8 Surprising Things You Can Upcycle

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Woman upcyling denim jeans
Iryna Imago / Shutterstock.com

More than 146 million tons of solid waste goes into U.S. landfills each year, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of that amount, 37 million tons were “durable goods,” products made to last up to three years or longer.

That’s roughly one-quarter of all the items that eventually end up in a landfill. But that doesn’t mean the things you no longer use have to contribute to landfill waste.

When you upcycle furniture, electronics, clothing and other items — meaning using them for a different purpose than originally intended — you’re helping the environment by reducing landfill waste. But you can also save some money and end up with some pretty cool stuff that makes you proud of your ingenuity and impresses your friends.

Curious about what you’ve got in your home that you can upcycle? Rummage through our list of things you can upcycle for a new purpose.

Old TVs and consoles

Old TV console upcycled into a handmade dog bed
Debra Anderson / Shutterstock.com

That vintage TV cabinet or ancient TV/stereo console gathering dust in the basement doesn’t have to end up in a landfill. Remove electronic components and dispose of them with your local electronics recycling center. Then get started on creating a trendy and upscale dog bed like this one featured at Country Living for your best binge-watching bud.

You’ll find no shortage of ideas and instructions on converting old TVs and consoles into a dog or cat bed online.

Shoes and boots

Boots upcycled into a planter
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock.com

Looking for a creative way to upcycle old shoes and boots? What about planting geraniums or other flowering annuals in your kids’ outgrown snow boots? You can plant flowers and herbs in old hiking boots, too.

Old entertainment centers

Woman refinishing an old piece of furniture
mariesacha / Shutterstock.com

That oak entertainment center may have been finely crafted and expensive back in the ’90s. But no matter how pristine that bulky piece of furniture is now, it’s nearly impossible to resell, since today’s electronics don’t require as much space as TVs, VCRs, stereos and DVD players of the past.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to upcycle old entertainment centers for a new purpose. Scoot it into the mudroom to use as storage for boots and shoes, dog leashes, coats and sports equipment. If it’s a small entertainment center, take apart what’s necessary, paint it and use it as a coffee or wine bar in the kitchen.

Other ways to repurpose an entertainment center include using it as a storage unit in a laundry room or home office, or as a plant potting station or a craft/sewing cabinet.

Old jeans

Handmade denim jeans purse
Marius GODOI / Shutterstock.com

Even if they’re frayed, ripped up and falling apart, you can give old jeans new life in a variety of ways, according to sustainability site Treehugger.

Cut old jeans into strips and make a braided denim rug. Make denim coasters from back pockets. If you have a knack for sewing, fashion a denim tote bag or purse out of a faded pair to extend their life for years to come.

Wine corks

Wine corks handmade into DIY planters
Marius GODOI / Shutterstock.com

Next time you polish off a bottle of wine, save the cork. You can repurpose old wine corks into all kinds of cool things, including key rings, coasters, garden markers and place card holders for dinner guests, according to HGTV Handmade. Glue a magnet to a wine cork like the one seen here, hollow out the cork to house a succulent plant, and you’ve got a unique refrigerator magnet.

If you and your friends drink a lot of wine over time — as in 100 to 150 corks’ worth — make a bathroom cork mat like this creation from Wet & Forget, featured on Instructables Living.

Napkin rings

Napkin rings
Malochka Mikalai / Shutterstock.com

Depending on their design and material, old napkin rings can have many alternate uses.

They can make great cord organizers for office storage or cord holders for a tidy look in living areas with multiple electronics, too. You can also repurpose napkin rings as curtain tie-backs or candle holders. or transform them into holiday ornaments with paint and glitter, according to CraftCue.com.

Grandma’s old china

Old dish upcycled for a garden decoration
milka-kotka / Shutterstock.com

Not sure what to do with the inherited china taking up space in your cabinet? Fortunately, you can still honor that keepsake china by giving it a new purpose.

Slip on a pair of safety glasses and protective gloves and break plates, serving platters and teacups into small or large pieces. Then glue the decorative pieces onto a side table to create a mosaic tabletop you can admire every day. You can also use china pieces to create a fancy mosaic birdbath surface.

Glue a colorful serving bowl upside down to the top of a sawed-off tree stump for a funky mushroom as yard or garden decor.

Other creative ways to repurpose old china and other plates, according to Country Living: Decorate a vase with glued china pieces; use a cream pot or other dishware as a planter; repurpose teacups as candle holders; or attach broken pieces onto a platter to display your house number.

Mesh produce bags

Onions in a mesh produce bag
MarieKaz / Shutterstock.com

Don’t toss those mesh bags that hold oranges, onions, lemons and other produce. Place them at the bottom of potted plants to allow better drainage and help prevent soil from falling through the pot’s drainage hole.

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