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Upcycling: making waste into wonders.

If you're an advocate for sustainable to zero-waste living, we salute you! Our goal as a Fair Trade company on a mission to do good is also to teach about “good.” We seek to be thoughtful about our environment, create positive, lasting change— both environmentally and socially— and inform others along the way. As our society grows to recognize the importance of such sustainable lifestyles, the idea of upcycling is fashioning its way front and center.

Many of us are familiar with “recycling,”— the process of recovering material from waste and turning it into new products. Upcycling is the creative recycling – the reuse of by-products, waste materials, or useless and unwanted items. It is the process of converting old or discarded material into something useful, all the while, increasing its original value.

Upcycled orange peels from orange juice street juicers in Colombia. Found in our “Made from Fruit” collection.

Upcycling takes what is no longer good and makes it good again (see why we love it?) It adds greater value to once discarded materials and brings life to a whole new product. Rather than throwing away what is thought to be useless, upcycling prolongs the life of these materials and delays the need to produce new materials that requires significant resources, such as water and energy. Upcycling saves space in landfills, a growing problem this nation of single-use plastic products is facing.

Besides these direct environmental impacts, upcycling also slows the need for the creation of new materials. This leads to a reduction in air pollution, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and a conservation of global resources. Talk about some immense benefits, right?

So, let’s recap what we know about upcycling thus far: it’s the creative reuse of “unwanted” materials, and it has an unbeatable environmental impact on our planet. But wait, there’s more! Upcycling also gives way to numerous social impacts throughout the world. Let’s dive in and see how.

Our mission at I Thought of You is simple: to expand the global marketplace of hardworking people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to earn such a living. We support artisans in developing countries who make products to support their families. Our artisans craft their unique styles with the eco-friendly materials that are found abundantly in their respective regions. From necklaces made from fruit to bracelets fashioned out of real Indian saris, artisans make waste into wonders. This is upcycling in Fair Trade.

Real leather embossed bracelets with a band of fabric from upcycled Indian saris.

Like the artisans of I Thought of You, many more artisans around the globe exercise this level of craftsmanship. After experiencing decades of mass-produced items off production lines, this practice of artisanal craftsmanship shines light on the individuality and creativity of handmade goods. Repurposing natural materials has been perfected by the very hands of people even more beautiful than the products they create. And in the line of Fair Trade, upcycling concurrently creates jobs for men and women in these developing countries and gives them opportunities to bring good into this world.

We offer countless upcycled products from amazing artisans in amazing places. We have a whole collection of accessories that features products crafted from fruit— our “Made from Fruit” collection—such as our Peqa Earrings made from real açaí berry seeds and our Moca Bracelet made from coffee beans and nuts. We also feature headbands and scrunchies crafted from upcycled fabric scraps left over from the making of other garments. If you are skeptical that waste could transform into such beauty as we have described, take a look for yourself!

What isn’t there to say about the impact of upcycling? What may have started as a trend is becoming a global phenomenon. These small steps toward sustainable living contributes to one big step in the direction of positive, lasting change. The best part is you are capable of bringing this change too! Upcycling is for everyone. Take your old soda cans and repurpose the aluminum to make wall art. Eat all your Tic Tacs then reuse the box, make it pretty, and store your bobby pins (ladies, this is a life saver.) Trust us, the trash-to-treasure crafts are endless. Where will you begin?

We love our mission and will continue to spread hope for change as we go. Help us bring more good into the world by finding the beauty in your own upcycling.