upcycling

Upcycled Christmas ideas #3

DIY pizza carton postcards

When I lived in the UK, home of the Hallmark postcard, I was amazed by how seriously people took the whole postcard business. To be honest I had paid much attention to postcards. I would often read them and throw them out after it. I would only keep the really pretty ones. But I noticed how much people in the UK valued their postcards. I saw people arranging them on the window sill, on their coffee tables or on their drawers. A friend of mine even hung them in her window using string.

To make a long story short: I absolutely loved how much a little postcard meant in the UK. I decided to become a little bit more English and bring this tradition back to my country – and make my own postcards. In my opinion there is no need to buy Christmas cards (unless you want to send one when you’re on holidays). Even if people keep them for a little while, they’ve got a very short life span and still get thrown out eventually. So why not recycle old cardboard, magazines and envelopes and create something unique – like DIY pizza carton postcards?

P1100021 P1100022

Take an old pizza carton (or any other carton), cut out a rectangle shaped postcard (just use an old one as a sample). Do the same with an old envelope. Then glue the envelope to the coloured side of the carton and use the blank side to get creative. Use old magazines or junk mail (you will find a lot of Christmas-sy pictures at the moment!) and cut out stars, trees or anything else you can think of and glue them to the cardboard.

DIY Christmas card

You can find more unusual ideas on Buzzfeed. This one is my favourite last-minute project. Mine doesn’t look as pretty, but I used a different method, too. I cut a magazine page into little strips and arranged them as a tree. I also cut out a love heart – that way I’ve got a 100% recycled postcard.

Christmas tree postcard

By the way: This can be used as a DIY gift tag, too.

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Upcycled Christmas ideas #2

DIY Lego jewellery

Can you remember my Lego men magnets? As I had a few more Lego bricks at home I decided to turn them into jewellery. I discovered Lego jewellery a few years ago, absolutely loved it, but couldn’t understand how anyway would buy this as it’s so easy to make at home. On top of that everyone probably has some old Lego bricks at home. The handful of bricks I’ve got left wouldn’t really be enough to give them away in their original condition, so instead they became individual little treasures – DIY Lego hairclips and rings.

All you need for this is:

  • a couple of old Lego bricks
  • glue (This one is plant-based, free of chemicals and comes in a refillable glass bottle)
  • a blank ring and a blank hairclip

… and now: glue it and let it dry! That’s all it takes. In the meantime you can design a little gift box for your jewellery. I used an old cardboard soap container and glued scrap fabric around it.

Lego hairclip Lego ring jewellery jewellery box jewellery box

A “trashy” house wall in New York

… a funny upcycling project in Brooklyn that makes you think about things we throw out

For those of you who expected another recipe today: I’m sorry! But when I went through my pictures the other day, I found something I had totally forgotten to share with you – and before I forget again, I just have to tell you the story.

When I went to New York in March I spotted what I thought was probably the coolest house wall in the world. It was painted in different colours decorated with old objects people had thrown out – a typewriters, a keyboard, shoes, a fax-machine, a guitar, a chair, a cupboard, toys and old boxes. The owners of the house (or whoever did this) came up with some pretty ingenious ideas – to use an old shoe as a flower-pot for example.  I rang the bell, but nobody seemed to be home. “What a pity”, I thought. I would have loved to talk to the artist Nat Hendricks.

Maybe someone has been there or knows what’s going on there (and if this house still exists)!? The house was on State St near Smith St in Brooklyn. This is what it looked like (I wish I would have taken nicer pics…):

P1080139 P1080140 P1080141 P1080142 jon-e cash P1080144

I absolutely love the ideas and I can only hope more people will decorate their houses that way 🙂 I will definitely start with the flower-pot shoes!

DIY jeans napkins

Upcycled Christmas Present #1

There are a lot of things you can buy for Christmas. These hot-water bottle boobies for example.

hot-water bottles seen in Lisbon

hot-water bottles seen in Lisbon

Keyholders for great lovers.

Keyholders seen in London

Keyholders seen in London

Or not so yummy-looking culinary goodies.

A selection of goodies in a souvenir shop in Edinburgh

A selection of (scary-looking) goodies in a souvenir shop in Edinburgh

And shops use even worse slogans to market their products.

Shop sign seen in Amsterdam

Shop sign seen in Amsterdam

So many choices… I guess it’s needless to say that most of the things in shops are not a real option for me as they come in plastic. The only way out of this madness for me: Making my own Christmas presents – and recycling some old stuff at the same time.

So I took out my scissors, my sewing machine, red string, an old pair of ripped jeans and my first project for this year is done: re-usable jeans napkins.

re-usable jeans napkin

re-usable jeans napkin

I cut out a square (I just used another napkin as a sample) and used a zigzag stitch to make the napkins last longer and look prettier. I decided to use red string as it’s a nice contrast to the gray fabric. You can either use a sewing machine or do it by hand. That’s really all it takes. What I won’t tell: who will find them under the Christmas tree…

Two trashy ideas

… or how I turned old drinks cartons and candy/moisturizer tins into useful objects

I hardly ever buy drinks in cartons nowadays, but whenever I had a carton at home I made sure I didn’t throw it out. I knew there must be something useful I could do with them (aside from DIY business cards). Thanks to Trash Backwards I found a solution – turning my old drink cartons into lunch boxes.

All you have to do is cut the sides and fold them (Click here for the tutorial) over. I used a sort of envelope clip (I tried to find the proper name for them, but I could neither find the German nor the English one) to close the box. I accumulated many of them over the last years. So here’s my drink carton lunch box:

...and another lunch box pic

DIY lunch box

DIY snack containerlunch box

My second upcycling project involved old candy and cosmetic tins. Ever since I started to go as plastic-free as possible I’ve ended up with more and more of them. Most of them are lolly  (Yes, you can get lollies that aren’t individually packaged! Try Pullmoll for example) and moisturizer tins. I adapted an idea I had a little while ago – turning crown/bottle caps into fridge magnets – and used them as a sort of magnetic picture frame. I just glued an interesting picture inside the tin and a magnet to the back. I used an old football magnet which I would have otherwise thrown out. So there you go: candy tin fridge magnets – this might become my ”chain Christmas gift” (a little gift I give to a bunch of people for Christmas) this year.

lolly tin fridge magnet

candy tin fridge magnet

lolly tin fridge magnet

No bag, please!

An update on avoiding plastic

Downsize?

Did you notice? I’ve been posting a lot of recipes, photos and DIY ideas lately. So although I’ve always been keeping the idea of reducing plastic (and packaging in general) in mind, I haven’t really given you an update on or a summary of my efforts. Half a year after I had completed my “plastic challenge” I thought it was about time to put my posts into perspective again. So what has changed?

Well, first of all: Things are still changing. I still try to keep my level of plastic consumption as low as possible, especially as more and more shocking news about the amount of damage plastic has already done to the environment and our health come up (For a short summary click here). But one thing is for sure: I’m still nowhere near the stage where I would say I’ve perfected the art of going plastic-free and turned my place into a zero waste household (like this family manages to), especially as there are some things I just can’t live without (toilet paper would be one of them…). However, I found more and more little tricks, I re-used a lot more things and I also started to reduce my amount of other packaging. On top of that I felt like I consumed less (and spent less money) in general and I discovered a lot of great secondhand markets and online share groups.

The keywords for me are “re-using”, “upcycling”, “sharing” and “making”. So here a few more tricks I learned. I wanted to share them with you because they really made my life so much easier. They will also give you a little summary of what has happened on ingloriousplastics since the end of my challenge.

Re-using

Whenever I buy something packaged I try to find some way to re-use the packaging (I found the Trash Backwards app extremely helpful for that.). This is also how I found a compromise for my toilet paper dilemma: I re-use the plastic packaging. If you cut off the top, you can use it like a normal plastic bag.

As I generally prefer glass, I ended up with a whole bunch of glass jars. Fortunately there are a million things you can do with them and I wouldn’t know how to survive without my little jar collection anymore. I keep on re-using them for all kinds of things: as an alternative to Tupperware containers, for homemade jams (for example my drunken plum jam), chutneys, smoothies, lemonade, dips, dried fruit, herbal oils, as pretty vases, cereal boxes, candy containers or even to serve salad in them. You can also put tea light candles in them. It’s funny cause this wasn’t my intention in the first place, but glass jars actually became some of the most important little helpers in my apartment. Just see for yourself:

red millet salad in a glass jar

red millet salad in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

Fruit in rum, dad style

Fruit in rum, dad style

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

homemade drunken plum jam

homemade drunken plum jam

Plum chutney

Plum chutney

I found just as many ideas for re-using glass bottles. Pretty bottles can be re-used as vases, for holding candles and of course as a vessel for all sorts of liquids or homemade cosmetics.

homemade herbal oil

homemade herbal oil

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

Old cans make pretty good vases, pen holders, toothbrush holders and plant pots.

I generally try to avoid packaged fruit, but sometimes I found it hard to find things like loose strawberries. So I turned the fruit containers into little greenhouses. That way I don’t have to buy any plastic plant pots. The great thing about that: The fruit containers already have holes at the bottom, which makes it a lot easier to water your plants.

before...

before…

... and after

… and after

Last but not least I tried to find a way to re-use envelopes, magazine pages and lotion containers: I cut old envelopes into little pieces and use them as little notes (for shopping lists etc.). I use pretty pages from old magazines as gift wrapping paper. And I also started using old lotion containers for my soaps.

Upcycling

Whenever I can’t find a way to re-use packaging, I try to make something with it and use at least a little part of it. That’s how I came up with making my own business cards from drink cartons, napkin rings from toilet paper rolls and old newspapers, envelopes from old magazine pages, bookmarks from old candy wrappers and cereal boxes, picture frames from scrap wood and old postcards and fridge magnets from old crown caps. I also found out that you can fuse plastic bags together and use them as a wax paper-like fabric. Then you can turn the old bags into little purses, book wrappers or even clothes. Here’s a little photo gallery of my different projects:

magazine page envelopes

magazine page envelopes

toilet paper roll napkin rings

toilet paper roll napkin rings

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics - made from an old drink carton

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics – made from an old drink carton

Reese's pieces bookmark

Reese’s pieces bookmark

melting plastic bags together

melting plastic bags together

... and turning them into unique bookcovers

… and turning them into unique bookcovers

... or postcards

… or postcards

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

There are also a lot of things I wanted to do with old clothes. Whenever a piece of clothing was in such a bad state that I couldn’t mend it or give it to someone else, I tried to use the fabric for something different – I turned an old t-shirt into cotton pads and re-usable tissues for example.

DIY cotton pads

DIY cotton pads

I’m also planning on making jeans napkins and pillowcases. And I like to use fabric scraps for decorating my homemade jams:

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

Telling you about all my little upcycling projects I almost forgot the biggest and most fun thing I did: turning an old beer crate into a unique seat for my friends.

beer crate seat

beer crate seat

Sharing & making

Avoiding plastic made me think about what I consumed. So for me it was only logical that I wouldn’t only pay attention to the packaging, but to my behaviour as a consumer in general. I want to downsize and simplify my life. A lot of interesting projects and initiatives like “Umsonstladen” or “Givebox” helped me with this.

Givebox in Düsseldorf

Givebox in Düsseldorf

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

I didn’t only find great secondhand markets in my area (the “Weiberkram” market in Neuss is great for girls’ clothes), but also initiatives that focus on swapping, sharing and giving things to others for free (get more information on this here).

clothes swaps

Even though I was just talking about flea markets, I do actually have to admit I hardly bought any clothes this year as I participated in so many clothes swaps. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit me anymore and in return I got a completely new wardrobe. I know that this only works as long as people buy new clothes (If we all wore our clothes until they fell apart it wouldn’t work obviously), but I think it’s still a good idea for all those who end up with a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore or which they got as a gift and didn’t like.

I generally try to make more stuff myself – that means cooking from scratch (therefore you can find so many recipes on ingloriousplastics), mixing my own cosmetics and cleaning products, sewing, mending and repairing things. I found a good shoemaker that fixes my shoes for as little as 7€ and I also plan on checking out a Repair Café soon. That way you automatically end up with a lot less packaging – and you save quite a bit of money, too.

So I hope this gives you an idea of what happened behind the scenes of ingloriousplastics and helps you understand the mix of topics in my blog a bit better. And I want to thank all of you for your support and the ideas you sent me. Next week I’m gonna give you a little update on plastic-free shopping, cooking (I love the plastic-free chef) and cosmetics. If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know. Would love to read your thoughts on that!

Upcycle…

… or what to do with old plastic bags – part 2

Last time I told you about my first attempt to do something useful with my old plastic bags. My second idea requires less social skills, but a tiny bit of creativity.

What you need: old plastic bags

What you need: old plastic bags

Et voilà!

I was baffled when I found out that you can iron two plastic bags together and that it would create a weird, hard, wax-like material you can even use for sewing. So I tried it out with one of my most creative friends who also found this interesting tutorial. We spent the entire night ironing and putting together great combinations. You don’t have to use plastic bags, you can also use plastic packaging. Before I started my plastic diet I always kept the packaging from the pappadams I bought in an Indian shop cause it looked so pretty. So now I could finally use it for something.

This is what it looks like if you iron two plastic bags together.

This is what it looks like if you iron two plastic bags together.

And another example...

And another example…

I guess you’re wondering what you can do with your ”plastic fabric”. Well, anything you can think of – Turn it into bookmarks, table sets, handbags, cosmetic bags, purses etc. I can’t wait to see the results. And if you try it out, too, let me know!

Lesson learned: With a bit of creativity useless plastic bags don’t seem that useless anymore.