Upcycling - a creative take on sustainable living

The material world is an increasingly disposable one. Lower cost clothing, appliances and homeware are freely available so it's all too convenient to simply replace something when it breaks rather than repair or repurpose it. A faster pace of living means more demand for convenience in all aspects of our lives, resulting in less consideration for where our waste ends up and what that means for our future.

In New Zealand, we send 2.5 million tonnes of waste to landfills each year, yet around three quarters of this could have been reused, recycled or composted. This means that around 8kgs of landfill waste per person could be diverted from landfill each week.

Upcycling is a great way to take action to combat waste. It's similar to recycling in that it helps to reduce waste and minimise our impact on the planet, but it also gives something old a new use. If more of us considered upcycling before acquiring something new, we'd collectively reduce our carbon footprint and preserve resources by using existing materials instead of contributing to the demand for new products.

We've put together a selection of simple upcycling ideas using everyday items that we hope will inspire you to give something you've owned a new purpose. We know there will be plenty of others, so if you have any ideas please share them with us in the comments below!


Ministry for the Environment figures show that nearly 100 million kilograms of textile waste ends up in rubbish dumps throughout New Zealand every year.

Clothing, like most things, has now become a disposable commodity and although some unwanted textiles are used as rags or sent offshore, there's a lot more we could be doing to give old clothes new value. Here's a cool tutorial from Inhabitat for upcycling an old t-shirt into a produce bag - ideal for trips to the shops or local farmers market.


Glass jars

There are plenty of ways to save glass jars from the recycling bin. They make great storage for pantry staples like grains and flour, and you can re-create the vintage pharmacy look by painting the lids and putting on spare knobs or drawer handles to make your jars that much fancier.

Glass Jars Recycled

Check out this tutorial from Little House of Four to give your jars a spruce up.

Or why not put jars to use by filling them with treats? Here's a sweet tutorial for DIY cookie mix from Something Turquoise. We'll be keeping this up our sleeve for Christmas!

Cookie photo glass jar final


A common pantry staple, canned foods are easy to accumulate quickly. Cans themselves are fairly simple to repurpose into handy household items. With a little creativity, they can be transformed into storage containers to help keep you organised. Here's a quick tutorial from View from the Fridge to make a pencil holder.


As we head into warmer weather and more opportunities to dine alfresco, these patio luminaires are a nice idea. Plot out pretty designs or stick with classic polka dots using a hammer and nail. Check out the full tutorial over on Consumer Crafts.

Patio Luminaires

If you're entertaining kids this weekend, why not let them help you use cans to create an outdoor bowling set. Here's a great guide for making your own.



It's not always feasible to repurpose old furniture, and in that case it's a good idea to donate it to your local second hand store or charity shop. We've chosen a couple of our favourite repurposed ideas that we think would make a fun weekend project to chip away at.

Here's a DIY tutorial for upcycling a children's desk into a baby's cot - ideal for those of you with little ones who have outgrown their bassinet.

Cot to desk

If you've got an old dresser that you're not so keen on anymore, why not create some extra storage space by turning the drawers into shelving? Here's an easy tutorial from Home Talk. These would be great fixed to the wall in a bedroom or home office.