Via Stef 06 at the DEP.
With this greatest of recessions not showing any signs of letting up - at least for those of us not riding golden parachutes out of the collapsing financial industry - many people are turning away from the consumerist free-for-all and are instead making do with what they have and taking stuff that’s already out there in the world and giving it new life.
Unlike recycling, which breaks an item down to its component parts and makes it into something new (e.g. shredding newspapers and mixing them in the pulp to make new paper), or reusing, which doesn’t generally involve a modification of the reused object, repurposing takes something that’s out there already and changes it into something new and useful, without shredding or melting it back into raw material.
Repurposing has found a cozy niche among those who sew. The internet abounds with instructions for wearable art made by dismantling old T-shirts and reassembling them into skirts, headbands or grocery bags, quilts, toddler pants, baby hats and more. Vintage bed sheets offer up another treasure trove of colorful, ecological and cheap fabric for a myriad of projects from pajama bottoms and clothespin bags to picnic blankets and bath mats. A trip to the nearest thrift shop (or your own closet) could easily yield enough material for all of your holiday crafting projects.
Not handy with a needle and thread? A quick internet search reveals a number of ways of repurposing obsolete computer accessories - CDs decoupaged and made into coasters, CD cases turned into picture frames, and even a CD spindle turned into a bagel-carrier (technically this last is reusing but too clever to leave out).
Have extra building materials lying around (along with a few tools and some carpentry know-how)? You can turn a block of wood into a toothbrush holder, two pallets into a deck chair, five gallon buckets into a fence. If your returnable bin is overflowing with bottles from a beverage of the grape variety, they can be combined with scrap wood and turned into modular shelving units that will attract attention.
If you got an A-plus in cut-and-paste, there are dozens of ways for you to repurpose paper projects. Crafters have dismantled vintage children’s books, too damaged to be read, and made them into greeting cards or glued the illustrated pages onto vintage suitcases and metal buckets. Magazine pages can be turned into light fixtures, bowls and picture frames.
No matter what your skill set, there is a repurposing project out there to suit your needs. Just hop on your favorite search engine and enter the words “repurpose” (or “recycle” or “upcycle”) and either the materials you are hoping to use up, or the final product you hope to create. For those of you who haven’t felt the economic pinch, but want to show off your green credentials, hundreds of artists and craftspeople ply their repurposed wares online, ready for you to contribute to the greening of the earth and to their own personal economic recovery.
This column was submitted by Andrea Lani, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine DEP Bureau of Air Quality. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.