Upcycling All Stars

Before you take out the trash, try these clever transformations.

I ADMIT IT; it’s very hard for me to resist peering into trash cans, recycling bins or thriftstore junk piles. I just know there is a castoff waiting to be upcycled into something cool. I’ve been upcycling—the art of transforming literal trash into treasures—since I was a kid. I remember my very first project: I took apart an old chair and reupholstered the seat cushion using a Ralph Lauren sweater I had outgrown. Since then, I’ve come up with hundreds of projects that I’ve shared on TV, in books and on the pages of Naturally. Here are some “Hall of Fame” ideas, along with new ones that are super fun and stylish. The best part? These projects will subtract bits and pieces that were destined for the landfill.


Broken crayons can be remade into fancy ones in minutes. Just peel off the paper labels and break them into smaller pieces. Fill silicone molds (these gemstone shaped ones are from and melt in a 250-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Stir with a toothpick (to make marbleized colors) and chill in the fridge for an hour. Pop out and voila! New gemstone crayons.


About 50 wine corks will fill a metal hose clamp (from the plumbing section of the hardware store) to make an instant trivet; just use a screwdriver to secure them in place.


The bottoms of plastic soda and water bottles can be upcycled into charming candy holders in minutes. Just use a zipper (available at crafts or fabric stores) and glue onto two same-size bottles. Then fill with sweet treats and zip shut.


Chanel flowers, anyone? Use the scent strips from perfume advertisements to make aromatic paper flowers. Just cut out petals and attach with florist’s tape to florist’s wire (all from the crafts store).