5 Non Pinterest Worthy Ways to Upcycle

Many many times we have heard that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I bet that with this new challenge that we are all facing, staying inside, you too might be starting to see things this way.  The challenge is to get creative. So where is the first place that you visit when you want to get ideas?  I don’t know about you but for me it is Pinterest.  That is the number one place I visit to get inspired.  So when I want to start a new project but I am about to show you something that would never be as popular on Pinterest.  You might be asking why I am  about to share some “not so pretty” items?  Well, as a family, we are starting our journey of a lifestyle of upcycling.  We decided to give it a go and made a house rule:  If it is useful and WE like it, WE will use it.  In other words, it does not need to look fancy or 100% beautiful for the rest of the world if WE find it useful and WE like it. We will have the planet in mind before fancy Pinterest  ideas.

Let’s start with defining upcycling.  UpcycleThat.com defines it this way: “The act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable and beautiful than what it previously was.”

I know that there are some people around the world that upcycle almost everything. One wonderful example is the Columbian band Latin Latas. “For the members of Latin Latas, there’s no trash, just treasures. This Bogota-based band makes instruments out of recycled rubbish. The band members use concerts and workshops to raise awareness about environmental issues, especially amongst young people.” Cool right?  It is really creative that they create instruments from trash.  They are an inspiration to me.   

Upcycled music instruments from Columbian band “Latin Latas”

If you were to ask me, I would say almost any items can be used to make something new and useful- doing so, it is not only going to help the environment but it will also help save you some cash.  In this blog post I will share with you 5 items I have upcycled myself in different ways.  I’ll share some simple upcycling ideas and trash-to-treasure crafts that you could do yourself with just a tiny bit of work.  You’ll be living a more organized and environmentally friendly lifestyle in no time. Disclaimer… my items are NOT “pinterest style” and I am ok with tha

1. Silica Gel 

We all have had one or many of these Silica Gel bags in our lives. An odorless substance that naturally absorbs moisture, silica gel is used to keep products from spoiling or molding due to humidity. These white crystals are a form of silicon dioxide, which is found in nature as quartz and in sand. Nontoxic on its own, it may be combined with certain solvents or chemicals that make it toxic. (In that case, it must be disposed of as hazardous waste). I will give you some ideas of how to use them before you dispose of them.  

  • Electronics:  My dad is a photographer and I have lived my whole life around cameras.  He uses these silica gel packets in camera bags to absorb moisture after taking photos in cold or wet conditions. The silica will help keep your lens from fogging or streaking.  Another trick is to put the silica gel on the back of framed photos to protect against humidity.
Absorb moisture from camara cases
  • Natural Air Refresher:  Make your own potpourri by cutting open the packets and saturating the silica gel with essential oils. Place them anywhere you need a dehumidifier or want fragrance.  You can also use the silica gel to dry flowers to make your potpourri more decorative. 
Natural air refresher
  • Paper Protector: Throw a couple of silica gel bags into old document cabinets to protect important personal documents from molding. I got this idea from wiki How to Reuse Silica Gel article.
Document protector
  • Seed Protector: Place packets of silica with seeds in storage.
  • Medicine protector:  Place a silica gel packet into the medicine cabinet and keep the pills from getting humid and or sticking together. 

2. Purchase Receipts

I do not know about you but I get TONS of these receipts.  You would think that I purchase LOTS of things but I don’t.  As much as I want to avoid the receipts by the end of the month, I must have at least 15 receipts from grocery shopping, bulk stores and from last minute ice cream or bread stops.   So, I decided to give them a second life before throwing them away.  As a teacher, I have used post it notes for most of my career and I thought it was time for a less wasteful and more eco friendly change.  So, the receipt came to the rescue.  I created my own small little notebooks!!! I have not figured out a way to make it sticky yet but I am still working on it.  I Will let you know when it is ready.  For now, this is what I have.  

  • To take notes/ To do lists
  • Games: Memory/matching game. One of the games we play is number hunt. I would hide the numbers around the house for my son to find. After finding the 10 numbers he had to arrange them in order.
  • As flashcards: Andre is currently learning sight words at school. We decided to create flashcards to practice those words at home.

3. Toilet paper tubes 

I have always saved toilet paper tubes for one reason or another…either to reuse them or to recycle them.  It is no secret that most households have several rolls of toilet paper tubes a week. What if we used them to create something useful? 

  • Pieces of art:  My son, Andre made the “Statue of Liberty” out of cardboard and toilet paper tubes.  He used his “Famous Building” book as an inspiration for this piece of art.
Andre made the
“Statue of Liberty”
  • Pencil holder:  For this pencil holder, it was Andre’s idea to add 6 toilet paper tubes, 3 burger boxes and 2 cartons of eggs as a “secret box” to hold treasures he finds.
Andre’s pencil holder
Earthmama Clarrissa’s idea to wrap gifts using toilet paper tubes

4. Cardboard and/or food boxes

We all have boxes from products from deliveries sitting at home.  What if we give them a second life before we throw them away?  

  • Storage boxes: I got these boxes from deliveries and some we found outside in the recycling are from my condo.  We decided to make it a quarantine project. Andre helped in every step of the process he was part of the painting, decorating and labeling.  If you are looking for more quarantine projects, check these out.
Toy storage boxes
  • To create games: Cut off some of your left over boxes and create an obstacle course to entertain your kids.
Bennett’s obstacle course for a ping pong

5. Bread plastic ties

Last but not least, I reuse the bread plastic ties.  I have many of them, we eat too much bread in this household. 

  • Created a game:  This is the game I created with my son, Andre as he is learning the position of the letters on the line. So why not use the bread plastic ties to help us practice this understanding?  Tan: letters that hang below the line, Orange: vowels, Yellow: letters that are tall on the line and Blue: letters that fit inside the line.
Letter recognition game
  • End of tape finder:  I have used them on tape to help Andre find the end faster when he needs to.
End of tape finder
  • Cable labeling:  To label cables that are plugged to the same source. 
Cable labeling

I hope these easy and simple ideas inspire you to upcycle something today.  For me, the most important thing about upcycling now is not only to help the planet but  the “marinating” phase that I have immersed Andre in.  Yes I feel he is at an age that I am “marinating” him with all these lifelong practices. I want to immerse him  in less wasteful lifestyle of reusing, recycling and upcycling. Join me in this journey of MARINATING our kids with messages of helping the planet one day at a time.  

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