Creative Upcycling

We live in a throw away consumerist society. Once something that was made for a certain purpose comes to the end of it’s (usually short) life span as ‘something useful’, more often then not it is thrown away. It joins the forgotten others in the forever growing pile of waste that will exist in disregard.

The waste hierarchy refers to the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability, and are meant to be a hierarchy in order of importance.

What is Upcycling?

A new term I have stumbled across, that isn’t even in my Oxford American Dictionary is ‘Upcycling’ which Wikipedia defines as

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. The goal of upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones.

The opposite of upcycling is downcycling which involves converting materials and products into new materials of LESSER quality.


Ethikl is a marketplace for ethically sourced, handmade and fair trade products sold directly by the producers. All of the products are one-of-a-kind pieces from gourmet food to handmade jewellery. You won’t find anything mass produced and social networking features on the site allow people to meet the makers of all the amazing ethical products, providing a way to make buying decisions that favour fair trade, cruelty free, organic, recycled, handmade or local.

VelvetBean's cat Sash. About as close to animal testing as it gets!


VelvetBean is one of the producers on Ethikl who sews together feature cushions made from upcycled burlap sacks that were previously used to transport green coffee beans around the world and were destined for the landfill.

The sacks are immersed into a warm bubble bath and left to soak the stresses of their previous life away. They are then air dried, cut and sewn into stunning feature pieces just waiting to take pride of place in your home.

According to one website, approximately 800,000 tons of burlap is sent to landfill annually and that figure is just in the US. Whilst burlap is made from 100% natural fibres and biodegradable, VelvetBean would rather see the sacks repurposed and kept out of landfill.

“To take a dirty burlap sack which most people would never consider bringing into their homes, breathing new life into it and transforming it into a unique accessory that features in their homes really has been both challenging and rewarding. It truly is satisfying knowing that something you have created is sitting proudly in someone‚Äôs home.”


Velvet Bean has kindly offered the ‘Cafe S Do Brasil’ Coffee Sack Cushion which featured in ‘Home Beautiful Magazine Australia’ as a giveaway to For Greenies readers. All you have to do is comment with your most creative inspirational upcycling ideas and the best idea will win the cushion cover valued at $59!

To help you get your creative juices flowing here are some examples of DIY upcycling

Creating lawn furniture from old pallets

Create a wallet from a bike tyre inner tube

Creating baby slippers out of old wool sweaters and leather jackets

8 Responses

  • August 18, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I loved your post. So many ideas for upcycling old stuff to new things. It’s like bringing them back to life. I like upcycling too. I have found many inspiring ideas from this book by Altered Upcycling. Check it out!

  • July 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I love upcycling old things. Especially jean labels!


  • November 4, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Thanks for helping to define the role of upcycling in the reduction of waste output. Awareness is key to improving our way of life to be more environmentally friendly.

  • Ryder
    June 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I upcycled an old bamboo beach mat into a drop down shade. After washing the mat, I let it dry in a folded position to create creases I would need. I then took an old tie that was destined for the landfill, cut it in to and stitched it to the sides of the mat to give it a nice trim. I cut holes up and down the mat and reinforced them with plastic cut from bottles. Through the holes I lined a string, and attached the top to an old board. Voila!

    • June 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      Hey cool, would love to see a picture of the shade in action!

  • May 31, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I make beauty products and sel them in my online shop. One of my best ever sellers is a Coffee and Vanilla body scrub. And yes, youve guessed it – my freshly ground coffee addiction has turned into a body scrub! Used coffee grounds are great for stimulating the blood circulation to lessen cellulite on the bum and thighs. Caffine can also be absorbed through the skin to some extent – so if you are using it in your early morning rituals – you may not need to be drinking coffee!

    • July 4, 2010 at 9:21 pm

      Congrats Frances, facebook fans have decided that you should win the cushion cover! Thanks for your upcycling idea and entry into the competition.

  • Rosalba D'Agostino
    May 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    My best upcycling is taking waste tulle (op shop is a great source) and making fruit and vege bags to use when I do my shopping instead of using those thin plastic off the roll bags. I make various sizes, biggest 30cm x 25cm for potatoes and onions down to small 12cm x 10cm for garlic. They have a folded down edge at the top with a hole for string or ribbon to thread through so you can pull it and close it at the top. They weigh next to nothing so don’t affect the price on the scales and you can see what you have bought as well. They can be reused again and again and washed if they get too dirty. Got the idea out of an Earth Garden magazine.

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