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Upcycled Materials: The Secret Stash Hidden in Plain Clothes

upcycle materialsVintage Buttons are awesome upcycling material

Let’s face it, upcycling is not only a great way to save money, help the environment, and release your creative genius, it’s currently very trendy and, well… cool.

Society is hugely consumptive. This ain’t no secret folks. But what it means, for those sustainably conscious peeps like you and me who are so inclined to make a difference around us, is provide a wealth – a vast treasure trove – of items, things, stuff, to be upcycled right under our noses, and within reach of our restless fingertips.

Wine bottles, lamp shades, cas, newspapers, milk cartons, tires, suitcases, jeans, sweatshirts, the goes is never-ending. If you can reimagine it, you can upcycle it.

What follows are just a few of the many, many places to unearth a stash of materials to be upcycled:

Your Own Home Store

The first place to explore is in your own home.

Got anything you’re bored of?

Then it’s time to get creative and come up with a new idea or look.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. A coat of paint or iron-on decal may be all you need, or completely changing its function such as turning bottle caps into tea light candles, or plastic bottles into garden planters.

Upcycling-Plastic-Soda-Bottles-As-An-Urban-Garden-1Plastic bottles become clever garden planters

Second Hand Shops (Aka The Thrift Store or Op Shop)

If ever there was an Aladdin’s Cave or sunken treasure ship, it’s the second-hand shop.

Go in with an idea already fermenting or simply wander around until your inspirational juices start flowing. For example; upcycle old satchels into bicycle panniers (already on my project list), turn a ladder into a bookshelf, or cutlery into wall hangers.

Garage Sales

As with the second-hand shops above you never know what exciting project is waiting to be discovered. Often for very little outlay.

As the saying goes “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

Family and Friends

Don’t be shy. Your inner circle often has upcycling treasures horded away for a rainy day. Just let them know your need is great, or that you’re just thinking of them by offering to help clear out their cupboards.

Online Upcycling

The internet has rendered borders obsolete and uncovered vast amounts of upcycling opportunities.

Hang out Etsy, eBay, TradeMe (NZ). Investigate craigslist, item or skill specific websites like furniture upcycling or sewing sites. And check out the ever-growing free sharing sites such as The Freecycle Network at


Time to head back out into your real-world community. Local auctions, often from commercial businesses closing, demolition sales, or even from estates of the dearly deceased (morbid – maybe; practical – definitely) can provide sources of material waiting for that new lease on life.

That Skip Down the Road

Dumpster diving can be an upcycler’s dream. A caveat though: Preferably ask the owner first!

That said, the odd late-night foray has been known to uncover a treasure trove for upcycling projects. I actually coined the term “guerilla upcycling” for this and then a Google search revealed that guerilla upcycling is alive and well (usually it’s people building things in their community during the middle of the night however).

upcycle project

So with even a little imagination and a bit of searching, you can get onto the growing trend of upcycling and do your bit for your wallet and the environment.

‘Till next time,

Be free and happy!

Scott (The Free Ranger)


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