Upcycling: Making cool stuff from old stuff

Eco Leader Karina Gutierrez has collected used vinyl banners and discarded bike tire tubes for upcycling into pouches and tote bags as part of her end-of-the-year project.

Some of our coolest possessions are those that have a story to tell and may be experiencing a second life as a new or different product. In this age where it’s chic to reduce, reuse, and recycle, craft businesses are booming by repurposing unwanted materials into new products from jewelry to clothing, luggage to household décor, and lots more. Countless items that were once bound for the landfill have been reclaimed by individuals and businesses.

Karina Gutierrez, a first-year student at Colorado State University, is capitalizing on this “upcycling” trend by collecting used vinyl advertising banners and old bike tire tubes to be upcycled into tote bags and pouches. As part of her Eco Leader end-of-year independent project, Gutierrez has collected 10 banners and around 500 bike tubes from across campus and upcycled them into products that can then be given back to the community.

Eco Leader Showcase

Karina Gutierrez’ upcycled products will  be available at on campus retail locations including Dining Express facilities. Learn more about this Eco Leader project, and others on campus, at the Eco Leader Independent Project Showcase, April 26 in the Pavilion in Laurel Village, 4 – 5:15 p.m.

Learn more about the CSU Eco Leader program at the Housing & Dining website.

“What got me interested in this project is how it can shed light on how to divert waste by creating something new,” says Gutierrez. “Whether it be with clothes or household items, society tends to deem things as one-time use, and upcycling fights that theory.”

Eco Leaders at CSU educate their peers in the residence halls and Aggie Village apartments, helping to raise awareness about sustainability issues and encouraging environmentally responsible behaviors throughout the academic year.

Transforming materials

Karina Gutierrez portrait
Karina Gutierrez

Gutierrez is working with Ecologic Designs, Inc., based in Boulder, a company that specializes in transforming recycled, upcycled, repurposed and renewed materials into custom-sewn bags and accessories. They take materials that would otherwise be discarded as waste and recreate them so they become more valuable. Many upcycled products are also manufactured in small rural areas in countries such as Vietnam, India, Mexico and throughout Africa and sold in a global marketplace.

Upcyclers take pride in making things from scratch, encouraging a creativity that benefits both the environment and our society. By supporting these types of businesses, we can reduce what goes into the landfill, we support local and rural industry, and we help to reduce manufacturing costs that would go toward purchasing or acquiring new materials.

“The main goal of this project is to keep these materials out of the landfill,” says Gutierrez, who adds that she doesn’t expect to see any proceeds from the sales of the initial batch of products.

Anyone can contribute to this project by donating used vinyl banners and bike tubes, rather than throwing them away, before May 1. Contact Marianne Wieghaus at CSU Housing & Dining Services, Marianne.wieghaus@colostate.edu.