If you can’t recycle – Upcycle!

We have all heard about recycling, but what about upcycling? Upcycling is taking something and making something better, and of a higher quality, out of something that seems disposable.

We have all seen items upcycled on craft sites like Pinterest, but some people are making a living out of upcycling materials destined for the landfill. Looptworks, is a company founded by Scott Hamlin. Hamlin and company partners Gary Peck and Jim Stutts launched Looptworks in September 2009. The three apparel industry veterans were inspired by the sustainable manufacturing methods of outdoor gear companies like Royal Robbins and Patagonia, but they wanted to take it even further–all the way to what Hamlin calls “closed loop manufacturing.”

Looptworks uses what it calls “pre-consumer excess” as source material for its accessories, gear and apparel. Most of that is factory textile waste that, if they didn’t intervene and remake it into something else, would be headed for incineration or the landfills. They design and manufacture stylish and bright items like the Hoptu, a neon orange laptop sleeve made of leftover wet-suit material, and a patchwork sweatshirt-fleece hybrid Tranquilla vest equipped with “rescued” buttons and tags. The fact that production is limited based on available materials makes the prices a bit more expensive, but also limited edition.

Upcycling has worked for Looptworks “Our goal,” Hamlin says, “is to influence consumer awareness and figure out a way to promote this non-mass-produced approach on a large scale.” Hamlin is more proud of the 16 million gallons of water he’s saved by upcycling, let alone all the packaging, transport and waste costs.

Sites like Etsy have allowed people to easily grab on the upcycling wave, spend a few moments on there and you will find many wonderful creations that can be designed with old and used goods, even some restaurants have paired with companies to use the waste grease in hand soaps and oils. Other companies are now turning actual garbage into hundreds of products, like Oreo wrapper backpacks and bicycle chain picture frames.

Upcycling can be a good and creative way to have fun, upcycling provides a new, yet beautiful idea to change even garbage into something new. Before the Industrial Revolution, upcycling was a part of life. Fabrics were separated into fibers like wool and cotton, broken down again and spun into new products. Henry Ford even practiced an early form of upcycling, using the crates car parts were shipped in as vehicle floorboards.

It would appear that we have lost the vision of upcycling, but before you rush to go and purchase something that has been upcycled – try it yourself! The cost of transportation may well outweigh the benefits of buying something upcycled, so why not look around you and see what can be upcycled from objects lying around you. It may take a step back in time, but it will be kind to the earth.

Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!