Give the gift of green through upcycling

Consider upcycling or repurposing for the holidays.

Create great gifts with things you already have! Photo credit: Kathy Jamieson | MSU Extension

Create great gifts with things you already have! Photo credit: Kathy Jamieson | MSU Extension

The season of giving is upon us! Those living on a tight budget might be challenged to find the perfect gift for all the people and pets on their list. If your cash flow is low and you are looking for an alternative to shopping online or standing in long lines at stores, try perusing your home for items to upcycle.

What is upcycling? Upcycling is the process of taking old, used, discarded or waste materials and transforming them into new, useful and often better items. Items that can be upcycled are everywhere, only limited by one’s imagination, creativity and innovation. Before throwing something away or even putting it in the recycle bin, ask yourself:

  • Could someone have a use for this if it was refashioned?
  • Does the item have value if it is altered somehow?
  • Could the life of this product be extended if it was refinished?

How is upcycling different than recycling? Recycling typically involves collecting consumer materials –mostly aluminum, glass, plastic and paper, and using a chemical process to break down the item so it can be reused again.

When you upcycle an item, you are modifying the item into something new but not breaking down it’s base ingredients. For instance: an upcycled plastic bottle can be transformed into a bird feeder with a few holes, sticks/dowels, seed and yarn/string. A recycled plastic bottle turns into molten plastic that is then manufactured into another plastic item.

What are the benefits of an upcycled gift? Upcycling gifts can save you money by using things you already own. By using your artistic ability, upcycled gifts offer an opportunity to provide a peronsal touch to the item that makes gift giving so special. As a bonus, upcycled gifts are also green; reducing landfills and unnecessary purchases.

If you find you have an eye and a talent for upcycling this giving season, you migt want to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor. Michigan State University Extension has many resources, workshops and scholarly articles that can turn your creativity into cash.