In the early 2000s, the green and DIY movements began merging. This has led to a wave of artisans and everyday environmentalists dedicated to “upcycling”— a new term for the age-old concept of turning trash into treasure.
Here are seven upcyclers who reuse everything from plastic to old wood to broken toasters. A few of them are even using their trade to pay it forward with no pay at all.
1. Dan Phillips constructs entire houses out of recycled materials. From roofs made of license plates to windows crafted from discarded dinner plates, he has built 14 homes in Huntsville, Texas, for low-income residents. Here’s a link to a New York Times article about him.
2. Kim Masoner (shown above) began organizing neighborhood beach cleanups in her Southern California beach town several years ago. Now she mobilizes volunteers all along the coast each month to collect trash and plastic bags, which she crochets into sleeping mats for the homeless. You can visit her online at SaveOurBeaches.org.
3. Dianna Cohen also uses plastic bags as her medium. Instead of crocheting, the Los Angeles-based artist crafts critically acclaimed installations and wall pieces from trash. Like Masoner, she is passionate about raising awareness about the dangers of the material and also is the founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
4. Gary Harvey goes couture with his dumpster dresses. The European designer made 22 dresses out of reused materials such as laundry bags, scarves, t-shirts, newspaper and packaging, and showed off his creations at The Green Shows during New York Fashion Week.
5. Marty Stevens-Heebner makes designer handbags with a similar dumpster-chic technique, using juice packets, rice bags and anything else she finds. The Southern California designer says she got the idea while doing humanitarian work in Mexico, where she witnessed artisans using innovation to give objects a new life and purpose.
6. Michael Yonke is a carpenter from Santa Monica who repurposes wood, metal and glass to create modern and functional furniture that doubles as art. He takes some of the rarest types of wood from old furniture, doors, cabinets and trim that might otherwise end up in a landfill. His work can be seen on the Etsy website.
7. Gilles Eichenbaum is a French artist who reinvents and refashions broken or thrown-out household objects such as teapots, scales and toasters to create unique lamps.
Are you looking for ways to upcycle? Check out these 100 Upcycling Ideas.
Do you upcycle or know someone who does? I’d love to hear about your projects in the comments section below.