Friday, 30 July 2010

The crate escape

Recycling stuff the world is done with: good. Upcycling stuff the world is done with: even better. When you can reuse instead of recycle, you're doing the earth a favour by saving energy that's otherwise swallowed up in transporting materials to and from recycling facilities (many of which are literally on the other side of the globe) and by saving the energy that's required to melt down a can or a bottle (we're talking high temps here, peeps).

So don't be too quick to recycle if you can at all upcycle instead. Containers are always a great place to start - a metal can becomes a planter, a crate becomes a shelf, and so on. But there's a worrying trend reported in the Wall Street Journal article "The Great Crate Crackdown". Companies that use plastic crates in great numbers (like Coca-Cola, Rite-Aid and Sara Lee) have noticed huge thefts of their plastic delivery containers. Thieves are apparently selling these to recycling plants to grab themselves some free money (the crate itself is worth $3 to $10 when new; a pound of recycled plastics can be sold to manufacturers for 15 cents pound). But at what needless cost to the environment? These hunter gatherers are taking objects whose use is not yet exhausted, so there's not much virtue in recycling of this kind.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Get up stand up

The New York Times recently ran a review of a new book about the spread of surfing across the world. The book is called Sweetness and Blood and it's by Michael Scott Moore. The review cites two examples of upcycling revealed by Moore in his book - apparently early Cornish surfers requisitioned coffin lids for their boards, while in Cuba surfers in the 1980s used plywood desktops. Gnarly indeed.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


The original 1006 Navy Chair was designed by Emeco for the US Navy. The shiny little icon first appeared in 1944, and today it’s made of 80% recycled aluminium. Designed to serve the military’s need for lightweight, corrosion-resistant chairs for destroyers and submarines, each has an estimated lifespan of 150 years.

Made from 111 recycled plastic Coke bottles, the 111 Navy Chair (1944/2009) is the new plastic version of the 1006. The 111 expands the Navy collection by offering colour, plus it’s suitable for outdoor and commercial use, and and costs about half the price of the aluminium original - which is still in production.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Late edition

What's that you say? You believe upcycled newspapers to be the covering of them there walls over yonder? Correct. Read all about it (ahem) at the online design mag Core 77.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Make my day

Two new books support the notion that making things and doing stuff with your hands is actually good for you. Can upcycling some old piece of rubbish keep you on an even keel and save you lots of money otherwise spent on therapy? To find out, read Made By Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World by Mark Frauenfelder or The Case for Working With Your Hands: or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford. Or instead you could tackle some interesting and creative DIY project and find out for yourself.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

For kicks

It's not just the host continent of the World Cup, it's also the cradle of upcycling. There's an article in the New York Times today about photographer Jessica Hilltout and her project to record the pursuit of the beautiful game not in glittering stadiums but on Africa's sandy beaches, dusty plains and cracked stretches of dried clay. Part of the project includes a series of shots of homemade balls she traded with her subjects, exchanging fine factory-made ones for their versions fashioned from socks, stockings, string and even condoms. Read the article here, or let the images speak for themselves by visiting Jessica's site here.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Leaving the city

Here are pics I took yesterday at the Urban Orchard on Union Street, where tyres have been upcycled into swings and planters, and have also been downcycled into ground cover. Glass jars are the basis of a seed library, and shipping palettes are put to good use in landscaping and seating. It's there until September so go have a look.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Trash talkin'

On this blog we've seen shipping containers and skips turned into coffee shops, swimming pools and gymnasiums. How much better can it get? You be the judge. Here's Oliver Bishop-Young's ping pong table made from a skip and it's right up my very own street (literally). In my old flat I could have viewed it from the kitchen window, which would have been preferable to watching every single one of my favoured teams get knocked out of the World Cup, or witnessing the UK's Wimbledon hope shuffle back home to Scotland.

Save yourself from sporting boredom and head to the Union Street Urban Orchard. It's - ahem - on Union Street (SE1, between Borough and Southwark Tube stations).

Friday, 2 July 2010

Salvage, sew, sit

Source some vintage fabric
Embroider birds and bugs onto salvaged cloth
Sew assorted pieces together
Produce covetable cushions (priced £60)

These one-off beauties are made to order; visit Samantha's site to see how she ingeniously brings old bits and pieces back to life.