When we think of upcycling, we stereotypically think of a trend where one rips apart their old clothes into something they might use again or repurposes it to get better use. While this is entirely true, there is more to upcycling than just a trendy thing you see on social media. Upcycling is the reuse of a product in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original, making it better than what it was before. As of 2019, only about 21% of Americans recycle and reuse their products, whether it's turning single-use plastics into bricks (for more information, see here or using cardboard boxes to store materials. This means that 79% of Americans use a product once and then throw it away into a landfill, never to be used again.
Every year, approximately 100 million pounds of clothing is produced in the United States. This means that if 50% of Americans decided to upcycle their materials and everyone was buying the same amount of clothing, 50 million pounds of clothing would still end up in landfills after just a few uses. Especially in the USA, where supply and demand dominate our country if we all upcycled one or two
this would drastically reduce the number of resources needed to manufacture new materials. While there is no ethical consumption under our capitalist society, taking this simple step would radically change our society’s waste and pollution.
While specifically in more low-income communities, buying fast-fashion is inevitable, or rather a privilege to have the means to buy slow fashion making use out of the materials is a great way to let it not go to waste! As an environmental organization, we do not support fast fashion because of the small wages of the workers for grueling hours and the waste that comes with textile production. These contribute negatively to our climate, even more than both aviation and shipping combined. Though we understand this is not always the most inclusive way to go for those who cannot afford ethical fashion. But, taking what you
already have and turning a pair of jeans and into a bag helps to reduce carbon emissions and doesn’t waste the work of these garment workers who don’t even make a living wage.
So, how can you upcycle?
Well, first, take a piece of clothing that you would usually throw away because of minor stains, wears, rips, or that you do not wear anymore.
Once you have your piece of clothing, go to https://www.upcyclethat.com/ or search the product you are using and then the word upcycle after this (ex. Wool sweater Upcycle Ideas) and thousands of searches will come up, where you have the option to sew, glue, or whatever you would like to do!
Have fun! Upcycling is a great activity to do with friends (right now on virtual meetings is the best option!) or on a quiet night at home.
4. Be creative! You can always go to yard sales, second-hand stores, and warehouses to buy something you have in mind and then DIY it.