To celebrate our second annual Heart of Green Awards, which recognizes people who help green go mainstream, The Daily Green is teaming up with Etsy to celebrate the creative artisans and artists who make reducing, reusing and recycling a fun way of life.
Behold! The Trash-to-Craft Challenge ... in four easy steps!
1. Inspiration. We do our best to inspire you with the incredible items made from recycled materials you'll find below.
2. Discovery. You find the coolest items on Etsy made from recycled materials.
3. Voting. You vote for your favorites from April 14-19 on Etsy.
4. Results. We all get to enjoy the most popular items, which will be featured on both Etsy and The Daily Green's Heart of Green hub.
See the winner, or scroll down to see some inspirational trash-to-craft projects.
For inspiration, The Daily Green has assembled eight creations that represent major categories of the U.S. waste stream. Does 2.7 pounds sound like a lot of stuff to trash? That was how much the average American disposed of in 1960 (per day?); now, we're trashing 4.5 pounds every day!
In a world (now I'm sounding like a movie trailer) where we tend to toss what we no longer need, crafters have always stood athwart the throwaway cultural trend, shouting "Stop!" (I should know this, having grown up in a home where the closets brimmed with yogurt containers, paper towel tubes and reams of used computer paper just in case they might one day come in handy.)
So just what makes up our trash?
Almost one-third of our trash is paper and cardboard and we recycle barely half of it. Just about all paper is recyclable now (yes, even glossy magazines, junk mail and catalogs). You can easily turn your junk mail into beautiful handmade paper. Or, you can get really creative, like artist Mark Langan does with his amazing cardboard creations:
The U.S. discards 13 million tons of plastic annually more than 12% of our overall waste stream. And barely 7% of the plastic we discard is recycled (http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/plastics.htm#benefits). And the biggest proportion of that plastic waste comes in the form of plastic bottles (beverages as well as personal care products, cleansers and the like) and packaging.
Food scraps amount to nearly 13% of our waste more than plastics! Together with yard scraps (another 13% of U.S. waste) this represents an incredible amount of free fertilizer ... that's fertilizing landfills. Free fertilizer? Yes, I'm talking about compost, and your garden wants some. Turn that food into beautiful flowers, a healthy lawn or ... more food! Hey, it's better than a bacon lampshade (no offense kmkelly617).
Recycling metal is important for the environment: Metal makes up more than 8% of the U.S. waste stream, and the 7 million tons recycled in 2008 reduced pollution equivalent to that produced by 4.5 million cars! But we recycle less than 35% of the metal we use each year. What to do? Some of the most ingenious architects have devised one incredible idea: Make homes from steel shipping containers, once the trains, cargo planes and big rigs are done with them. You could also think a little closer to home, like Aaron Foster does:
Together with leather and rubber, textiles makes up 8% of the U.S. waste stream. Hand-me-downs, second-hand shops and swaps can take a lot of those old clothes off your hands, possibly even at a profit unless, of course, you want to use the fabric for something better, like a door draft snake made from old jeans, or this stylish clutch, made from old neckties by Christine Wick!
Accounting for 5% of U.S. waste, glass is infinitely recyclable. Just add heat! We still only manage to recycle 23% of it, though. I'm guessing that low rate isn't because everyone is using old glass bottles to make new cups, new roofs, or new serving plates, like these sold at Olive Barn:
Whether it's paper or plastic, aluminum or Styrofoam, packaging is a huge component of the waste stream. By one calculation, products and packaging represent the single biggest component of U.S. contribution to greenhouse gas emissions more than transportation, heating and cooling, and lighting combined, according to one analysis. We've seen a lot of gum wrapper handbags, but how about this lamp woven by hand in Bangladesh from snack bags and wrappers?
The average American household now has 24 electronic items ... which doesn't include the old TV set, the old cell phone and charger or the old microwave ditched last year. Which means that e-waste is a growing part of the U.S. waste stream. Most electronics can be, and should be, recycled, but as little as 21% actually are. Some electronics can include hazardous materials, like toxic heavy metals, so consider safety first... then get creative.
Otherwise known as "stuff," we end up with a lot of products that we don't need, can't use or can't get to work anymore... like these broken umbrellas put to good use on Halloween by Windell H. Oskay of evilmadscientist.com:
Now, it's your turn. If this inspiration enough, check out The Daily Green's source of weird uses for almost everything!
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.