Explained: Upcycling


Upcycling is a term that is used often, to describe a way of recycling the goods that we use that might otherwise be discarded. What makes upcycling such a good opportunity is that you can often create products that are of a higher quality or value than the original object or material – it’s all about getting those creative juices flowing!

Upcycling is also known as ‘creative reuse’, it is a way of transforming waste materials, or unwanted/old products to give them a second life. So, for example, an old ladder could become a quirky bookcase – the opportunities are as large as your creativity.

Upcycling is a great way to reduce our waste, whilst also getting creative and crafty. It means that we are enlarging the lifespan of the products we buy. This can cut down on pollution through reduce disposal and also a reduction of emissions from buying less.

The environmental impacts of upcycling are incredible. Including:

  • Minimising discarded material
  • Reducing waste in landfill
  • Less raw materials used
  • Reduce air pollution and emissions from factories, thus helping to mitigate our contribution to the climate crisis
  • Conservation of global resources
  • Reduce the amount of waste entering our oceans

The best part of upcycling is that the sky is the limit. Your adventure into upcycling can be as small or as large as you want it to be! The possibilities are endless! That is exciting! It’s a sustainable hobby that we can all have a go at and could even save us money! So, before you through out those old chairs – why not have a think about how else you could use them!?

Environmental issues are the topic of our generation, and rightly so. More and more the consequences of our modern day lives are coming to the forefront of our consciousness, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed with so many terms and ideas being thrown around. The Curious Environmentalist was created to make environmental and conservation topics more accessible. My name is Rebecca, the founder of TCE, and as I am learning about the world around me and the problems it faces, I am sharing that knowledge in the hope that, together, we can make significant, long-term change.

This post was originally written by Rebecca Hansell for Small World, Big Cause in June 2020. It has been refreshed and edited for The Curious Environmentalist, December 2021. Enjoy!

Explained: Upcycling

So, before you through out those old chairs – why not have a think about how else you could use them!?

There are also other benefits of the current upcycling revolution, on top of the environmental ones, they include:

  • An increase in craftmanship and artisanal skills
  • Local business opportunities and economic opportunities for communities
  • Accessibility to all
  • Saving money
  • Guilt-free renovations, have a beautiful home and reduce your eco-impact! Win-win!
  • Bespoke, one of a kind items that make you feel happy and calm in your home.

If you think that upcycling might be something that you would be interested in trying, then there are so many resources available to get your creative juices flowing for ways to upcycle in your life! The more you do, the more you will learn what works and the vast scope of what you can achieve.

Make sure you post a photo on social media of any of your upcycling projects and tag us so we can see your incredible creativity! You can also email us your stories and pictures at thecuriousenvironmentalist@gmail.com  and we will try and feature our favourites on our social media.

Check these links out for some really interesting upcycling ideas and information:  




Written by Rebecca Hansell, origianlly for for Small World, Big Cause Blog (2020) but refreshed for The Curious Environmentalist in 2021.

Research by Mickey Stanley – thank you!


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