11 Upcycled Projects That Will Help Save The Planet

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Turning trash into treasure is the true spirit of upcycling! Upcycled projects are even better than recycling because you are upgrading something destined for the recycling bin and making it into something new and beautiful!

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WHAT IS AN UPCYCLING PROJECT?

An upcycling project is taking anything that would otherwise be destined for the trash and making it into something new and better than the original. 

For example, instead of tossing away those old crayons or recycling your yogurt cup from breakfast, stop and think to yourself – what can I make with this?  

Save these materials for DIY upcycling projects that can be enjoyed for years to come and even make them into budget-conscious and eco-friendly gifts! 

Can’t wait to see some inspiration?  

Head down to see the 11 Creative Upcycled Projects included here to get your creative juices flowing!

WHY IS UPCYCLING BETTER THAN RECYCLING?

Both recycling and upcycling help to reduce the amount of waste in our environment and in the landfills. 

Yet recycling is essentially downcycling, which is when the recycled material is made into something of lower quality than the original.  

Upcycling is the opposite! 

DIY upcycled projects turn something like wrapping paper into a princess crown for your daughter or a boho paper bead necklace for a friend!

WHAT MATERIALS CAN BE UPCYCLED?

The sky’s the limit! Use your imagination! You can upcycle just about any material. 

Since 91% of all plastic is NOT recycled, I feel that we should do what we can to upcycle plastic materials – when avoiding plastic is not an option.  Think about plastic bottle caps, plastic pill bottles, plastic bottles, plastic straws, and so on. 

Getting creative and finding new uses and upcycling projects for these materials will help keep plastic out of our environment and out of our oceans. 

You don’t need to limit it to just plastic though! Almost any material can be upcycled, if you are creative enough or have a love for scrolling through Pinterest for ideas like me! 😉

My only problem is finding time to carry out all my upcycled DIY project ideas and hiding all my materials from my husband. (He would prefer that I don’t save as much… yet is always impressed when he sees what the girls and I make!)

WHAT SHOULD I REPURPOSE?

In addition to plastic, there are a lot of other materials and items that you can repurpose and easily upcycle into DIY crafts and projects. 

  • Toilet Paper Rolls – Toilet paper rolls also have a zillion uses such as upcycled crafts for kids, a unique way to wrap small gifts, and can even be used to organize your cords and chargers at home. 
upcycled toilet paper rolls
  • Mason Jars – Mason jars are not only great for storing food and leftovers but can also make lanterns and a host of other creative upcycled DIY projects.  
  • Wine Corks – Save your wine corks and turn them into one of the many upcycled crafts you can find on Pinterest, such as wall art, Christmas ornaments, and more!
  • Egg Cartons – Paper egg cartons make the perfect material for upcycled crafts for kids! They can also be used to sort and store craft supplies such as buttons, sequins, and other small materials. 
  • Mint Containers – Upcycle your plastic mint containers into something new or use it to store paper clips, buttons, tacks, or coins.  My favorite upcycled DIY project is turning the mint container into a personalized earbuds case! My three daughters gave this a try and it was super easy too!
upcycled earbuds case made from a plastic mint container
  • Plastic Bags – If you are still getting plastic bags from the grocery store, you can repurpose them into small garbage bags for your bathroom trash can – instead of buying more plastic bags.  I’ve also even seen plastic bags turned into jump ropes and upcycled plastic tote bags. Check out these 23 Genius Ways to Repurpose Plastic Bags.
  • Rubber Bands – Rubber bands are often tossed away when you get them with your produce, mail, or newspapers.  Why not save these to reuse or make them into upcycled crafts? When in doubt, do a quick search on Pinterest for lots of great ideas!
  • Old Clothing – Instead of sending your old stained clothing to the landfill, find a way to repurpose your old clothes into something new, such as rags for cleaning, material for new garments, or make a T-shirt bag (see project below). If you know how to sew, the options are endless!
  • Denim – Similarly to old clothing, there are a lot of easy upcycled projects on Pinterest for old denim. My favorites are making upcycled earrings, handbags, and even denim wreaths.  As always, Pinterest is your friend when you are searching for upcycled craft ideas. 

11 CREATIVE UPCYCLED PROJECTS

Here are several easy upcycle projects to help get you started and your creative juices flowing.  

Once you do a few of these projects yourself, you’ll start to envision projects of your own everytime you go to toss something away.  I recommend saving some of these materials in a storage bin or cardboard box, so you have everything on hand when you are ready to dive in!

1. Upcycle Books Into Journals – 

upcycled book journal

Are your shelves lined with vintage or unused books? Upcycle them into beautiful handmade journals. These upcycled journals are perfect for gifts for your family and friends too!

2. Upcycle Your Old, Broken Crayons – 

upcycled broken crayons
Photo credit: Simply Living Green with Rebekah

Did you know that more than a half-million pounds of broken crayons are discarded every year? Follow these 7 simple steps to upcycle your broken crayons into new crayons for your kids or even as gifts!

3. How to Upcycle Wrapping Paper into Boho Paper Bead Necklaces – 

Boho Paper Bead Necklaces
Photo credit: Compost and Cava

Reusing wrapping paper is even better than recycling it, especially since a lot of wrapping paper can’t’ be recycled due to the tape, glitter, and metallic paper.  Upcycling wrapping paper is a great way to make something new and beautiful that can be enjoyed yourself or given as a gift next Christmas! How fun would it be to give someone a necklace made with the wrapping paper they used the previous year? 

4. 3 DIY Paper Crowns from Upcycled Wrapping Paper – 

upcycled paper crowns
Photo credit: Compost and Cava

Instead of buying birthday hats for your next party or at-home birthday celebration, make one of these paper crowns from upcycled wrapping paper.  It’s such a cute project to do with your kids while also being eco-friendly, creative, and unique!

5. DIY Burlap Pom Pom Coasters Made from Upcycled Coffee Sack

upcycled coffee sacks
Photo credit: Compost and Cava

If you have access to burlap coffee sacks (without purchasing them new) this would be a great upcycling project to reuse them! I love how colorful they are and that you could make these for gifts (which is a great zero waste gift-giving idea)!

6. How to Build a Bee Garden from a Wood Pallet – 

upcycled wood pallet
Photo credit: Compost and Cava

Here’s another great upcycled, eco-friendly project using an old wood pallet. Plus it also includes the use of milk paint, which is a non-toxic, environmentally friendly paint option, made from milk protein, clay, and other pigments that are biodegradable. 

7. Recycled Magazine Art – 

recycled magazine art
Photo credit: Sum of their Stories

Make art for your home that costs next to nothing by upcycling old magazines and junk mail! Check out this cute but simple upcycled craft project. 

8. How to Make a No-Sew T-Shirt Bag – 

no-sew T-shirt bag
Photo credit: Happiest Camper

Repurpose that old T-shirt into a cute tote. Learn how with this simple no-sew tutorial, which is perfect for people like me that can’t sew.  I can’t wait to give it a try!

9. DIY Reusable Hand Warmers – 

DIY Reusable Hand Warmers
Photo credit: Happiest Camper

Upcycle those old flannel shirts into cute hand warmers! Simple to follow tutorial that you can sew yourself today!

10. DIY UnBeeLievable Bee House – 

DIY Upcycled Bee House
Photo credit: Pink Fortitude

This fun eco-friendly craft not only uses wood and logs you might have on hand already, but it will also help give bees a safe home and help prevent their decline.  

11. Upcycled Yogurt Cup Bracelets

upcycled yogurt cup bracelets
Photo credit: Turning Back The Clock

If you are looking for eco-friendly crafts, yogurt cups come in very handy! These yogurt cup bracelets are just one way that you can repurpose your old yogurt containers.

In the end, anything you do to take your trash and make it into a new treasure is golden! 

Help protect our environment, while getting creative and having fun in the process! It’s a win-win solution.  Happy upcycling! 

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11 upcycled projects

Are you ready to take the next step on your going green journey? Find out the 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!

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