Most people know what recycling is, but how many know about upcyling?
According to Mitchell Attenson, president of Attenson’s Coventry Antiques & Books in Cleveland Heights; Megan Featherston, founder and CEO of VNTG Home in Cleveland; and Cynthia Maciejewski, co-owner of Neue Auctions in Beachwood, upcycling is another way individuals can impact the environment in a positive way.
They said upcycling is related to recycling, but it’s making something better with creative reuse.
“For me, upcycling is taking an object and taking it to the next level,” Maciejewski explained. “You repurpose it for another use. You’re giving these items a new life.”
Featherston added, “Upcycling and restoration celebrate the originality of a piece by changing, improving on it and personalizing it into something new. It’s about celebrating it in a more new and current way. Upcycling is making it new again.”
The difference between recycling and upcycling lies in the method, Attenson said.
“Upcycling is taking something that might have been discarded or forgotten or donated and adding it to your current lifestyle,” he stated. “Recycling would be breaking an object down and making it into something completely new and different. Upcycling has no (negative) impact on the environment.”
Anything can be upcycled, but furniture, art, home items and clothing are most common. The professionals said their businesses welcome upcycling and restoration in various ways.
“We try to get younger people involved,” Maciejewski noted. “It seems like the younger generation is the one that is finding creative reuse of products. They seem to be a little more aware of not having unwanted items in their life. Even in my generation, we’re the ones who can afford to purchase higher-end pieces. We’re trying to get the younger generation aware of it so they’re not going out there and living a life where they constantly buy something new.”
Featherston said VNTG Home specializes in home interiors, like upholstered pieces that can be repainted or reupholstered to personalize a piece or breathe new life into a family heirloom.
“This gives it a new, modern twist,” she stated. “Wooden furniture can be painted, restained and sanded down. And sometimes, a piece needs both. We also believe in upcycling your home – creating a beautiful space out of an old home. We start with the home and end with the furniture.”
Attenson said anything can be upcycled if one is creative enough. But, he specializes in books and small appliances and electronics.
“Without letting these things go to the wayside, we find them a new home,” Attenson said. “Instead of going out and buying a new book, which requires trees to be chopped down, you can get a book from a place without extra environmental impact.”
The professionals said upcycling has gained popularity recently with the increased attention on global warming and other environmental changes.
“There is a segment of the public who is quite aware of climate change and the filling up if our dumps and landfills,” Attenson said. “Many times, items have many lives to them. But people use them for a short amount of time. Instead of going through items like that, we can reuse items that have proved to last longer. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a fresh coat of paint and a little work.”
Featherston added, “It’s an emotional commitment that younger dwellers have toward celebrating their lives and their homes. They don’t like new, they like character and the architecture of loved- before furniture. The younger generation has been learning about sustainability from the time they were children. It’s about doing the right thing, which is a big part of being a good social citizen.”
Maciejewski noted, “If people are more conscientious of upcycling, it’s going to become more commonplace and it won’t be a second thought. People will continue to use something and use it again. There are so many different things you can do. It’s how we live, where we live and what we live with.”