(Family Features) Virtually everyone knows recycling helps promote more sustainable living. A lesser known but effective way to keep materials out of the landfill is upcycling.
When items get recycled, they’re generally broken down and the materials are used to create other products. For example, glass can be melted to create new glass containers, milk jugs can become playground equipment and discarded newspapers are the basis of some kitty litter.
Upcycling is a little different. With upcycling, the material doesn’t change form but is reinvented. One popular tactic is reinventing thrift store furniture finds into new pieces, such as converting an old trunk into a whimsical coffee table.
Upcycling can also be an effective and affordable way for philanthropic organizations to achieve their missions. One example is Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets), a nonprofit dedicated to serving veterans and active-duty military by supplying therapeutic craft kits. In honor of Earth Day, the organization announced it received and repurposed more than 1 million pounds of upcycled materials.
“Through upcycling, we are able to responsibly utilize donated materials that would have gone to landfills to serve veterans who need our support,” said Joe McClain, retired Navy captain and CEO of Heal Vets.
The organization repurposes leather, cloth and other materials to create therapeutic craft kits for veterans and active-duty military around the world. Thousands of kits are shipped each month to help with long-term support and recovery for those impacted by wounds of war.
Each kit is a complete project, such as leatherworking, building models, making jewelry or another creative piece. While all kits help veterans focus on the present and build self-worth and self-esteem, many are also customized to focus on specific needs such as restoring fine motor skills and concentration or relieving depression and anxiety.
Upcycled materials, such as leather from old airplane seats, make the kits possible. Together, Southwest Airlines, Arise Foundation and Duncan Aviation donated 335,000 pounds of leather from outdated seat covers to support numerous leather kit options, including wallets, belts, footballs, and bracelets.
Other organizations providing source materials include The Elks (more than 1 million square feet of tanned deer skins), La-Z-Boy (469,500 pounds of upholstery), American Woodmark (112,400 pounds of cabinets) and Magna (40,000 pounds of automobile seats).
Upcycling at Home
Make a commitment to sustainability with these upcycling ideas you can implement in your daily life:
- Empty tissue boxes can be used to organize supplies, including pens, seasoning packets and more.
- Instead of discarding an old shower curtain, save it to use as a drop cloth for messy art projects with the kids.
- Fit mate-less socks over your hand to use as dusting mitts or to collect and store small pieces of games or other household items.
- Cut the tops off two empty plastic bottles of the same circumference. Attach a zipper to the cut edges using hot glue or adhesive for fun art supply storage.
- Add a backing with chalkboard paint to an old window or mirror frame for a stylish message board.
Learn more about the relationship between upcycling, sustainability and supporting veterans at healvets.org.
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