In this episode of our podcast, we talk about “upcycling” versus “recycling” and share some ways people and businesses are using upcycling. We talk about how our business,
You can listen to us discuss upcycling and upcycled art below, or read on for a quick summary of what we discuss.
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What is Upcycling and How Does It Differ from Recycling?
Back in episode 351, we talked about recycling and shared five benefits of the practice. In case you missed it–recycling is the process of breaking something down into its raw materials in order to create something new. An example of this is clothing or bags that are made from recycled plastic.
Upcycling (also called creative reuse) is the practice of repurposing items or materials, in whole or in part, to create new ones of greater perceived value.
- Making a wine bottle into a lamp
- Turning an old car seat belt into a belt
- Transforming an old ladder into a bookshelf
- Using stacked vintage suitcases as a nightstand
- Crafting mesh produce bags into dish scrubbies
Which is Better For the Planet–Recycling or Upcycling?
Both recycling and upcycling are great for the planet; however, recycling does require large-scale use of resources (electricity, chemicals, etc) to break down products.
Upcycling, on the other hand, typically doesn’t require great expenditure of resources.
Both upcycling and recycling help keep trash out of landfills, so both are better for the planet than just throwing things away.
What is Upcycled Art?
The examples of upcycled items we mentioned above are functional in nature; however, items can also be upcycled to be used in art. Remember that popsicle stick birdhouse you made in grade school? That’s a great example of upcycled art.
Cheery Bird Vintage
(note: This site was closed in 2023)
Larissa and I have long enjoyed going to estate sales and collecting vintage items. In 2017 we decided to turn this practice into a business.
We started selling on eBay under the name
We rebranded the business as
Some of Larissa’s Favorite Upcycled Art Media
Larissa’s first love is paper; it’s her favorite medium to work with. She’s also been working with fabric and felt for years.
Some ways she upcycles paper include:
- Rolling strips of junk mail and scrap paper into colorful paper beads
- Deconstructing old books (not valuable ones, of course!) and using the parts (pages, covers) for various art projects
- Making mini-notebooks from game cards (Monopoly property cards, etc) and scrap paper
Paper beads are exactly what they sound like — beads made by rolling strips of paper and sealing them with glue or varnish. Paper beads can be fashioned into necklaces, earrings, bracelets, lanyards, and other wearable art.
Larissa has made paper beads for years now, and has accumulated thousands. She’s used many types of paper, including junk mail and flyers, magazines and newspapers, comic books and scrapbook paper, and more. It’s an addicting craft, to say the least…and it’s extremely satisfying knowing that every bead equals one less scrap of paper in a landfill or recycling center.
A junk journal may be used in the same way as a regular journal — for recording thoughts, appointments, etc. — but also as a scrapbook for saving photos, mementos, and more. However, junk journals are also very cool pieces of upcycled art!
The most artistic part of creating a junk journal involves decorating, or embellishing, it.
Looking to Build a Stash of Vintage Paper for Your Own Upcycled Art Projects?
We’ve got you covered! As with so many other small businesses, when COVID hit we had to pivot a bit. We haven’t been able to go to estate sales, but fortunately, we already had a HUGE supply of vintage paper, lace, ribbon, buttons, and the like.
With this stash in mind, and with the knowledge that we can more easily restock these types of items without having to visit in-person sales, we created a subscription box for people who love vintage paper as much as we do — junk journalers, art therapists, homeschoolers, and others.
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Thanks for listening!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa
- Vegetarian Zen “Saving Our Planet” Board on Pinterest