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History of Upcycling

The term upcycling was officially coined in 2002, but it was first referenced in a German book in 1996. In 2002, William McDonough and Michael Braungart wrote a book called Cradle to Cradle: The Way we Make Things about the benefits of upcycling and its place in creating and marketing different types of products. This book solidified the definition of upcycling as a simple real-world method of preventing waste through the everyday recycling of old products into newer ones.

The concept is often confused with downcycling, which is similar in nature but has a different end result. Although products are disassembled and then reassembled using their raw materials, the resulting creation is typically of lesser quality. For example, when you recycle plastic bottles or cans, they are downcycled into a weaker product. At TreePeace we take reclaimed wood and cardboard and turn them into something of higher value and create jewelry such as upcycled bracelets. and upcycled necklaces.   

The end result of upcycling results in the reduction of raw material consumption. Consequently, energy, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions have all tumbled and continue to do so.  It should be noted that while the term "upcycling" is new, the concept is not. Upcycling is observable in all historical periods. Perhaps the best example is the Native Americans. When forced to kill an animal, they wouldn't let a single part go to waste. Whatever couldn't be used for food was instead used to build. When forced to evacuate a settlement, they tore everything down and used it again when they built the next one.

This is a frame of mind which we could all use.