Upcycling is the practice of taking material that has no value in its current state, and turning it into something that does.  Some entrepreneurs are turning discarded material into a business venture. Local business SaraBella turns plastic bags into fashionable bags, purses, pouches, and even dresses. Green Guru Gear, out of Colorado, makes backpacks, bike panniers and more with old bicycle inner tubes, wet suits, tents and more. But the best part about upcycling are the limitless opportunities for Do It Yourself projects to make something unique, yourself.

For the recent Bend Open Streets event, we were inspired by Park(ing) Day to make a pop-up mini park using reclaimed materials for our seating and table. We had plenty of pallets, from all of the LED light bulb deliveries for our Bend Energy Challenge program (get your free LED’s today). A volunteer used leftover wood pallets to deconstruct and turn into foldable wooden chairs. A quick google image search gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration, which often lead to tutorials with step by step instructions for the beginner pallet furniture DIYer.

Scrolling through pop up park images we came across tires turned into tire-seat-webseating, and it turned into a relatively easy, cheap and fun way to upcycle bald tires into unique functional outdoor furniture. Les Schwab let us have as many free tires as we wanted, so the only cost was 52′ feet of parachutes cord and a can of spray paint.

Lastly we wanted a table. It didn’t take long to find a free coffee table put out by the curb, but the Free section on Craigslist is another great source of material when I’m not so lucky. In fact today there are multiple old entertainment centers listed for free, and Pinterest has thousands of ideas for upcycling old entertainment centers into clever entryway storage, kids kitchens and more. A quick coat of paint on the legs and chalkboard paint for the surface turned a beaten down table into a kid friendly outdoor play/eat/art table.

Upcycling is fun, creative, unique, and a great way to not only reduce what gets sent to the landfill, but also inspire people to rethink the stuff in our lives. Here’s a short list of some great places to find materials or ideas to upcycle something clever for your home.

What upcycling projects have you done? Let us know, we’d loved to feature it!

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