Upcycling is the process of converting trash and other waste materials into new materials or products of better quality than the products they started as. A classic example of an upcycled product is recycled designer handbags made from materials such as old candy bar wrappers, soda pop tops, and seat belts. Upcycling has many environmental benefits: it reduces waste, keeps garbage out of already overflowing landfills, and minimizes resource consumption used to create new products.
Upcycling offers several interesting green business opportunities for creative people. Upcycling businesses are also especially well suited to entrepreneurs interested in working from home.
Upcycling Business Opportunities for Creative Ecopreneurs
Upcycling business opportunities include collecting trash for upcycling, creating upcycled products, and selling upcycled products created by others.
Some companies are now beginning to offer money for trash to be used for upcycling. The best known of these programs is probably TerraCycle. Terracycle members join “brigades” focusing on specific waste products, such as Stonyfield yogurt containers, Capri Sun drink pouches, or Ziploc bags. Once members have collected the minimum amount of the waste product, they ship it to TerraCycle and receive cash in return (the exact amount varies depending on the material being collected). TerraCycle then upcycles the waste into useful products for home, office, and school.
The most popular upcycling business is creating upcycled products. There is a nearly unlimited array of products that can be made through upcycling, and thousands more waiting to be discovered. One of the most popular ways to get started selling handcrafted upcycled products of all sorts is opening a shop on Etsy.com. Etsy has a large and environmentally conscious customer bases with great appreciation for clever and creative upcycled products. The website itself has also consistently shown its support for upcycling by holding upcycling contests, featuring “Treasuries” focusing on upcycled products, and more.
A third upcycling business idea is to open a store, boutique, or cooperative selling upcycled products made by others. Some artisans and crafters produce great products but lack the interest or ability in business and marketing to build their hobby into a successful business. By taking over the business side of making a living for them, you can help them get more time to focus on creating the products they love, while earning a commission on sales for promoting products that are beautiful, useful, and eco-friendly. It’s a win-win situation for everyone: artisan, consumer, seller, and planet! Upcycling stores can have either a physical location or, if you prefer to work from home, be web-based.
Three Creative Upcycling Businesses Turning Trash Into Treasures
Jesse Janes Jewelry, based in Portland, Maine, uses discarded Scrabble tiles to create beautiful pendants!
TRUECONNECTION, based in Louisiana, creates beautiful wooden benches, wedding signs, coffee tables, and other furniture from upcycled cedar fencing!
UbaUpcycles, owned by Emily, a 15 year old Texas seamstress, creates unique new shirts and cuffs from thrift store finds! Emily’s mom also sells beautiful products made from reclaimed fabric at her shop, Refabulous.