Credits for this go to my flat mate, a genuine upcycling queen! I love these simple and cool upcycling ideas that are using very common waste, like those small pots you get plants in – herbs for your kitchen, flowers for the balcony or plants for the garden. They come in those plastic pots that are usually thrown away. By cutting them so that the lower fifth remains and turning them around you can create a simple and good-looking soap bar holder. Love it!
Not giving and taking,
tit for tat,
it goes further.
To somebody else,
So it surprises,
is not weigthed.
So it is selfless,
So that somebody else’s happiness
Makes your smile.
Breaks through routines.
All lit by your own
Postcard from Burning Man 2011
Waste, no its not to waste. It can be resourceful – Just a matter of perspective.
Upcycling means to give higher value to something that has lost its purpose or meaning. It means re-using things and adding value through creativity. Instead of throwing the bags that contained my coffee beans I look for their other possible functions.
One of the things with the shortest lifespan are plastic wrappings and bags. During one of my last workshops I made various flower pots from plastic bags, drink cartons, floppy disks and washing liquid plastic bottle. For the outer layer I used a good looking bag or box, for the inner pot I used a bag or box that I filled with soil and plants. Two drainage holes are cut into the bottom. For convenience the inner pot stands on the cut off bottom of a plastic bottle like in the picture below.
The workshop table during pot production.
A beautiful plastic bag that once held rice is covering a milk carton with two drainage holes, filled with soil and plants.
And here is how to make germination pots from milk cartons.
Even better is this vertical garden using milk cartons. When using the same package it looks pretty good! Now you just need to look after the plants
Plastic is a crazy material. In comes in various forms and is omnipresent. Once you start looking for it you see it everywhere. Packaging of food and drinks, household tools, our tooth brush, even in our cloths in the form of polyester. The exact components are often a secret by the producer. The main component however is raw oil, a scarce resource. Once turned into plastic it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Since we use it much and only shortly it is a real environmental problem. In the decomposing process micro plastic enters the food chain. It fills the stomach of animals and carries bacteria. Through meat, hot food and drinks on plastic it enters our body. Studies have shown that plastic has entered out blood stream and can lead to infertility. The documentary Plastic Planet gives a good insight on its reach.
The best way is to avoid plastic as much as possible. A simple start is buying fresh products e.g. at the market and bringing your own bag. When shopping elsewhere I try to buy products in larger packages or in paper bags or cartons. Pioneers, experimenters and fore thinkers are showing that there are many ways to reduce it with homemade beauty or cleaning products.
Another problem is it’s short lifetime. Plastic bags for example are used 25min on average. Upcycling them means adding value to them and making them usable longer. Plastic bags can be ironed together into a robust larger plastic sheet or they can be knitted, braided and crocheted with. They also make for good flower pots. Plastic bottles and milk cartons can be turned into a vertical garden. More inspiration can be found here.
A nice and good looking way to organize your cables. These ear phone cables had a rough life roaming through a backpack. Now they live on a plastic card. The shorter ends of the card need to be curved in slightly. Rough edges can be polished with sand paper. The end bits of the ear phone best are slid in a hole with a cut to the outside. Look at the pictures and do it. 10min and you have a cool cable carrier.
Now I do Upcycling as a hobby. What comes across my way is worked with as a resource, I do workshops and I gift my friends with the upcycled goods. But some people have turned it into their job and are professionalizing the field. In the search for a 50th birthday present for my aunt I went to visit some.
El Reinventor for example is upcycling instruments and other antique things into light objects. He also works with bicycle parts, coat hangers and whatever you bring to him. One of his specialties is that he works with people on their old objects and turns them into something really unique.
At the Bright Side Werkstatt, Brunnenstraße 26 in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin you find him. El Reinventor. It’s worth a visit to look at his art, even better if you feel like working on something with him. Its a workshop and gallery in one. He has some great tools, and an even greater humor and creativity.
When I came to visit him he showed me around and shared some backdoor secrets. We then sat in front of his gallery in the sun where he showed me how to turn a coat hanger into an angle holding my toilet paper. Gold!
Even better I found his light installation from telescope legs and a trumpet. For more information visit him online www.elreinventor.com or on facebook www.facebook.com/elReinvent0r
Just around the corner is the Upcycling Fashion Store. From clothes to accessories and gifts they have a large range of things from different artists in and around Berlin. I found little wallets from leather gloves, handbags from offset printing covers,… They also organize events and report on the latest news in the upcycling scene on www.upcycling-fashion.com. There is now even an upcycling fashion road map for Berlin. Thank you!
Come around for an upcycling workshop:
06.09.2014 Re-Use Day, Prinzessinnengarten Berlin
A mix of many things you can see on this blog e.g. crocheting with shirts, knitting with plastic bags, hair ties from stockings, etc. I will explain the upcycling process or upcycle with you. Bring some material or use what is there.
02.08.2014 Re-Use Day, Prinzessinnengarten Berlin
Making flower pots from plastic bags and other waste material.
08.-10.08.2014 Wilde Möhre Festival, 1h from Berlin
I will tell you about the ideas of upcycling and contributions to a sustainable lifestyle. Come and learn how to knit with plastic bags or crochet with your old shirts.
Re-Use Day, Prinzessinnengarten: 07.06.2014 – picture below
Re-Use Day, Prinzessinnengarten Berlin: 05.07.2014
Serendubity Festival, 1h from Berlin: 18. & 20.07.2014
Upcycling is the idea of reusing “waste” materials for the creation of new objects of practical use, arts and decoration, contributing to the reduction of energy use, soil, water and air contamination.
We turn milk cartons into herb gardens, plastic bottles into vertical strawberry fields and shoes into flower pots. If you rather green your neighbourhood make some seedballs with us and spread the special Berlin seed mix of colourful plants.
Lu, Steffi and Dia are going to upcycle with you to give your balcony and window board some green vibes. We mix our knowledge on permaculture design, natural resources and upcycling arts to design the eco-corner of serendubity with you. There will be material, bring your ideas and hands for creating with us!
A while ago in a rush to go to a festival I bought a second hand tent. Only to realize it was broken and had some mould on the inside. The festival was great so the tent did not get used much. I did not want to use it as a tent again and replaced it with a tent I found at another festival when I volunteered for the cleanup. I noticed that a few people leave their broken tents on the venue, too lazy to pack and carry home. The festival team has to clean it up and threw it away. What a waste when there is so much material and reusable items on one tent. You can use the hooks, clips, zippers, bands, nets and bags for sewing and repairing projects. The bottom layer can be used as a tarp. The waterproof top can be a cover, the inner tent material can be a wind or sun shade. My first project besides cutting out the tarp — this umbrella cover:
For sun shade we got a local secondhand umbrella through ebay. To save storage inside the house and leave the umbrella outside all season we needed a cover. I sewed this cover from the outer waterproof layer of a tent. I used a part that had a zipper for easy removal.
Now the next project is to sew a sunshade triangle from the inner thinner fabric of the tent.
Sadly our sunshade umbrella broke. Now it’s turned into a vertical garden frame for sugar peas. It can be used for any climbing plants like beans, peas, nasturtium etc.
For anyone interested in sustainable design of gardens and other human-environmental ecosystems I can recommend this free Permaculture design course www.permaculturedesigntraining.com.
Permaculture offers practical techniques to find sustainable solutions and promotes creation rather than consumption.
PermaWHAT? The word derives from Permanent Agriculture and was coined by Australian Bill Mollison and Japanese Masanobu Fukuoka. A fundamental aspect of Permaculture is observation and designing with nature. Some call it “edible landscaping”. Others include urban structures and housing as well as social aspects of community management (e.g. non violent communication). It is a holistic method – but you can pick and choose also and it is much applied in creating gardens. Well that is how it got me started – It really makes sense and has the tendency to inspire other parts of your life. I started off with a herb spiral in my own garden, took the online course and am now going to participate in a community project for rural food security in Madagascar.
Now back to the course: There are around 40 video lectures with different teachers on designs, patterns, plants, climates, soils and water. These will give you an idea about gardening the Permaculture way. One method presented is e.g. a plant guild which is a form of polyculture with plants of different function, size and needs (rather than monoculture where there is just one plant prone to diseases and soil degradation). Those plants exchange nutrients, attract pollinators, improve the soil and provide food. This is basically a way of imitating nature patterns – just that the plants are edible and at your doorstep. There is a beautiful free ebook on plant guilds e.g. the walnut guild here www.midwestpermaculture.com. Permaculture makes you look at nature in a different way.
Design to harvest sunlight.
Diversity of plants, local focus, resilient systems, perennial species and use of edges are some of the key principles. The other 40 course videos are on greywater system, housing, social permaculture, urban applications and offer some site visits. There is also a forum to ask questions and for those interested can take a test and get an official PDC certificate.
Permaculture sums up indigenous knowledge and many techniques where practiced by former advanced civilizations like the Mayas or Inkas. Nowadays the internet facilitates a global knowledge exchange and network. Be inspired.
Start creating abundance!