04 Aug So Green – 14 Upcycling Designs You Have to Know About
In the world we’re living in today, people pay more and more attention to sustainability and eco-friendliness of products they are purchasing. Aside from “recycling” which most countries are already doing, a new term has emerged and become the most talked-about concept in environmental topics — “upcycling”. How is it different from recycling? We know that recycling is to convert waste into new materials and objects, but the process of converting still more or less consumes some energy.
On the other hand, upcycling is to reuse waste or useless items as-is, but in a new way to improve its quality and environmental value, without doing anything to alter its composition. Since the waste materials are not reprocessed, zero or little energy is consumed, and zero or little further waste is produced. For example, a soy milk factory naturally has a lot of leftover soy bean pulps, which is very beneficial to vegetable growth if upcycled in farms. The soy bean pulps can be made into dishes or cakes too, but both will consume more energy than using them directly in helping grow healthier plants, which in turn will generate higher revenue for the farm produce.
This kind of upcycling concept has integrated into many different disciplines including furniture designs as well. We have chosen 14 upcycling products from all over the world to show you how the creative minds of their designers are helping with our environment! (Cover Photo Source: Makezine)
【Austria — Gabarage】
Be War & Peace or your old copies of Jane Austen, if the books are old enough to be illegible, you might consider recycling them. However, before you do that, look at these beautiful one-of-a-kind stools Gabarage in Austria has created with old books and airplane seats!
The old books once stacked together and with proper wiring can transform into unique table lamps.
This chandelier is made from old traffic lights. What an impressive statement piece!
【Japan — RDF】
In Japan where merchandises are examined with the highest standards, unfortunately there are a lot of “deadstock” flowing around on the market due to imperfections as small as colour discrepancies. RDF is a company who finds deadstock and repurpose them. For example, these aprons are made from Okayama denim, arguably one of the finest denim in the world, with the garnish of Kazuhiko Takakura’s design (Takakura once designed for Issey Miyake). This all-star collaboration definitely brought much deserved value to this quality Okayama denim like it was meant to be!
There is a place in Japan called Imabari, where high-quality towels are manufactured. To be called an Imabari towel, the merchandises must first satisfy strict requirements which is what makes these super soft and water-absorbent towels the most popular towels in Japan. RDF came across some Imabari towel deadstock and redesigned them to find them new homes!
【Japan — Rubodan】
Based in Okinawa, Rubodan skips the traditional way of recycling cardboard boxes into paper pulp; the designers made them into notebooks directly instead, keeping their original packaging — literally!
【United Kingdom — Reestore】
Owner Max McMurdo is both creative and productive! We love this coffee table inspired by Noguchi. Made with scaffolds, this piece of artwork is a great example of upcycling!
This barstool made from an old bike is also extremely unique and charming.
This attractive bookcase is made from old drawers and scaffold poles and planks.
【United States — Bluebelle Vintage Interiors】
This piano wine bar blew us away! The builder’s fantastic creativity gave this old piano a second life while showcasing its antiqueness.
【Netherlands — Benjamin Spoth】
This designer took multiplex board leftovers — which would have been discarded by wholesale manufacturers — and made them into lampshades. The wood is finely sliced in millimeter thin strips and refined in various working steps. The result? A beautiful play of shadow and light!
【Germany — Wandel Werk Design】
As one of the pioneer countries in environmental protection, we were not surprised to find Wandel Werk Design in Germany amazing us with a lot of fascinating products! This bench made from a discarded metal barrel, and the upholstery was made from old corduroy trouser. This piece of work is a classic representation of WandelWerk’s goal to give new life to old things.
Repurposed forks look very attractive as wall hooks! The addition of brass screws embellishes the antique rustic look of the design.
【Germany — Lieselotte Berlin】
We always see so many tea cups and saucers at antique markets, but who would’ve thought that they’re making them into pendant lights in Germany and that they would look so good?
Materials are discarded due to their imperfections, but these designers helped us see the beauty in ugly by reusing discarded materials in creative ways. Through their imagination, they restored value to the things that were once deemed useless. We admire their hardwork in re-welcoming these items back into our homes: these products were not only created for waste reduction, but also they are assets to our cultural and historic preservation. The 14 designs we selected may not be consuming zero energy in their upcycling process, but as time allows this concept to mature further, we can’t wait to see what other upcycled products we will see in the future!
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