Have you ever dreamt of spending a holiday on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? A genuine earthy paradise, a wonderful space, a peaceful oasis far away from the rest of the world?
Well, in 1997 racing boat captain Charles Moore made a sensational discovery sailing in the Pacific between Japan and the Hawaii: he caught sight of an island that did not appear on any map. It was a very particular island the size of Texas on which no plant or animal could thrive: it was made of floating plastic rubbish!
Experts had predicted its existence since the early 1990s. Ocean currents carry the waste dumped by ships everyday along the coasts of the United States and Japan and flow clockwise towards the middle of the Pacific Ocean forming what has become known as the Pacific Trash Vortex: 700,00 square kilometres of ocean on which an expanse of rubbish, such as plastic items, bottles and caps, placidly floats. Regretfully, determining the exact size of this new island is far from easy because it cannot be seen from aircraft, ships or satellites. The plastic is ground up by the currents and only by sailing through it is one aware of its very hazardous presence. The island is made of gravel-sized fragments which increase in number and tend to aggregate towards the middle of the patch. The dangers for birds and sea life are enormous: thousands of species are at risk of extinction because of it. The patch hosts millions of parasites that infect can wildlife and animals are at risk of being suffocated by the pieces of plastic.
Unfortunately, this is not the only one of its kind. There is another island of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean with similar features.
Plastic, not unlike rubber, is nearly impossible to dispose of and most of our waste ends up in the sea. This is one the reasons why a campaign to preserve our environmental is even more urgent. Environmental movements, projects, organizations and groups have been active for decades in promoting battles to preserve our marvellous planet from pollution, a commitment that requires mass mobilisation for its at protection alone. Having left the stagnating resignation of the past millennium behind, we have become aware the commitment to reduce pollution and reverse the situation to less alarming levels is up on each and every one of us personally by means of actions like sorted waste collection, although with alternating results. This is one of the more significant operations that can gradually promote the understanding of what we all can do to protect our most important home: the planet that gracefully hosts us day by day.
Starting to sort waste at home make us aware of how much rubbish we produce and how cumbersome and dangerous for the environment it can be. Although remembering how and when to dispose of everything that leaves our homes, offices or businesses can be tiresome at first, on the long run it is very gratifying to understand how important these small everyday actions are.
Interestingly, sorted waste collection has galvanised human creativity and ingenuity suggesting to view it not just as an obligation dictated by our conscience and sense of citizenship, but as a real source of inspiration for creating objects which have a story to tell even before seeing the light of day.
Creative recycling can even be a source of income for some who have chosen to repurpose trash and materials which would have otherwise ended up in a landfill at best (with the aggravating circumstance of requiring very long disposal times) and give a second lease of life to objects that others have given up for dead.
Interior design as a form of art has gained a lot in terms of eco-sustainability and the idea of reviving old objects elevating them from trash to treasure has stimulated the imagination of designer and crafters.
Turning humble shipping pallets into coffee tables or beds that hint to the most sophisticated of futons has been all the rage on the pages of furniture magazines for years. Perfect medium for creative talents, they can be easily upcycled into original and attractive pieces of furniture through a funny creative process. Just give the pallet a good clean and sand it down to make it smooth and even. Then you can stain it or simply polish it to lets its natural colour shine. And if you want to follow the theme, you can use other pallets to make bedside tables and even armchairs. Repurposing fans love the wooden crates used to take fruit produce to the market. Spring is here and there is no shortage of ideas for using these crates to make your garden or terrace even more personal. Following the same method used for shipping pallets, you can make shelves or niches, decorated to your taste and special combinations in which to arrange plants and flowers. These pretty boxes can also become capacious bookshelves to decorate your living room, office or shop.
Recycling has inspired creative minds since the ’80s when a new style for reusing old-fashioned "granny" furniture emerged. Decorated console tables, over-adorned mirrors, inlay-rich sideboards and huge chandeliers gained a new lease of life with new colours and distressed effects with a style known as Shabby Chic. This new way of upcycling furniture was inspired by the Provence decorating style and combines pastel tones to create a dusty, charming, researched, ethereal yet cosy effect.
Have you ever thought about reusing the springs of your old sofa? Well, they can be cleverly interwoven to become a living room lampshade that will cast a special light on the walls and furniture of your home.
If you have an old garden hose worn out by time, just cut it into parts of equal length and join them to make a charming rubber vase that will perfectly complement the style of your new light.
Have you moved or renovated an old house and do not know what to do with the door handles? Instead of worrying about buying a new coat rack for your new hallway, set to work and have fun making one yourself by fixing the handles to a simple wood panel: they will be perfect hooks for your coats, scarves and handbags and you will have added a touch of vintage charm to your home.
The vintage style is very fashionable in clothing too and many markets and shops sell dresses, coats and jeans made with fabric that recalls that of the past decades. What better inspiration to start rummaging through the chests up in mother's attic for garments that with minor changes can rightfully feature in the wardrobe of the most creative fashion victims (old buttons can be used to craft ear-rings, for instance!).
Luckily for trend lovers, creative geniuses can craft fabulously unique, one-of-a-kind bags from old armchairs, aged sofa upholstery, battered US army mattresses and used leather scraps. Perfect down to the tiniest detail, objects like these are difficult to do without. A hand-sewn bag with precious materials that have lived a previous life is a superb object created by who loves upcycling what was and what still has potential to be. Complemented by original packaging, they are perfect gifts that have no equal. The reuse of materials like these is a sign that fashion is looking back to the heritage of a past seeped in craftsmanship, experience and wisdom cleverly transmitted to the new generations.
The ideas to avoid waste and recycle what we have used and throw away are never-ending and if you pay just a little attention to the world around you, you will see how many potential creations there are under your very eyes.
Like making a Christmas tree grow magically out of green plastic bottles. Scour the web for tutorials providing simple tips, ideas and suggestions for your creations. Smart upcycling considering that it takes from 100 to 1000 years to degrade a plastic bottle! More bottle ideas (glass this time) can be learned and used to make lights for your home or patio as Christmas decorations. Just drill a hole in the lower part of the bottle, insert a string of fairy lights inside and arrange your new creation where you want. Bottles can also turn into romantic candle holders to decorate a table for an important event. Other creative recycling ideas include making light decorations with recycled jars which can double as charming wedding party favours or customised place holders filled with rice for an eco-friendly wedding.
Garden lovers who have caught the upcycling bug can take an old tyre, wash it, paint it and arrange it in the garden to create patches for plants and flowers.
Tyres are also perfect for making a swing for children hanging from the branches of a large tree like in an American film.
The garden is also fully of natural remedies which can be very beneficial for soil quality. You can take care of your plants and avoid the use of pesticides to fend off parasites. Organic farming uses many remedies which are easy to find in kitchens, such as garlic, cinnamon and tomatoes.
A great win for the environment is the recovery of cellulose fibres from drink cartons for making products which are entirely transformed and marketed in full eco-friendly spirit. In addition to cellulose fibre, these cartons also contain plastic and aluminium that can be recycled as well.
A brand-new idea for recycling coffee grounds comes from Germany. It is known that coffee grounds make good fertilizer. Now, by adding natural glue and fine wood shavings, a young designer has created cups which are dishwasher-safe and enhance the perfume of coffee as a result of the special material of which they are made. And when all that is left of your coffee is the tin, you can use it as foot for a bookshelf or as a container for colourful balls of knitting wool.
The children can have plenty of fun with fancy dresses and homes are packed with ideas for making one-of-a-kind costumes at little to no cost. If your child wants to dress up as an Egyptian mummy this Halloween, all you need is a little sewing experience, an old white T-shirt and a few long rolls of eco-friendly toilet paper. It is the best time of the year to let the children's imagination free. They can create masterpieces with pieces of cardboard, clothing pegs, colourful gift paper. Old shoe boxes can turn into funny hats, oversized ties, streamers and original fancy costumes to add a touch to a popular holiday.
Trust your creative spirit and be inspired by upcycling ideas to protect your environment. Give new life to old objects, fabrics or clothes that you no longer use and old furniture that has been sleeping in the attic for years. Bring useful or decorative objects back into your home with the pride of having helped the environment and natural resources and adding a personal touch with your inclination and your imagination.