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In Honor of Earth Day: Try an Upcycling Project

By Emma Zaratian • April 01, 2019

Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle

In case you haven't heard the news, China is now refusing to process our recyclable waste, which means US cities are scaling back recycling programs en masse. All the plastic bottles, tin cans, and cardboard we've been diligently sorting and separating? They're heading to local landfills, incinerators, or worse yet—the ocean. Which leaves many of us feeling more uneasy than ever about discarding our jars, bottles, and boxes—not to mention all the stuff we recently threw out because it didn't "spark joy." But aside from toting around reusable grocery bags, hydrating with durable water bottles, and buying used books (ahem), what's an upstanding citizen of Earth to do? Turns out, there are a lot of crafty projects out there to give old junk a new lease on life—and some of it actually looks awesome.

Denim Darlings

Odds are, you've got a few pairs of old, unwearable jeans piling up in your closet. Whether they don't fit anymore or are just too ragged for public viewing, self-proclaimed "idea architect" Niki Meiners isn't judging. She just doesn't want you to throw them—or your old tees—out without a solid DIY try on the sewing machine. From placemats and handbags to pet toys and bean bags, the Americana-style concepts in her book Jeans and a T-Shirt: Fun and Fabulous Upcycling Projects for Denim and More are nothing groundbreaking, but they're definitely practical everyday items you'll get plenty of use from.

Green Thumbs

Gardeners, you know your hobby isn't cheap. In fact, the nursery and garden store industry raked in $48 billion in revenue last year alone. So repurposing large tin cans into plant pots, water bottles into drip systems, and wood pallets into stylish garden furniture might just tickle your pocketbook's fancy. Alex Mitchell's Gardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects offers a much-appreciated mix of simple upcycling projects, savvy shortcuts, and helpful plant recommendations to get the most out of your home garden.

Crafty Literati

Yes, books are precious, but it's ok to admit you have a box of unwanted novels and outdated technical guides collecting dust somewhere. In Playing with Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book, author and bookbinder Jason Thompson offers up a long list of tutorials on how to transform those bygone pages into wow-worthy works of art. From origami flowers to papier-mâché vases to decorative gift wrap, the results of each project pay homage to the literary word while recycling existing paper.

Hip Homemakers

Followers of Joanna Gaines or West Elm will know that artisanal nature-inspired décor is today what avocado green was in the ‘70s. So when a book like Aurelie Drouet's Natural Designs: Contemporary Organic Upcycling comes along, trend-conscious homemakers are going to notice. Want a pendant light above your dining table? Gather a lovely bunch of coconuts and get drilling. Pining for more bookshelves? Take inspo from a child's swing with hemp rope and reclaimed or rough-sawn slats of wood. Of course, if you're following more of a vintage-chic approach to home décor, there are some clever ideas in Ellie Laycock's Creating the Vintage Look: 35 Ways to Upcycle for a Stylish Home. Think tea-set birdfeeders, tin-tray magnetic memo boards, and pillowcase laundry bags—perfect for anyone who just inherited Grandma's attic.

Metal Heads

Got some galvanized metal objects rattling about in your basement, garage, or, you know, barn? Rather than leaving them to rust somewhere, DIY maven Laura Putnam suggests, in her book DIY Rustic Modern Metal Crafts: 35 Creative Upcycling Ideas for Galvanized Metal, transforming these often under-appreciated pieces into clocks, candle luminaries, and planters. The results are a mix of shabby-chic and country kitsch. If a whole book devoted to galvanized metal seems overkill, you can also just grab an old bucket, drill a drain hole, fill it with a plant, and call it a day.

Officially, Earth Day is April 22, but since we're on board with living every day likes it's Earth Day, we're honoring conservation and the great outdoors all month long. Follow and Like us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest for more ideas on how to protect and enjoy our little blue planet—and let us know your favorites!

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