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Repurposing & Upcycling

Written by Maegan Kho

Going on a shopping spree and then complaining a few days later that you don’t have anything to wear? Binge-buying during an online 7.7 sale only to regret the amount you spent shortly thereafter? Decluttering your room during quarantine and discovering that you own tons of useless items? Do any of these sound familiar to you? Unfortunately, I admit that I am guilty, too, of having experienced these three instances.

Not a day goes by without us consuming and disposing of various items. For a single person, it may not look like much; however, once you combine these actions of people from all over the globe, the resulting impact is quite large. I understand that it is difficult to live a sustainable lifestyle, especially since we live in an unsustainable world. However, this must not hinder us from actively striving to reduce our carbon footprint. Living in such an unsustainable environment should all the more give us a reason to begin seeking ways to live in an eco-friendly manner. In fact, there are many different approaches to sustainable living. One of them is repurposing and upcycling.

Repurposing is giving life to a new object; it is using the item for a function outside its original purpose. Upcycling is crafting unwanted items into something that is of higher value compared to the starting material. There are numerous ways in which you can repurpose and upcycle. The good news is that it is not necessarily costly! 

Old Clothes

There are various transformations that can take place with clothes alone. In general, articles of clothing may be converted into blankets, trendy hair accessories, and even stuffed toys for children. Old t-shirts may be fabricated into cute bags or pillowcases, while long sleeve polo shirts can be reconstructed into chic dresses.

Upcycled scrap fabric from old t-shirts

Unused Household Items

Household items also hold much promise when it comes to repurposing and upcycling. You may even be surprised by the number of things you can do with unwanted items! For example, an empty tissue box can be used as a mini trash can for your car. Additionally, it can serve as an organizer for your drawers. All you need to do is cut them so that they can function as dividers. Children can benefit from hollow tissue boxes too! Together with cardboard tubes, they can be utilized in an arts and crafts session–– a Do-It-Yourself project to create a unique toy such as a ukulele. This then brings me to my next household object, the cardboard tubes I previously mentioned, which are capable of keeping your annoying cable wires compact and in place.

Repurposed boxes made into a cabinet organizer

Plastic Bags

My last example is plastic bags which may be used to cover and protect your plants from insects and other animals that can possibly eat them. Moreover, they can function as extra padding for fragile items in delivery.

Upcycled airplane tires made into shoe soles

These are just a few examples from the top of my head on how you can repurpose and upcycle. There are plenty more that you can do, so do not just limit yourself to these suggestions. All you need is a splash of ingenuity and a little bit of imagination and you'll be stunned at what you can do!

Considering our busy schedule and face-paced lifestyle, our brains are able to quickly find ways for us to avoid incorporating the practice of repurposing and upcycling into our usual routines. Today, you might say that you are lazy; tomorrow, you would possibly say that you simply do not have the time. To tackle this problem, you simply have to start. You do not need to begin by doing something immensely impactful; a small little action is already more than enough. Make tiny changes to your daily routine until it becomes a habit for you to repurpose and upcycle. 

By repurposing and upcycling, you are hitting two birds with one stone–– you are able to help the environment plus save money in the process! Less waste will be added to landfill sites, less natural products will be used to manufacture new goods, and expenses will be deducted from your savings. However, remember that the act of repurposing does not offer an excuse for you to continue with your unhealthy binge-buying habits. Let us all be mindful and still actively try to lessen our personal carbon footprint.

We have the capacity to forestall irreversible damage to the environment, so let us strive to do exactly that. We must aim to prevent further harm rather than trying to repair the damage that has already been done. Before purchasing a new object, think again–– discern if you really need the item or if you’re just buying it out of boredom or to satisfy your cravings. Think long-term instead of short-term. Will you use the product weeks or months from now? Or will it just add to the clutter in your house? If you do need the item, do you need it to be brand new? Or is it possible to buy one that is pre-owned? 

We owe so much to the environment; therefore, it is our utmost duty and responsibility to do everything in our power to protect it. It is currently in a critical state and we cannot afford to worsen its condition. It is about time that we learn to stop being selfish and to instead, deeply think about how our actions impact those around us. Do this to preserve biodiversity. Do this for the generations to come. Do this for your own personal health and for the well-being of the rest of the world. Together, let us work hand in hand to secure the future of both Mother Nature and our own.

Maegan Kho is an incoming 4th year BS Biology student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Her environment in college is mainly what influenced her to be more aware of the impact of her personal carbon footprint and to take active steps towards living more sustainably. During her free time, she loves to dance, read, exercise, or listen to music. She is also a people person, so she plans to pursue a career in medicine and hopefully become a successful doctor in the future.