What Is Upcycling and Three Reasons You Should Consider It


What is Upcycling ?

Upcycling is a relatively new kid on the block.  So new, in fact, that my spellchecker keeps wanting to change it to epicycle !  Turns out although the word is new, the concept is not new at all.

Upcycling is the process of changing old, discarded or unused articles into something new that is useful and usually beautiful.  It gives used materials a better, often higher purpose than before.

So you see, the idea of upcycling is not new.  Some of the best ideas for upcycling originates from tough times when people had to make do with that they had.  Nothing was wasted.


Lets demonstrate with an example

Upcycling is a form of recycling but differs from recycling because the materials are not broken down. Materials are used in its original format.

Take for instance a discarded plastic bag.  To upcycle a used plastic bag you can clean it, cut it into yarn and weave a beach bag.

To recycle that same bag you will have to melt it down, turn it into pellets and use the pellets to manufacture a completely new product.

Three Reasons You Should Upcycle

Saves the Environment

When you modify discarded materials for a new use instead of throwing it into a rubbish bin from where it will end up in a landfill, you are saving the planet.

Rising consumerism is one of the biggest enemies to the environment and repurposing old redundant items instead of running off the the mall to buy something new curbs your expenditure and saves the environment.

Enhances Lives

Since materials don’t have to be broken down and changed into a new material, entry cost is low and skills to upcycle can be taught relatively easy.  This makes it ideal for solo entrepreneurs, community upliftment projects or a side business to earn some extra cash.

If you are not up to upcycling yourself, you can find groups where you can donate items used in upcycling projects and so help uplift your community.

One such company is Upcycle.co.za where individuals and corporates can get involved in upcycling.

Stimulates Your Creativity

Once you start looking at ideas to repurpose, the sky is the limit, really, and every item in your house and around the office suddenly winks at you with a new purpose.

Pinterest is a rich source of upcycle ideas, and I put together a special board for you with some excellent ideas.

Until next time, keep cycling up!



Upcycled Magazine Pages

Upcycled Magbag made from recycled magazine pages
Upcycled Magbag made from recycled magazine pages
Upcycled Shopping Bag

Shopping for a summer scarf the other day, I not only got the perfect scarf, I got it in this cute upcycled bag!

Made from old magazine pages, they are called Magbags and are made from recycled magazine pages, stitched together with a simple zig-zag stitch.  I also believe that it forms part of an upliftment program for women.

Thumbs up for Out Of the Blue in Lynnwood Ridge, Pretoria.

Have you come across any retailers using Magbags?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

The Best Way to Start Greening Your Life



Recycling (shutterstock image)

Recycling your waste is one of the absolute best ways to start greening your life, if you have been putting off doing so.

It saves the earth’s resources by reusing materials.  It prevents dangerous chemicals from polluting rivers, soil and the air. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

But there is something far more valuable and long lasting you will gain from recycling.

Recycling will change the way you think.  Recycling will change how you choose.  Recycling will change how you buy;  it will change what you buy.

In the end, recycling will save you money.

Ready to give it a try? Here are some tips to get you started.

Find a Space

It might sound silly or obvious, but identify a space where all recycling has to go.  Having a set space to take recycling to will immediately increase your chances at success.

Also remember: recycling is not just about sorting your waste.  It is also about getting recycled waste to a depot from where it can be processed. So ensure your space is somewhere you will remember to pick it up on your way out.

Contain It

Get dedicated containers to store your recycling in.  It can be anything from dedicated dustbins, to crates or used plastic shopping bags.

Try to set up containers in such a way that recycling gets deposited directly into the container that it is going to get disposed off in.  So if you use a crate, line it with a plastic bag for easy pick up and go.

Word of advice: start with containers you already have in the house.  Next, figure out how much recycling your household generates and how often you dispose of recycled items. Once you have established quantities and schedule, you can invest in the right size and type of containers, if you need to.

Cultivate New Habits

Most things are easy to do … once.  Doing it over and over again until it becomes a habit takes a little bit more effort.

So don’t rush into it. Start with one (maximum two) items to recycle, for instance glass or paper. Only add more items once you have the habit properly formed and the details sorted.

Rome wasn’t built in one day.  Neither does your recycling effort have to be.

Begin with the End in Mind

How do you decide which item to start recycling? Easy peasy.

Find the nearest, easiest recycling depot to your house, and whatever is recycled there, that’s the product you start with.

Easy drop-off is half the battle won.

Get Everyone on Board the Recycling Train

This can be a tricky one, depending on who you share your dwelling with.  Recycling isn’t difficult, but it requires commitment, and commitment, and more commitment.

Don’t war. Don’t blame. Don’t shame.

Focus on the positives. Encourage. Celebrate small victories.

South Africans do not yet have a recycling culture or  -laws, as some European and other countries, so it remains a largely voluntary act to recycle.  And for voluntary acts you need volunteers.

Get it? Now get going.  And if you mess up, don’t fret. Reboot, simplify even more, and start again.


The Daily News

Sustainable news - Newspaper vs Electronic News
Sustainable news – Newspaper vs Electronic News

There is a guy I meet up with almost every morning on my way to work.  We chat about the weather and sometimes the news headlines.

My day is somehow lacking if he’s not at our regular meeting place.

He is the guy that sells me my newspaper.

I take my newspaper to the office with me and leave it in the Common room.  I see people paging through it, discussing it, having lunch around it.

Newspapers not only connect us with the outside world, it also, somehow, has the ability to connect us to those around us.

Yes, I have a tablet and a phone and a computer where I can get my daily news fix in a more sustainable way, but it’s just not the same as paging through a newspaper.

Researching how ‘green’ my newspaper buying habit is, brought some surprising facts to light.  Facts like ‘It takes 24 trees to make one ton of newspaper’ almost makes me feel like an offender for buying a newspaper, yet it seems that the jury is still out on which of electronic- or paper news has the biggest carbon footprint.  This is, of course, given that you recycle both the newspaper and the electronic vice you choose.

Paper recycling makes a strong argument.  It costs 50-80% less to build a paper mill that uses wastepaper than to build one that uses new pulp.  Producing recycled paper also releases 73% less air pollution than using new pulp.  Recycling firms are plenty and drop-off is easy.

Re-cycling your used electronic equipment, however, is more tricky. Not only are there fewer re-cycling drop-off options available, there are also more risks involved with data stored on your devices as well as SIM- and data cards.

So this is over to you now.  How do you get your daily news fix?  How often do you buy a newspaper? Do you think that newspapers will be around much longer?



Sharing is Caring, or is it?

Reduce by Sharing what you own

While researching even more ways to go green, I recently came across UK-based website Streetbank. Streetbank adresses the issue of reducing what we buy/own by introducing the (age old) concept of sharing stuff that we own or skills that we posses with people who live in our communities. More than just reducing what we consume, it strives to re-create communities that care for and help out one another for free.

Participants share anything from garden tools, french lessons, child care and even vacant land for a gardener without land. Communities are considered as people living in a radius of a mile (approx 1.6km) from you.

A novel idea and one that initially filled me with excitement, untill I got to registering. Because you see, on registering, I had to specify at least one item that I would like to share with my community. That got me thinking and to my surprise, I could not initially come up with any one item that I was prepared to share with just any stranger that popped up on my front door.

I have to admit that I was a little shocked at my own reaction, especially as I am generally regarded as ‘nice’ and even ‘caring’ by most of my friends. After some soul-searching I decided to bounce the idea off some of the other ‘nice’ people I know and found that the non-sharing attitude was mutual. Is it a South African thing? Do you trust people in your community enough to share your lawnmower with them or invite them over for free assistance with their tax returns?

Why not take 30 seconds and tell me if you are prepared to share some of the stuff that you own with people in your community, and if yes, what are you prepared to share? Also, did you actually go and register at Streetbank? I did! Leave a comment and I will let you know what I’m sharing. See you soon.

Second Time Around


Recycling can only be effective if there is a viable and growing market for recycled- over virgin produced products.  The international recycling symbol shows a loop of three arrows following each other and symbolising the dependant nature of the process.  Once your waste is recycled, these materials need to be re-used to produce recycled products in order to close the loop.

Due to current technologies and scales of production, recycled counterparts are often more costly than their virgin produced cousins.  However, a bigger demand for recycled will probably speak louder than the cry for sustainable production.  Investment, financial and other, will result in more effective and efficient production, driving prices down.

We are the generation who have to turn the tide.  Choose wisely by choosing recycled whenever you can.

Reuse, reuse, reuse


An excellent way to reuse beautiful old or new porcelaine and cutlery. I found this decorative bird cage at one of our local craft markets, the Klip Klap Market, in Olympus, Pretoria East.
The Klip-Klap market is a monthly, eclectic market hosting antiques, quality hand-made crafts (many of which uses local craftsmen and recycled or reused material), food and wine. Go to their website for their exhibition dates.