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Re-Use. Re-Purpose. Re-Design.

by Lori Hoffman

Filed Under : Re-cycled

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Posted on March 1, 2015 at 11:46 am

Today, everything is about recycling. With major cities across the United States now fully ensconced with mature recycling programs and wide public acceptance of the concept, recycling, with its ever growing popularity, has been taken to higher levels, even enjoying new naming conventions. One of my favorites is the term “up-cycled”.

Whether you call it re-resign or up-cycling, the concept is nothing new. Taking a variety of forms, one can trace recycling’s popularity far back in human history. Take for instance land conquests.

From the earliest times, any conqueror of a territory promptly erected their own center of government, or church on the remnants of those before them. As an example, one that comes to mind is York Minster, England.



Images Courtesy of York Minster

A brief look at the timeline of this historic place shows an example of the lengthy re-cycling that occurred here. Beginning as early as AD 71, the location on which the York Minster stands today was originally the site of a Roman Fort. Later, around AD 627 the fort was converted into a stone building by Edwin the King of Northumberland. However, that condition as not to last and in 1069 the church was destroyed.

When Thomas of Bayeux the first Norman Archbishop arrived in 1070, he found the church in ruins. Being an industrious sort, Thomas re-fashioned it, building a new cathedral lasting until the middle of the twelfth century. Yet it was re-purposed yet again in 1160s when Archbishop Roger reconstructed sections in the new Transitional style.

Of course it didn’t stop there, for in 1220, Archbishop Walter Grey rebuilt part of it in the Gothic Style, but later, in 1230 the Normans started rebuilding the cathedral in the Early English style. Everyone finally declared the remodeling done in 1472… Wow. That’s one heck of a remodel!

So what does all of this have to do with today’s blog?

One of the reasons recycling is so popular, is that we humans have a terrific knack for creativity. That is, making something entirely different with the re-arrangement of the original materials. Often driven by need, this urge has led to some interesting products. Take for example the Yucca plant. Used by the ancestral Pueblo people, the thorns were stripped from the plant, dried and used as sewing needles.

The plants were further re-cycled as their roots were peeled and ground into a pulp. With its sudsy quality, the pulp was then mixed with water and used for soap or shampoo. Legend says that washing your hair with yucca shampoo makes the hair strands stronger and may even prevent baldness. Pretty cool, huh?

Today, it’s not much different. We have many outstanding examples of materials that have been re-used, re-purposed, re-created into a completely different product. One of my favorites is Trex.



Photo Courtesy of Trex

Trex is the largest manufacturer of high performance engineered wood. Used in decking, railing fencing and trim applications, it is one of the best dimensionally stable alternatives to wood.

Made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastic, Trex is composed of sawdust from used pallets, with plastic grocery bags are the major source of its plastic fibers. The combination of these two materials makes a more durable product because while the plastic protects against damage from moisture and insects, the wood prevents the UV damage to the plastic. To read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/181194-recycled-home-building-products/#ixzz2ColIKRy6

Another one of my favorite recycled material is IceStone. Made in the USA, it is a high performance countertop that is responsibly made, without hazardous petrochemical resins or toxic chemicals. With a  Gold level Cradle to Cradle ™ certification, IceStone products are not only safe for the employees who make the material and the interiors where these surfaces are installed, but also for anyone preparing meals on these countertops.

Their Cradle to Cradle™ certification is important to note, because its award is based on criteria that takes into account a variety of factors.  In addition to assessing the product’s safety to humans, it also assesses the product’s production and its impact on current and future life cycles.

Most often specified for counters, bathroom vanities, desktops, and other horizontal surfaces, IceStone is known for its zero-waste manufacturing processes. Made from 100% recycled glass, any second quality slabs area used for samples, and any waste not reused onsite is 90% recycled offsite into roadbed or processed for agricultural use. Their recycling practices do not end there.

Not only does IceStone offer an excellent re-cycled surface for a variety of horizontal applications along with manufacturing practices the most advanced in the business, but also their 55,000 square foot factory is actually a repurposed 19th century warehouse.

Additionally, they make use of natural lighting to further reduce their energy consumption with a day-lit interior, and a water recycling system that reuses 100% of the water waste generated in production. Lastly, IceStone purchases wind-powered green-e certified renewable energy credits to help offset 100% of their facility’s energy use. Pretty committed to re-purposing, re-using and re-cycling, wouldn’t you say?

Producing up-cycled furniture and accessories is easy, not to mention it’s a great way to keep the waste out of the landfill. Simply take anything that’s already made and re-purpose it. However, if you don’t have the time or interest to do projects like this yourself, there are several great resources out there. Just searching the web under eco textiles, green furniture, or recycled materials for starters will provide you with some great finds.

As they say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure… Happy up-cycling!