll become a habit, and the rewards will soon follow.