up•cy•cle ˈəpˌsīkəl/ verb
Use of the word, upcycle, started to gain traction in earnest in the mid 1990’s after research and publications emerged out of Europe addressing sustainability and zero emissions. One of the imperatives out of the movement was that we should create from what would have been discarded.
This concept is not a new one. In fact, during The Great Depression, families resorted to thrift and found themselves repurposing and reusing many items. To say times were hard would be an understatement. The stock market had crashed in 1929 leading to record unemployment, bank failures, and drastically reduced consumer spending.
People became extremely resourceful. Dresses were made from used flour sacks. A dining table might have been fashioned from an old door. Rugs were woven with leftover parachute fabric.
To downcycle would be to breakdown something that might otherwise end up useless and turn it into something that can be used, but would be of lesser quality or function. A good example of this would be plastic bags that are downcycled to become more plastic bags. The downcycled plastic bag is one that will not hold up as well and will degrade quickly. Discarded paper is downcycled into toilet paper. Downcycled items are often criticized for their inferior quality or value, but if you think about it, downcycling still helps reduce the energy and carbon footprint that would be produced by making the products from scratch with new raw materials
Just Do It
Today the craft of upcycling objet trouvé (found objects), memorabilia and discarded items has become a very successful cottage industry. Most weekends, local hardware stores are teeming with amateur and professional upcyclers trying to figure out how to make furniture out of pallets, make a lamp out of plumbing parts, or make a hanging birdfeeder out of grandma’s tea cup and saucer. The possibilities are limitless!
For inspiration, check out a few of our boards on Pinterest. Many of them are dedicated to sharing ideas for reusing, repurposing and upcycling.
Where to Shop
Of course, you should start with your own closets, cupboards, garage or basement. You’d be surprised how many “pearls” of inspiration you have hiding in your own home. If you find yourself short of material, just head to your local thrift store, flea market, yard sales or garage sale. Many stores offer senior discounts and have frequent price reduction sales.
Once you’ve found your materials, you may need to make a trip to your local hardware store to find the right connectors, tools and adhesives for the materials you plan to use.
Here are a few of our favorite local thrift stores and flea markets:
- ARES Thrift Store, 2536 Spruce St., (303) 444-8088
- TRU Community Care Thrift Store, 5565 Arapahoe Ave., (303) 604-5353
- Goodwill, 2486 W Baseline Rd., (303) 494-5145
- Greenwood Wildlife, 3600 Arapahoe Ave., (303) 245-0800
- Humane Society of Boulder Valley Thrift Shop, 5320 Arapahoe Ave., (303) 415-0685
- ReSource, 6400 Arapahoe Ave., (303) 419-8534
- The Salvation Army, 1701 33rd St., (303) 939-8502
- Sister Carmen Community Center Thrift Store, 701 W. Baseline Rd., (303) 665-4342
- Goodwill, 555. W. South Boulder Rd., (720) 287-5855
- Lafayette Collectibles & Flea Market, 130 E. Spaulding St., (303) 665-0433
- ARES Thrift Store, 818 Coffman St,. (303) 532-3344
- Front Range Mercantile, 1201 S. Sunset St., (303) 776-6605
- Goodwill, 1750 Main St., (720) 684-4334
- Longmont Humane Society Thrift Store, 700 Ken Pratt Blvd #216, (303) 774-6517
- Mountain States Children’s Home Thrift Store, 233 Main St., (303) 834-9510
- Table to Teacups Indoor Flea Market, 1420 Nelson Rd., (303) 485-7270