What Is "Upcycling" And What Is It All About?

Upcycling is one of those buzzwords that keeps getting thrown around all the time lately, but do you really know what it means? You don't, but you're too afraid to ask? Well, it's your lucky day.

The art of upcycling is taking something that one person would consider waste and making something out of it. According to Upcycle That, an upcycled item "often becomes more functional or beautiful than what it previously was."

Upcycled Wood Pallet Ideas

Wood pallets are one of the most popular sources of materials for upcycling projects and there's a good reason for that - you can pretty much get them for free from any grocery store or large retail store who all seem to just be giving them away.

With a little elbow grease and imagination, you can use upcycled pallets to add some new life to just about any part of your house (both inside and out). Here are a few projects that will brings some flair to your garden, your living room, and your kitchen that won't break the bank.

Pallet Pathway

This simple garden pathway is created by deconstructing several wood pallets (the number of pallets depends on the length of the pathway) and placing them on the ground. This project can be as easy as arranging the boards on the ground or you can take it to the next level by removing a patch of grass, leveling out the soil, wrap the boards around a garden or trees in your yard, and added rocks or pebbles to give it a clean finish.

Depending how you plan on using the pathway, you may want to consider finding different ways to secure the boards to prevent them from shifting too much. You can also add different finishes to the boards if you plan on keeping the pathway as a permanent fixture of your backyard.

Standing Garden

This DIY standing garden is made by securing a roll of landscaping paper to the bottom of an old wood pallet with staples or nails, filling in the spaces between the slats with potting soil, planting succulents, and then standing it up vertically. This is a simple afternoon project that shouldn't take too much time or cost too much (besides the landscaping paper).

You can leave the wood unfinished or add a coat of paint depending on which way looks the best with the rest of the decorations in your garden or backyard.

Pallet Couch

Anyone who has any experience looking for patio furniture knows that finding stylish, yet comfortable outdoor furnishings can turn into quite an expensive adventure if you're not careful. That's where this DIY couch comes into play. There's nothing simple about this project as it will take more than a dozen pallets, an assortment of power tools, boxes of nails and screws, and a lot of patience. But with some hard work, you too can have a budget-friendly outdoor couch that will be more than enough to get you through the summer.

Bookshelf/Toy Box Combo

If the outdoor couch project is too easy for you, then this bookshelf/toy box combo is the right project for you this summer. Inspired by a $200 Pottery Barn shelf, this DIY project might be cheaper but it's probably not suited for beginners. This looks more like an ongoing project rather than something that you can draw up and finish in a Saturday afternoon.

This shelf, however, certainly does look like it would be worth the effort if you're up to the task.

Pot Rack

This DIY pot rack seems like a great idea but only if you DIP (do it properly). By taking an old pallet, some chicken wire, and a few hooks, you can have a new way of storing all of those pots and pans that are taking up all of the real estate in your cabinets. But be warned, you'll want to secure the rack to the studs in your walls, so you'll need to have a stud finder on hand before you get too far with the project.

If constructed properly, this pot rack will be a nice addition to any kitchen. If not done correctly, this pot rack will make for quite the commotion with it comes crashing down in the middle of the night.

Upcycling Ideas Besides Wood Pallets

There's an entire world of upcycling outside the friendly confines of wood pallet projects, so don't let a shortage of old pallets get between you and your next upcycling project. Here are just a few ideas to add to your summer project list.

Have an abundance of old metal trash cans but not enough trash now that you're all about that recycling life? Don't know what to do with them? Well, you could use them for yard waste... or you could use them to create a stunning mobile herb container.

What about that old cow trough on your kin folk's abandoned farm? Say hello to your new kitchen or bathroom sink.

Really, there are no limits to what you can upcycle in and around your house. Like they always say, one person's junk is another person's furniture.

But how is that any different than recycling?

According to Hipcycle, "recycling takes consumer materials — mostly plastic, paper, metal and glass — and breaks them down so their base materials can be remade into a new consumer product, often of lesser quality. When you upcycle an item, you aren’t breaking down the materials. You may be refashioning it — like cutting a t-shirt into strips of yarn — but it’s still made of the same materials as when you started. Also, the upcycled item is typically better or the same quality as the original."

What are the benefits of upcycling?

There are a myriad of reasons why upcycling is a great way to creating or building new furniture, art, and practically anything else, but the two biggest reason is that it is both fiscally and sustainably viable. Upcycling something like an old wood pallet into a new couch, bench, or coffee table saves you, the consumer, quite a bit of cash while also finding new uses out of previously discarded items. It's really that simple.

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