building materials

Upcycle!

It’s doubtful that clothing, jewelry, furniture, or even building materials comes to mind, right? Perhaps you were picturing bicycling uphill instead?

In fourth grade, my best friend was way ahead of the curve. She took a cracker box, paper towel roll, pieces of an empty cereal box, purple paint, sparkles, and glue to give another friend of ours a moving away gift they’d never forget.

Many would have overlooked and discarded that stuff to disintegrate in a landfill somewhere. Instead, she scooped them up and created a masterful “mantelpiece.”

Nowadays upcycled goods and ideas are everywhere. Granted, most of them are a bit more professionally constructed, but the idea is very much the same.

Our first Pick 5 stories featured upcycling. The lusakaU.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia, shared with us that they were donating their rubbish to local upcyclers who made more useful and artistic goods such as reusable bags and paper.

In another story, a group of widows and single moms in Chikumbuso, Zambia, were crocheting strips of plastic grocery bags into more durable reusable bags and making beads from glass. The sales were supporting a school for their children and the community’s orphans.

LusakaUpcycling is good for us. It cuts down on our waste that ends up in the environment, helps spread awareness and inspiration for environmental action and can support local artisans and communities. Personally, I’d rather give and receive handmade gifts any day, especially if the purchase was supporting a good cause.

Could this work for a school or community fundraiser event near you? Spread the word and get others to join you, or try a family upcycling challenge. Join 8,183 others and make upcycling part of your Pick 5, share your story and inspire others to do the same.

In two weeks, I’ll feature a new upcycling story from you in a blog post and at www.epa.gov/Pick5.

Share your story Flickr, here as a comment, or on Facebook. I can’t wait to see what you create!

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reduce, Recycle & Reuse = ReStore

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked for EPA for many years. She currently works in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA Headquarters, and manages the EPA blog, Greenversations.

I’ve certainly learned a lot managing the Greenversations blog. I’ve worked here at EPA for longer than I’d care to admit, but it seems I learn something new everyday reading the blog posts and moderating each and every comment submitted. We have had several posts about green building in all of its forms, but not too long ago we posted a blog post from someone who had recently purchased a home, and was in the process of renovating it in the greenest way possible. About this time, I heard about Habitat for Humanity ReStores, and lo and behold there was a sign for one put up in my community in Southern Maryland.

I decided to stop in one Saturday morning and WOW were my eyes opened. It is just getting going and is currently operated out of a barn, but what a treasure trove of goodies. As I walked through, I saw lots of appliances, cabinets, fixtures, windows, shelving, sinks and toilets, tile, carpet remnants, 3,000 gallons of paint and so much more. Most were new, although some were gently used. I decided I needed to know more. I found the store manager and asked him about the ReStore. I found out that all of the items for sale are donated by either local home improvement stores, builders, or regular people like you and me, and are sold at 50-70% off of the retail value (the paint was just $3.00 per gallon). Some of the items (for example, five matching 3’ x 5’ windows) were ordered the wrong size and couldn’t be returned. Donating the items to a charity is a great way to recoup some of the lost expense (as a tax donation), helps others keep their renovating expenses down, and a worthy charity reaps the benefits (in the form of sales). This is a win-win situation if I ever saw one. Not to mention the fact that all of these materials are being spared from going into landfills.

There are many stores that use this model of accepting donations and keeping stuff from being thrown away. Do a search on the web for “recycled building materials” and check out what’s available in your area. By the way, during my conversation I also found out that a store in Virginia helped someone build his house entirely from ReStore purchases. Can you just imagine how much he was able to save. Have you used a source like this for renovations or repairs on your home? Share with us your experience and thoughts about this way of saving “green” while renovating “green”.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.