100 Amazing Upcycling Ideas Anyone Can Do
One does not have to be an environmentalist to enjoy the benefits of upcycling projects. Anyone who derives enjoyment from DIY projects and other creative endeavors will love looking at the following instructions for ideas and inspiration for undertakings of their very own. Or, of course, they can follow along at home as a means of learning new techniques and nurturing their innovation.
1. Bike Innertube Wallet : Learn how to transform the innertube of a bike tire into a durable, waterproof wallet that only requires a bit of simple cutting and sewing.
2. Travel Trunk Rolling Bar : An old travel trunk makes for an elegant, vintage (or, at least, vintage looking) rolling bar/conversation piece perfect for entertaining.
3. Old CD Jewelry : Smooth, shiny CDs can make for some stunning, relatively simple and understated jewelry pieces – and with their rapidly escalating status as obsolete technology, there will be plenty stacking up for these creative DIY projects.
4. G4 Cubequarium : Fans of Macs and technology will delight in this amazing fish tank made from an old G4. It requires a bit of work, but the instructions are all laid out in detail.
5. Newspaper Mulch : With this simple project, homeowners and gardeners can re-appropriate newspapers to serve as effective, biodegradable mulch.
6. Birdseed Packaging Lunch Bag : Turn a simple birdseed bag (or bit of trash of a similar composition) into an interesting, easy-to clean lunchbox suitable for everyday use.
7. Plastic Bag Headband : Using this technique for creating viable, sewable fabric from plastic bags found at most grocery stores, the green fashionista can whip up a quick headband or bracelet in no time.
8. Barrel of Monkeys Bowl : Plastic toy soldiers and the beloved Barrel of Monkeys both make for quirky, fun decorative bowls that add a unique flair to any home.
9. Soda Bottle Lamp : 2-liter soda bottles can be fashioned into incredible lamps and electric candles that imbue a room with a startling elegance.
10. Plastic Bag Laptop Case : Upcycle those ubiquitous plastic bags – many of which fail to biodegrade at an agreeable rate – into a workable, eco-friendly laptop case.
11. Bra Strap Headband : This unconventional bit of hair accessorizing turns the straps of an old or poorly-fitting bra into a stylish headband.
12. Tin Can Organizer : Cleaned-up tin cans double as both extremely handy organizers as well as decorative abstracted shapes to pretty up a blank wall.
13. Beer Bottle Cap Belt : Throw a party and turn the leavings into a cute, kicky, quirky handmade belt with plenty of character.
14. Plastic Bottle Jump Rope : Jump ropes act as excellent, cheap equipment for a great workout, and DIY types can fashion for themselves a quick, easy version with plastic bottles and a length of rope.
15. Altoids Box Headphone Speakers : Altoids boxes offer up a number of amazing upcycling possibilities, and these instructions teach readers how to make a viable set of headphone speakers as one of them.
16. Jar or Cup Picture Frame : Display photographs in clear cups or jars as an innovative, cheap way to decorate a home, apartment, or dorm.
17. Cereal Box Clock : Make an unorthodox but eye-catching clock out of an old cereal box – perfect for kitchens, dorms, and childrens’ rooms.
18. Wine Bottle Gas Lamp : With a little bit of tweaking, empty wine bottles can end up as unusual and interesting gas lamps suitable for outdoor use.
19. Dryer Lint Clay : Kids will love the fun, interesting results that come from transforming simple dryer lint into a pliable little clay.
20. Necktie Headband : Another headband project, this time transforming old or fashionably obsolete neckties into kicky hair décor.
21. Boxboard Mini-Journals : Create mini journals or notebooks out of leftover bits of cardboard packaging and old magazines.
22. Altoids Box Battery Pack : The versatile little metal Altoids boxes can, among other things, find a second life as battery packs for a number of different projects.
23. Shoe Planter : Orphaned shoes do not have to be thrown out because of a missing partner – they can be made into planters for small seedlings to begin their lives.
24. Teabag Origami : Folding tea bags and their accompanying tags into fashionable, decorative origami with a number of different amazing applications.
25. Shower Curtain Kite : No matter if they are made of cloth or plastic, shower curtains can be used as the main material in this simple kite pattern.
26. Scarf Pillows : Though the instructions call for vintage scarves, these pillows can made from any eye-catching examples of this particular accessory.
27. Plywood Chair : Re-appropriate leftover plywood for use in simple, geometric furniture that adds a splash of DIY aesthetic to a home.
28. Old Denim Tote Bag : No matter if they fall out of fashion or stop fitting, an old pair of jeans can be turned into any number of great items – including this fun and easy tote bag.
29. Shipping Pallet Shoe Holder : This simple, straightforward project makes vertical a shipping pallet for use as a sturdy, reliable shoe holder.
30. Customizable Candles : Melt old, nubby candles down into one much larger one, customizing the colors, patterns, and scents that go best together.
31. Bottle Vases : When painted a color that complements the surrounding décor, Starbucks Frappuccino bottles can turn into cute, fun vases for the mantle or table.
32. Soda Can Airplanes : Delight children by giving their empty soda cans a new life as a decorative airplane. Make several and turn them into a mobile!
33. Sweater Pet Bed : With a little bit of cutting and sewing, an old, stretched out sweater makes for a cozy bed for a cat, dog, or other beloved pet.
34. Necktie Hat : Sewing a bunch of unused neckties together may result in an unorthodox but surprisingly cute, almost Bohemian hat.
35. Old Towel Bath Mat : Watch this video for detailed instructions on fashioning a viable bath mat from a frayed, faded towel.
36. Phone Book Flip Book : Few people have any real need for phone books anymore, so artistic types can use their generous bulk to create detailed flip books for their children.
37. Oatmeal Box Ribbon Holder : Store ribbons for projects or presents in a decorated oatmeal box that functions just as well as the specialized products found in craft stores.
38. Old Jigsaw Puzzle = New Jigsaw Puzzle : Draw or paint a new scene on the back of a preexisting jigsaw puzzle to imbue it with double the entertainment value.
39. Jersey Tea Cozy : Felted jerseys can be made into nice, homey little tea cozies that fit around a pot and keep the contents warmer for longer.
40. Denim Bunting : The always versatile denim jeans or jacket can be reused as bunting for decorative flags and sewing projects.
41. Place Mat Purse : Old cloth placemats provide enough material to make small, surprisingly fashionable clutch purses.
42. Cheese Grater Pencil Holder : Flip a cheese grater up-side down, attach it in the desired location for added sturdiness, and use the generous space to store multiple writing implements.
43. Coffee Grounds Conditioner : Apparently, used coffee grounds make for a natural (if not outright organic) conditioner that also brings out highlights in brunette hair.
44. Christmas Decoration Napkin Rings : Make matching napkin rings out of cardboard toilet paper tubes and some sort of decoration (Christmas is used here, but any holiday or theme could work) for quick and easy table accessories.
45. Plastic Egg Brooch : It requires a bit of concentration, but plastic Easter Eggs – when cut – can actually make for an eye-catching brooch shaped like a rose.
46. Jewel Case Picture Frames : Dorms and homes alike benefit from the added (and inexpensive) beauty found in jewel cases re-appropriated as picture frames.
47. Stacked Books Table Leg : Turn battered old books into a classy but quirky home accessory. The example given only utilizes one leg, but several can still make a statement.
48. Newspaper Switchplate Covers : Decoupage newspapers to home switchplate covers for an added bit of visual flair. Comic books also provide another source of paper for use in this project.
49. Carpet Sample Chair : It requires a bit of work, but even a stack of hefty carpet samples can find new life as a strange but extremely striking piece of furniture.
50. Brown Paper Bag Business Cards/Seed Holders : Brown paper bags from the grocery store provide the base material needed for sustainable business cards that serve double duty as seed holders.
51. Trash Planner : For those who still keep analog planners, save old packaging material such as cardboard for use in a small desk calendar.
52. Plastic Bag Yarn : Knitters, crocheters, and anyone else into yarncrafting can twist plastic bags into viable yarns for projects. Try to avoid the biodegradable variety, as they tend to dissolve quickly.
53. Old Plate Cake Stand : Ceramic plates that have outlived their initial function can still act as sturdy cake stands for the home or as a gift.
54. Denim Jeans Organizer : Another denim project, this time making a functional organizer from the remains of old jeans, jackets, and skirts.
55. Ladder Shelves : Even ladders can serve a number of functions, and many creative decorators have used them as strong indoor shelving.
56. Burlap Sack Garden : Gardeners may be interested in how some of their fellow hobbyists have utilized burlap coffee bags in their landscapes.
57. Pop Top Bracelet : The pop tops off soda cans have provided numerous jewelry makers with inexpensive (if not free) materials to craft their wares. Here is how to create one such example.
58. Newspaper Gift Bag : With a bit of creativity, newspapers can pull a second shift as fun little gift bags, which work best visually when a large picture spread is used.
59. Newspaper Seedling Pots : Newspapers can also serve as cozy homes for new seedlings as well, provided that responsible gardeners do not overwater.
60. Soda Bottle Tree Guards : Scroll to the bottom of this .pdf file for information on protecting and reinforcing small saplings with empty soda bottles.
61. Button Wheel Car : Everything on this particular website involves making fun and educational toys out of bits of trash, but this adorable button wheel car is a charming classic.
62. Corkboard Jewelry Holder : Perfect for dorms, this corkboard jewelry holder offers quick access to necklaces, rings, and earrings without fear of irritating tangles.
63. Suit Jacket Backpack : An old, unfashionable, or ill-fitting men’s suit coat actually makes for a very nice, unique backpack for kids.
64. Mailing Tube Pencil Case : Fans of retro fashion will absolutely love this pencil case fashioned from an upcycled mailing tube.
65. Hardcover “Invisible” Bookshelves : A clever visual, the use of a strong hardcover book as a shelf for several smaller ones creates a great conversation starter when entertaining.
66. Tennis Ball Photo Holder : When decorated with the traditional pipe cleaners, felt, and googly eyes, even tennis balls can serve an unintended, quirky new function.
67. Computer Keyboard Bracelet : No matter the favored key, these bracelets make for perfect accessories and gifts for the unapologetic technology fan.
68. Bleach Bottle Piggy Bank : Even Martha Stewart occasionally delves into upcycling projects, here providing instructions on making a children’s piggy bank from a thoroughly clean bleach bottle.
69. Audio Cassette and PVC Pipe Insect Catcher : This clever design takes outdated audio cassettes and bits of leftover PVC pipe and turns them into fully functioning insect catchers.
70. Tin Can Wine Rack : Cleaned tin cans make for a great contemporary, industrial wine rack that looks great with more geometric décor.
71. Baby Food Jar Snow Globe : Small plastic figurines, a bit of glitter, and some water all go into a leftover baby food jar to create a delightful, simple snow globe.
72. Beer Can Solar Heater : With a trip to the hardware store, even discarded beer cans find a second chance as small, solar-powered heaters.
73. Coat Tote : Old or unfashionable coats – preferably waterproof – can provide the material needed to make a snazzy tote bag.
74. T-Shirt Necklace or Scarf : Make a quirky, slightly sexy fashion statement with a scarf or necklace created from the remains of a colorful t-shirt.
75. Homemade Recycled Paper : Instead of dropping used papers into the recycling bin, make completely new sheets at home with the pre-existing pulp.
76. Old Suitcase Pet Bed : A number of different instructions for a number of different styles of suitcases are available online, though this version of the pet bed is one of the simplest to follow.
77. Cookie Sheet Advent Calendar : Even those who do not follow Advent can still find a suitable calendar project created from a cookie sheet.
78. PET Bottle Purses : Plastic bottles can be made into durable, viable coin purses with the quick addition of a zipper.
79. Yarn Light Shade : Anyone with leftover yarn laying around may want to consider this contemporary, geometric lamp as a means of adding character to their homes.
80. Shutter Cabinet Doors : Kitchen remodeling projects could possibly incorporate shutters as fully functional doors that imbue the room with a comfortable feel.
81. Bra Purse : Make an interesting fashion statement by re-appropriating an old bra into a kicky, fun little purse.
82. Leather Belt Bracelets : Turn one accessory into another by cutting up leather belts for use in bracelets. Purchase studs or beads to add a more personal touch.
83. Tic-Tac Container Organizer : One of the easiest projects on this list, a number of empty Tic-Tac containers and clear tape make for nice organizers for beads, needles, pins, and other small objects.
84. Soda Bottle Herb Garden : Pull double DIY duty by transforming plastic soda bottles into a nice little herb garden that grows upside-down.
85. Wine Bottle Vases : Another project involving wine bottles, this time showing off how their elegant forms can be turned into striking vases.
86. Ear Bud and Funnels Speaker System : This crude-looking but entirely functional speaker system utilizes relatively simple ear bud and funnel hacks.
87. Recycled Book Purse : Fans of literature or quirky, upcycled couture will adore this purse fashioned from the covers of old or discarded books.
88. Tank Top Tote : Tank tops provide all the material necessary to make an absurdly fast tote bag for anyone in need of a quick containment system.
89. Scrabble Tile Coasters or Magnets : Once the interest in playing Scrabble begins to fade, the iconic tiles make for interesting, instantly recognizable magnets or coasters.
90. Paper Bead Bracelet : Paper beads are one popular method of upcycling interesting bits of gift wrap or newspaper, and this pattern shows one way of using them in a stylish bracelet.
91. Cardboard Cat Chaise : This extremely fun project turns simple slabs of cardboard into a chaise lounge perfect for a favored feline who probably would not appreciate a store-bought one to begin with anyways.
92. Altoids Box Vibrator : Men and women alike who could use a little stimulation but want to save themselves the (unfounded) embarrassment of walking into a specialized store or hitting the internet can turn their leftover Altoids boxes into a fully viable vibrating sex toy. It isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done.
93. Wine Cork Corkboard : Wine bottles may provide some great materials for upcycling projects, but wine corks also offer up some use as stylish boards.
94. Bottle Cap Game Pieces : Save leftover bottle caps from soda or beer bottles to make an enjoyable memory game for kids or as replacement pieces for lost pieces.
95. Milk Carton Coin Purse : Milk Cartons make for waterproof wallets and coin purses alike – some of which only require cutting and folding.
96. Starburst Wrapper Bracelet : An updated twist on the classic gum foil chain, this colorful bracelet utilizes Starburst wrappers as a workable material.
97. Plastic Bag Coasters : Turn largely unaesthetic plastic bags into adorable, customized coasters that add a personal touch and character to any party.
98. Fabric Scrap Ball : Leftover snippets of fabric can be turned into balls for games, occupying children in the car, or keeping pets stimulated. Cat owners may want to think about filling them with catnip for added fun.
99. Cassette Tape Wallet : Transform obsolete technology into newfangled fashion by keeping plastic cassette tapes out of the landfill and using them as a nifty wallet.
100. Cardboard Campaign Sign Chairs : For those who do not mind wearing their politics in their home or on their sleeve, these fantastic little chairs made of campaign signs do the trick nicely.
Literally hundreds of other instructions for fun, functional, and funky upcycling projects abound online. Anyone with an urge to launch DIY projects big and small may want to look over the instructions and patterns listed here as a jumping off point for their own innovative, creative ideas for keeping landfills from stacking up and negatively impacting the planet.