We’re all trying to be greener these days, but sometimes a jolt of pure inspiration can do wonders. In honor of The Daily Green‘s Heart of Green Awards, their annual ceremony recognizing people who help green go mainstream, the editors are sharing their favorite recycled picks from the blogosphere. Just the thing to get you in the zone for creative reuse! Do you make something from recycled materials or do you have your eye on an upcycled item from the Etsy marketplace? At the bottom of the post, we have a call out for nominations for a round of voting — with the top Etsy favorites to be featured on The Daily Green!
For inspiration, The Daily Green has assembled nine creations that represent major categories of the U.S. waste stream. Does 2.7 pounds sound like a lot of stuff to trash? That was how much the average American disposed of in 1960; now, we’re trashing 4.5 pounds — every day! In a world where we tend to toss what we no longer need, crafters have always stood athwart the throwaway cultural trend. (I should know this, having grown up in a home where the closets brimmed with yogurt containers, paper towel tubes and reams of used computer paper — just in case they might one day come in handy.) So just what makes up our trash?
Paper & Cardboard
Almost 1/3 of our trash is paper and cardboard — and we recycle barely half of it. Just about all paper is recyclable now (yes, even glossy magazines, junk mail and catalogs). You can easily turn your wastepaper into beautiful handmade paper (see a how-to video). Or, you can get really creative, like artist Mark Langan does with his amazing cardboard creations:
Image via langanart.com
Food scraps amount to nearly 13% of our waste — more than plastics! Together with yard scraps (another 13% of U.S. waste), this represents an incredible amount of free fertilizer… that’s fertilizing landfills. Free fertilizer? Yes, I’m talking about compost, and your garden wants some. Turn that food into beautiful flowers, a healthy lawn or more food! Hey, it’s better than a bacon lampshade (no offense, kmkelly617 from Flickr).
The U.S. discards 13 million tons of plastic annually — more than 12% of our overall waste — and barely 7% of the plastic we discard is recycled. The biggest proportion of that plastic waste comes in the form of plastic bottles (beverages as well as personal care products, cleansers and the like) and packaging. How about a plastic bottle greenhouse? Or a colorful outdoor wall? That’s what this sewage treatment plant in Scotland tried, to great effect:
Photo by bryanilona on Flickr
Recycling metal is important for the environment: Metal makes up more than 8% of the U.S. waste stream, and the 7 million tons recycled in 2008 reduced pollution equivalent to that produced by 4.5 million cars! But we recycle less than 35% of the metal we use each year. What to do? Some of the most ingenious architects have devised one incredible idea: making homes from steel shipping containers, once the trains, cargo planes and big rigs are done with them. You could also think a little closer to home, like Aaron Foster does with these recycled license plates.
Together with leather and rubber, textiles makes up 8% of the U.S. waste. Hand-me-downs, second-hand shops and swaps can take a lot of those old clothes off your hands, possibly even at a profit — unless, of course, you want to use the fabric for something better, like a door draft snake made from old jeans, or this stylish clutch, made from old neckties by Christine Wick:
Photo by Christine Wick
Accounting for 5% of U.S. waste, glass is infinitely recyclable. Just add heat! We still only manage to recycle 23% of it, though. I’m guessing that low rate isn’t because everyone is using old glass bottles to make new cups, new roofs, or new serving plates.
Whether it’s paper or plastic, aluminum or styrofoam, packaging is a huge component of the waste stream. By one calculation, products and packaging represent the single biggest component of U.S. contribution to greenhouse gas emissions — more than transportation, heating and cooling, and lighting combined, according to this analysis. We’ve seen a lot of gum wrapper handbags, but how about this? This lamp, woven in Bangladesh from snack bags and wrappers can be found at Ten Thousand Villages:
Photo by the Prokritee artisan group on Ten Thousand Villages
The average American household now has 24 electronic items, which doesn’t include the old TV set, the old cell phone and charger or the old microwave ditched last year. Which means that e-waste is a growing part of the U.S. waste stream. Most electronics can be, and should be recycled, but as little as 21% actually is. Some electronics can include hazardous materials, like toxic heavy metals, so consider safety first — then get creative. These cufflinks are a great example:
Photo from boystuff.co.uk
Otherwise known as “stuff,” we end up with a lot of products that we don’t need, can’t use or can’t get to work anymore, like these broken umbrellas put to good use on Halloween by Windell H. Oskay of evilmadscientist.com:
Photo by Lenore, one of the Evil Mad Scientists
Now, it’s your turn.
To celebrate its second annual Heart of Green Awards, our annual ceremony recognizing people who help green go mainstream, The Daily Green is teaming up with Etsy to celebrate the creative artisans and artists who make reducing, reusing and recycling a fun way of life. Behold! The Trash-to-Craft Challenge — in four easy steps!
- Inspiration. We hope you’re feeling inspired by the incredible items made from recycled materials above.
- Discovery. You find the coolest items on Etsy made from recycled materials. Paste links in the comments below and tell us why you love them.
- Voting. You vote for your favorites from April 14-19 using the Etsy Voter tool.
- Results. We all get to enjoy the most popular items, which will be featured on both Etsy and The Daily Green’s Heart of Green page.
For more great ideas, check out The Daily Green’s homage to weird uses for common products.