Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle....Upcycle

Some call it a hot new green innovation others brush it off as a hipster moniker for recycle, but whatever you call it “upcycle” is something that deserves attention.

Upcycle is a term coined by William McDonaugh and Michael Braugart in their book on ecologically intelligent design, Cradle to Cradle. In the simplest terms, upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value.
What makes upcycling standout from recycling is that it takes a bit of ingenuity. Recycling basically takes trash and completely changes it into something new. When we reuse we take the original item and give it a different purpose, like using a glass milk bottle as a vase. Upcycling repurposes materials that are not easily recycled into something useful or art.

But upcycling isn’t anything new. Marcel Duchamp took ordinary objects and turned them into what he called “found art” in the early 20th Century. Now as we find ourselves painfully aware of the amount of waste we generate it is somewhat soothing to think of new ways to use waste. Sure it’s better not to generate the waste in the first place, but unfortunately there is already so much.

TerraCycle is one of several companies striving to make a profit while helping mother earth and her inhabitants. Founded in 2001 by a Princeton University Freshman, Tom Szaky, TerraCycle upcycles otherwise non-recyclable materials to make useful items such as bags, wrapping materials and even shower curtains.

Etsy, the place for all things handmade, ran a crafty contest earlier this year to encourage upcycling.

To get your upcyle inspiration and experience some of Denver's most creative upcycle artists visit the Green with Envy:ReCycle, ReInvent, RePurpose exhibit opening this weekend at the Tactile Textile Arts Center in Tamarac Square.

images: Bicycle Wheel by Marcel Duchamp, TerraCyle bag made from cookie packaging, newspaper beads by Etsy artist janicemae, light made from soda bottles by Upcycle Art.

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