It seems that modern day Britain is harking back to the fashions and trends of yesteryears; the ‘mend and make do’ mentality that was ablaze in the early 20th Century seems to be making a comeback.
Recycling is something we all have got to grips with; we all understand that we can no longer carrying on using various natural resources that we are – demand is simply outstripping supply. But, there is another dimension to recycling; called upcycling it started to gain in popularity in the mid-1990s. But now, as the 21st Century hits its stride, people are realising that upcycling projects are a great way of not only creating something new, but a great way to be environmentally friendly without appearing to be too ‘new age’ and hippy-ish.
Upcycling projects can be literally anything; here we explore what it is for those upcycling newbies amongst us, as well as looking at the creation of upcycled functional items, re-using old furniture legs.
What is upcycling?
At its simplest (and it really doesn’t get any more complicated than this!), upcycling is the creation of a new item using various parts of something else. This basic concept can be as creative and as complex as you like but it is a new way of breathing life into something that may be old or broken.
The mid-1990s was the first time that upcycling made an appearance in its current format; with various designers and creative entrepreneurs realising that items, such as furniture and other goods that were considered obsolete in their current format, could be re-used as something else.
The web is awash with upcycling ideas, such as…
- Instead of buying gift bows, why not be super creative and make one from old magazine articles etc.?
- Furniture pieces are popular items for upcycling from making a kitchen table from an old barn door, to creating a ‘designer’ chair from old metal objects and giving it new feet
- Clothing is another popular upcycling project; from new shirts made from old skirts, to making a bespoke bag from an old pair of jeans
So it is recycling, but by another name…?
You could, at a push, say that anything that is re-used is actually a form of recycling and the logic is obvious but… upcycling is not just about stripping down to component parts and making other, similar objects form it. The argument is that upcycling is a process that is physical – some might say, recycling is a chemical process – and it is also a creative one.
Take the humble wooden pallet; made from sturdy wood, it is used as a platform to transform all manner of goods, thousands of miles across Britain and in some cases, the world. If you have never examined the wooden pallet, now is the time.
It is actually a sturdy construction, held together by some fairly decent nails, usually hammered in with the use of an air gun. It can shoulder some serious weight too.
But it is rough and ready, but think of it as a useful object, a diamond that needs a polish. There are some great ideas of how a wooden pallet can be upcycled but how about this:
Sand the wood of two or three wooden pallets and then paint the colour of your choice; you may find the wood soaks in the paints, so a layer of undercoat wouldn’t go amiss. Using old curtains or other fabric, and either re-using or buying new padding, create a seat for the wooden pallet. Use anything you can to securely hold the two or three pallets in place… and then add some fabulous feet or furniture legs to it.
You will have the most amazing soft top seat or footstool!
Not the creative type, but like the idea?
Let’s be honest, not all of us have the time of the inclination to sand down pallets or otherwise; some of us don’t have the sewing machine or the sewing knowledge, let alone the right tools to create padded seats…
… and some of us have no idea how to go about sourcing this stuff in the first place, let alone where we would buy furniture legs or feet from.
Fortunately, for those of us missing a creative streak, someone else has come up with a plan to help us out; upcycling companies are springing up all over the UK and offering some fabulous and delightfully creative items for our contemporary green homes. In fact, for those of us that like the idea of older, antique style furniture, there is some of that on offer too.
The prediction – Upcycling will become even more popular
Consumers are beginning to be fed up of the ‘same old, same old’ that seems to be across the high street and so people are turning away from the cheap ‘stack ‘em high’ that some major outlets have been opting for in recent years.