Upcycle, Stretching the ‘What Ifs’ Beyond Sustainability

Upcycle, Stretching the ‘What Ifs’ Beyond Sustainability

By Janet H. Thomas, RID For anyone familiar with sustainability the names William McDonough and Michael Braungart immediately come to mind for being champions of upcycling, turning something old and used into something new and useful. The focus of their first book Cradle to Cradle was to encourage the development of less toxic construction products that could be broken down at the end of life period into source materials for new products. They coined the term Upcycle for this process. It was intended to replace Downcycling which sends toxic materials into landfills because they are too difficult to reclaim. This premise has made enormous changes in the way we live, work and design. In their second book The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance the concept of upcycling gets turned on its ear by reclassifying materials as either technical nutrients essential to recycling or biological nutrients to replenish the soil. The question is asked if you look deeper into the causation of an element or process can you change the process definition so the result provides an abundance of useable outcome instead of adding to depletion. In the Netherlands infrared LED growth lamps are used in conjunction with vertically stacked seedling trays to grow enough vegetables to support a local restaurant or small local community. The system piloted by PlantLab has been prototyped and is in use in Den Bosch the Netherlands. What examples of Upcycling have you seen or experienced? Photo courtesy of cohabitaire.com

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