Glass Bottle 2
27th August 2013

DIY: Upcycling Projects 101

Upcycling means converting waste material into something of value; giving a piece of “trash” a new life. In a world filled with waste, recycling is good… but upcycling is even better. Upcycling projects involve producing something that adds value to an otherwise useless or non valuable item. It may sound complicated, but with a little creativity and a willingness to be crafty, there are actually many ways to simply turn a piece of junk item into a new-and-improved piece. Like they say: one man’s trash is another man’s gold.

Here are some easy upcycling ideas for beginners:

Glass Bottle Turned Vase

Glass Bottle 2

Original Item: Leftover glass bottles of any shapes and sizes (ideally 3 per arrangement): the nicest looking ones are the “sparkling water” bottles, especially if you combine clear and green glass ones.

Upcycled Into: A trio of vases, each able to hold 1-2 flowers. Placed side-by-side, these vases will give off an eco-chic vibe. Matched with wild flowers, they will look great on your window-sill, outdoor patio, or living room. Nobody will have a clue you didn’t pay for them, and they give a trendy purposefully mismatched vibe.

Additional Items Needed: An abrasive dish sponge and a little bit of elbow grease

How To: The main task here is to remove the pesky labels (and glue) from the bottles. Soak the empty bottles in a sink of warm water for about an hour. Drain the water, and working with the abrasive side of the sponge (or you can try steel wool), rub the label and

glue off. Using a bit of dish soap helps too! When done, wash thoroughly, and leave to dry upside-down on a dish rack. When you are ready to use them for display, you can fit approximately 1-2 flower stems through the neck of each bottle, so be creative how you mix and display the flowers and bottles.

Tip: Try matching different sized, shaped, and colored glass bottles together. We find a trio of different sized and colored bottles goes very nicely.


Newspaper Gift Wrap


Original Item: Old newspapers, magazines, catalogues, or maps. Preferably larger format (it will be easier, and the final product will look nicer)

Upcycled Into: Trendy DIY gift wrap for any occasion: birthdays or holidays. You would be surprised at how personalized the final product can turn out! If done nicely, this gift will get the “wow” factor at a party, and you will be commended for your earth-friendly approach.

Additional Items Needed: tape, scissors, maybe a stapler (if you want to make your own bows), and lots of empty surface space … typically what you need either way when you are wrapping a gift.

How To: First, know the size of your gift so you can decide how large the wrapping paper needs to be. It helps to have the gift around. Secondly, choose your paper source based on the individual and occasion. Here are some cool ideas:

  • For your hipster friend’s birthday: Newspaper (with lots of editorial/writing) gives an indie vibe
  • For the funny guy’s birthday: The comics section in a newspaper
  • For colored paper and a more polished look: Fashion catalogues always display seasonal colors. You can choose pages that are big on color, and maybe even stick to a theme
  • If you really have time you can look through the newspaper for some content that your friend would like, or for a sneaky hint about what is inside (when my husband bought me a “Galaxy” Nexus phone, he wrapped it in an article about outer space)
  • For Holidays (such as Christmas): Fliers are usually splashed with red and green, snow, ornaments, or Christmas trees.

Once you have chosen your paper (and you have enough for the size of the gift!), if it is in pieces you should carefully tape the sheets together, trying not to leave too much of an obvious seam. It’s as simple as that! Wrap your gift as you normally would (pay careful attention to not rip corners if you are using a thin paper such as newspaper or some fliers).

Gift 3

Top it Off: Make a bow! This, of course, is optional. It takes a little more patience and creativity. First, choose a different color paper that will nicely complement the gift wrap. Start by cutting long strips of paper and taping them into loops (like with paper chains, but not connected). The longer the strips are, the bigger the bow will be. Using 6 to 8 of the paper loops, place them in an imaginative way and staple them together. Gently attach it to the top of the gift with a bit of tape.


Citrus Peel Face Scrub

Orange 2
Original Item: Organic orange, lemon, grapefruit, or lime peel (you know, the part you usually throw out when you eat the fruit? Well keep it!). It absolutely needs to be organic, unless you are ok with rubbing pesticides into your face.

Upcycled Into: Natural and 100% organic face or body scrub (which retails in store for a pretty penny)

Additional Items Needed: Kitchen shears, a butter knife, a cutting board, a blender, and a small glass container (for storage).

How To: Wash your citrus fruit prior to peeling and eating it. Ideally you want to wait until you have the skin of 3 or 4 fruits so that it yields enough scrub (you can refrigerate the skin a day or two, but the fresher the better). Using the butter knife, try to remove the white part of the skin (the inside part) from the coarse outside (colored) part. Remove as much of the white layer as possible. Then, using kitchen shears, cut the peel into long thin strips. Place them side by side in a layer on the cutting board for a couple of days, until they are dry and curled.

Use whatever method you prefer to grind the rinds: I like to throw them in the blender and pulverize them, but you may prefer to use a mortar and pestle. Store in a glass container, preferably in the refrigerator. You can combine a bit at a time with some fresh water to use as a facial or body scrub. You can also use this citrus zest in your cooking and baking. It is said to be good for about a year.


Have you ever upcycled? If so, please share your upcycling projects with us in the comments!

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