• Todd Petrella

How To Upcycle and Be More Sustainable in the New Year

Updated: Apr 6



Happy 2022! The start of the new year is always a good time to start fresh and anew. Unfortunately, the bad health of the environment is something that isn’t left behind with a new revolution around the sun, but we can take this time to change our habits and behavior and begin bringing the planet back to its former glory. Here is a total of 10 ways you can upcycle and live more sustainably in 2022.


5 Ways You Can Upcycle in the New Year:


Kintsugi

Starting off our list is the Japanese art of kintsugi, a practice that focuses on mending and repairing broken items instead of discarding them. Literally gold-splicing, kintsugi fixes items using a gold adhesive, drawing attention to the item’s imperfections and showing it as a piece of resilience, rather than something to be forgotten and thrown away. You don’t have to use gold adhesive if you don’t want to or can’t find it. Kintsugi is more of an idea rather than a thing, and therefore glue will work as a simple alternative.


Hang on to Old Clothes and Repurpose Them

Do you need to dust but don’t have a duster? An old t-shirt cut into squares can help. Have you ever needed to wrap a gift last minute but didn’t have any gift wrap? An old t-shirt can help with that too. Do you have an artsy side, but just don’t have a medium to paint on when that artistic inspiration hits? Believe it or not, a pair of old jeans works as a great alternative to canvas (I’ve seen it before, and it was different to say the least).

Furoshiki

The second Japanese item on this list. The Japanese know how to upcycle, it seems. Just like kintsugi, furoshiki is an idea rather than a definite method or thing. I talked about it as a sustainable alternative to wrapping paper in our Christmas post. Furoshiki involves making use of old household scraps and combining them into an elegant gift wrap. The idea is not only to reuse old material, but to showcase the beauty and design of the material. Consider this the next time you need to wrap something.



Glass bottles, tin cans, glass jars

There is a plethora of ways you can upcycle these leftover materials. Lanterns, scent diffusers, display pieces, candles, you name it, are all things that can be made by repurposing these items.



Plastic bags

Just like the previous item on this list, there are a myriad ways plastic bags can be upcycled too. The easiest way to repurpose plastic bags is to reuse them as bags, or as small trash can liners. If you want to get creative, plastic bags can be turned into plastic yarn, called plarn, and then used as sewing or knitting material. Plastic bags also make great stuffing for old pillows and cushions. And for the gardeners out there, plastic bags can be laid out under soil to deter weeds from pushing through to the surface. Although this can be a gamble, as the bags could potentially break down into microplastics. Be sure to check the status of the bag after harvest. Or consider growing mushrooms. Check out one of our previous articles to see why.

 

5 Ways You Can Be Sustainable in the New Year

Switch from wood-based toilet paper to bamboo toilet paper

Did you know that toilet paper accounts for one third of deforestation? This is an insane amount! Bamboo is a far more sustainable resource than wood because it grows much faster than trees do, and it can potentially yield way more raw material. Cloud Paper and Caboo offer this bamboo-based alternative. Even when nature calls, you can still promote a sustainable lifestyle.

Grow your own produce

This is a tip you’ve probably heard at least once before, if not several times. Growing your own food is a great way to cut down on the amount of potentially harmful chemicals entering the environment and your body. And in my own opinion, I think food tastes way better when you put in the hard work of growing it yourself. Don’t have any experience growing your own produce or the space to do so? Worry not, as there are a bunch of small, indoor kits you can find at your local store or order online that are easy to grow and have easy to follow instructions.

Avoid fast fashion and shop for sustainable fashion

UP Cycle Design found its start within the textile industry, an environmental nightmare. 11.3 million tons of textiles were landfilled in 2018, and a lot of this is due in part to fast fashion. Many of our first products were made using recycled or donated clothing, in part to help lessen that massive number, and also to draw attention to the harm discarded textiles do to the planet. There are many fashion companies out there that offer sustainable clothing, and you can also purchase donated clothing at secondhand shops. On the flip side, if you have old clothing you no longer wear, consider donating them to these secondhand shops or to us!

Textile waste in a landfill
Textile waste in a landfill

Eat less meat

The meat industry contributes a lot to climate change. Specifically, cows produce a lot of methane gas, something the child in me finds hysterical, but the professional in me knows that this gas is helping heat up the planet. By eating less meat, there will be less of a demand for livestock, and in turn this will lead to a decrease in the amount of gas that gets released and trapped in the atmosphere. There is a lot to say on the meat industry, but that’s a behemoth to tackle for another time. For now, consider finding an alternative to protein, like beans or eggs, and eventually we can start to rework this part of the climate problem. Also, stay tuned! We have an upcoming post about another source of protein you might have never considered.

Watch out for greenwashing

We’ve covered greenwashing in the past, but for those that don’t know, greenwashing is the act of appearing sustainable and eco-friendly despite making little to no effort to do so. Several companies are guilty of greenwashing, and you can usually spot it by looking for generic terms like “eco-friendly,” “green,” “all natural”, and imagery such as trees and plants. The best way to find out if a company is truly eco-friendly is by doing your research, or looking for proof on its products, such as B-Corp certification. For more information, check out our backlinked article at the top of this paragraph.


Symbols of likely greenwashing
If you see anything like this, it's likely to be greenwashing

B Corp Certification logo
But if you see this, you can be sure it's a sustainable product

And that rounds out our list! 5 ways to upcycle and 5 ways to be sustainable in 2022. Leading a sustainable life is not bound to just the topics found in this article, but if you don’t know where to start, these are pretty good options. If we could all change our mindset and follow these tips to be more environmentally friendly, then we will surely be on the upwards path to cleaning up the planet and creating a greener future.


As always, thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!

 

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