What kind of people are Upcyclists? I’m Sasha Weilbaker and earlier this year, I started a weekly newsletter, called The Upcyclist, about upcycling and the people who do it. I created this newsletter to inspire others (and myself) to look at the materials around us differently. How can something we already own be repurposed? How can we make something ourselves instead of buying it new? I wanted to create and inspire a community of upcyclists. So I decided to go directly to the source, and talk to folks who upcycle on a regular basis. These range from those who upcycle as part of their full-time job, to those who get crafty once in a while.

Upcyclists Reilly FitzsimmonsSource: Reilly Fitzsimmons

By chatting with different upcyclists each week, my goal of inspiring myself to look at materials in a new light is constantly being met. Here are 3 things I’ve learned from the people I’ve interviewed:

1. Upcyclists know that materials are everywhere… and can be anything. 

When I’ve thought about objects deemed “materials” in the past, they usually came in plastic packaging and were newly bought from a craft or hardware store. 

However, I’ve come to realize that everything can be used for materials. From hole-punched cans-turned-mosaic art to used class notes-turned-pants, the folks that I’ve interviewed use anything and everything to create something new. 

rainbow mosaicSource: Hannah and Nemo

This has caused me to think about what I can use as a material in my everyday life. Do my worn-out t-shirts need to be thrown away, or can they be cut up to create dish rags? Can I repurpose small bits of scrap wood from my makerspace to become a bike rack, a plant stand, and much more? For sure I can! 

This realization has made me think about the need for a platform that connects folks with excess resources to those that can make something from them. Companies like Pulp Pantry, Seconds, and Take Two are upcycling ingredients to make snacks and plant milk. Dating apps, Airbnb, Lyft, and more serve as online connectors for anyone with a smartphone. 

Can we connect the two ideas to create a platform that connects resources and materials? 

If so, count me in. 

2. We need to de-program our brains to focus on reusing instead of buying new. 

It’s no secret that we live in a consumer culture that has trained us to “replace” rather than repair– and profits from it. 

In a recent episode of the podcast, How to Save a Planet, interviewee and beauty YouTuber Hannah Louise Poston talks about the addictive quality of the ecosystem of desire creation that we live in. She talks in detail about the ins and outs of buying stuff, but the gist is this: we’re easily addicted to it. 

Upcyclists Hannah Louise PostonSource: Hannah Louise Poston

Upcycling feels like a counter to consumer culture. Instead of needing more, buying new, and replacing rather than repairing, the premise of upcycling is using what you already have. But doing so can feel unnatural at first! 

3. Human creativity is impressive, to say the least. 

It’s safe to say that no one I’ve interviewed thus far has presented an idea that I would have thought of. Time and time again, I’m impressed with the materials folks are repurposing and the stories that led them there.  

Each week, I look forward to hearing from unique individuals, small businesses, and creators, about their view of upcycling and how every one of us can shift our perspective when looking at the materials around us. 

If you’re interested in receiving The Upcyclist in your inbox, subscribe here. You can also follow The Upcyclist on Instagram at @upcyclists_online

Upcyclists: Sasha WeilbakerSource: Sasha Weilbaker, The Upcyclist

What do you think?