The word Upcycle means to convert waste materials or useless products into new products of better quality or value. For example, instead of recycling plastic bottles by melting them down and reforming new ones (which creates waste in the process), upcycling would involve converting the plastic bottle into something of higher value, like a pot for plants. Other examples include turning old car tyres into wallets, or using wooden crates to make furniture.
Most of the developing world and especially shanty towns rely on upcycling to build their dwellings.
Whether you're concerned about environmental conservation or not, one thing that we all need to admit is that burying our rubbish in large holes in the ground cannot continue forever. It's convenient, but dumping hundreds of tons of waste everyday means that we'll be forever destined to dig bigger holes.
While we as individuals can only make a small difference through our daily lives, that effort magnifies when we spread information to others who might take it on.
Now here's something interesting. I recently bought a new cell phone called the Samsung Blue Earth, billed as the world's first environmentally friendly phone. The blue plastic casing is made from used plastic water bottles, which I guess means that it is partially upcycled.
Most strikingly, it runs on solar power. For every six minutes that the solar panels receive sunshine, it'll give you about one minute of talk time. The panels are pretty sensitive, and will automatically recharge even if you're only getting a small amount of sunlight from indoors. It can also be charged with its own recharger, which is designed to be 25 percent more energy efficient and is manufactured with eco-friendly materials.
Even the box that the phone came in was made from recycled cardboard, which was designed to be upcyclable into photo frames. I had to rummage around in my plastic folders for some photos to put in them.
Now here's an old photo. This is a picture of me when I was two years old, being held by my foster mother in Korea. It was sent to my Australian parents in the mail before I was adopted. Kind of like a mugshot, if you will.
But this post isn't about me, it's about upcycling and my new phone. There's also a Find Music feature, where you can use the phone to record a few seconds of a song and send it to a server that identifies the track. Heather also bought a new phone, and has been fixated on a built-in game it has where you brush away dust from vegetables, for the past couple of weeks.
I, for one, would like to welcome our new cell-phone overlords.
And this feature is called Eco-Walk. You enter your height, weight and average length of step. Then you put it in your pocket and walk wherever you want to go. It senses each step you take and calculates how many hypothetical trees you have saved by walking instead of driving a car. So far I've saved 12.8 trees, apparently.
While I question the integrity of the algorithm, it nevertheless gives me a daily dose of eco-friendly amusement.
Overall I'm happy with the purchase and the only downside is that the phone heats up a lot when charging in the sun. It might be only token eco-friendliness, but it's a start at least. And more importantly, it's a good reminder that you and I should all remember to reduce, reuse, recycle and upcycle.
Because our efforts propagate when we spread awareness of such things, remember to remind your friends as well.