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Upcycling reduces material use, landfill waste

As BCWastefree.com reminds us, “We’re doing our part. Are you?” Thankfully, our local sanitation company offers residential recycling, but what else can we do to help keep millions of pounds of waste out of our landfills? While recycling is one effective solution, it isn’t the only option. Upcycling is an increasingly popular, fun and creative way to repurpose and refurbish trash or found objects (objet trouvé).

It’s a trendy term in the DIY world these days, but in the sanitation realm, upcycling popped up back in the ’90s to describe converting old product into something of better use, quality or environmental value. It’s the opposite of “downcycling,” where used products are recycled into something often of lesser quality or worth. An example would be quality writing paper being downcycled to tissue or toilet paper.

With imagination and handy DIY tips, anyone can help the environment by upcycling. My Boulder City neighbor, Patti G., is a queen upcycler.

“My inspiration comes from seeing pictures in magazines and making my own version of them,” says Patti. “I’ll use old stuff around the house or free items in the neighborhood then build something practical from them that I could really use. … I mean, why buy a table when you could make one from a solid wood door left for trash?”

Here are some simple, smart and good-looking upcycling projects to get you inspired.

Old wood door table top: Patti simply screwed (from underneath) this vintage alley-find door onto an antiqued pedestal base whose original top lost its oomph. She sanded, then stained and sealed the door in a rich walnut color creating a shabby chic kitchen table.

Rustic window wall art: Vintage window frames are not in short supply in Boulder City with homeowners replacing them with energy-efficient windows. Hang the window as is, or screw a planter box or shelf to it. Paint and decorate it any way that complements the space. Arrange several of them together for a unique wall grouping. It works for interior or exterior design.

Posthumous thanks to legendary artist and local resident, Larry Gloege, for his Buddha Beer caricature, lettering and design.

Broken concrete fountain candelabra/planter: An old cracked Grecian fountain can become an enchanting yard feature. Whitewash the concrete to refresh the finish with water-diluted latex paint. Add things like plants, water and floating candles to bring romance to the garden.

Vintage suitcase end or coffee table: Vintage suitcases have great character. If you don’t have one in your basement, they’re easy to find in thrift stores.

Depending on the look you want, paint or polyurethane it, then fasten wood “bun feet” at each corner. Furniture feet are available in hardware and big-box stores, but you can find myriad selection online on sites like Van Dyke’s Restorers (www.vandykes.com). Many come with preinstalled screws for fast and easy installation. You can also stack suitcases, securing them together, to get the height you want.

Old wall cabinet potting table: Take an old wall cabinet, remove the doors and screw a recycled wood top on it to make a large and secure work surface. Use the open shelves to store garden supplies, pots and tools. It’s a handsome and functional addition to a shed, garage or against a garden wall.

Color crafted chest of drawers: A beat up chest of drawers is a treasure chest of endless possibilities. Imagine one in a girl’s bedroom painted with bold light blue and white stripes, and on the drawer faces, large fuchsia flower decals. Or picture an entryway cabinet painted high-gloss white with black-stenciled filigree flowers climbing up the sides and black wrought iron drawer pulls.

Upcycling projects will make you smile for a few reasons: Creating them are fun the whole family can get in on, DIY gives you a sense of accomplishment and it feels good knowing that you’ve helped reduce material usage and lessen the load in landfills.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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