Going green doesn’t have to be hard! Explore four simple ways to incorporate recycled components into your home decor

Recycling is a worthwhile exercise in helping to maintain a healthy planet. It’s also a proven energy saver and job creator, and it provides a plethora of materials for exciting and thought-provoking art.

Although at-home recycling is now commonplace in communities across the country, what if you want to do more? How can you move beyond making sure your discarded glass, paper, and aluminum find the correct recycling bins and start incorporating recycled materials directly into your home?

Here are four ways to make recycling more than just an activity but an actual part of your home.

1. When upgrading, consider reclaimed materials

Upgrading or flipping a home has grown quite popular over the past decade, and many of these repair jobs are achieved by installing granite or marble for countertops or natural wood for new flooring and cabinets.

As nice as these materials are, their use is a considerable burden on the environment. Instead of traditional materials, think outside the quarry or forest for your next fixer-upper. Install countertops made from recycled glass, glass tile, or recycled aluminum.

For flooring, recycled carpet tiles and reclaimed wood, brick, or stone are excellent alternatives to using new materials. Reclaimed wood is also great for cabinetry and can give your home a unique look.

2. New furniture from old furniture

Looking for a new outdoor sectional with plenty of seating? Perhaps a comfy new loveseat for lazy afternoons? Maybe your bedroom is missing an elegant chaise longue.

Before you buy that next chair, table, and yes, even a bed or mattress, check to see whether it’s manufactured with recycled materials. Everything from plastic bottles to postconsumer waste to recycled copper and aluminum and, of course, old furniture can be used to produce that perfect piece your home has been missing. 

3. Don’t throw it out: freshen it up or break it down

Upcycling and downcycling are relatively new terms in the recycling industry, but they both ultimately mean the same thing: taking old things and making them new again.

Upcycling is when you take something with little use or value and repurpose it for a new role. For example, you can transform vintage steamer trunks from the golden age of steamship travel into great coffee tables.

Downcycling takes the opposite approach, where you deconstruct something that no longer serves its purpose and repurpose the more valuable individual parts to create something else. Examples include using the logoed sections of old T-shirts to fashion a quilt or using broken glass or old CDs to create a mosaic tabletop.

If you’re unsure of where to start your new upcycling or downcycling adventure, find a nice wooden pallet — or ten — and let your imagination run wild.

4. It’s the little (recycled) things

Finally, if you want to make recycled use of every last piece of material in your home,  create a Pinterest account. You will discover that what you believe to be unusable is quite usable. For instance:

  • Wine bottles and string lights are fantastic garden lighting
  • Plastic bottles can be turned into garden sprinklers, bird feeders, and garden pots
  • Wine corks are great fire starters for barbecues and fire pits
  • Buttons can double for a set of fashionable earrings
  • Coffee grounds serve as an excellent pest repellent for your garden

And don’t forget that small children often find more joy in an empty box than the actual toy that it came in.

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