Toss a pop can in the trash, and watch Jenn Paulson dive in after it.
Sure, the reaction would in part be meant to prevent another aluminum can from entering a landfill. But Paulson, like many others in Faribault, is interested in more than just recycling the item.
The trend of upcycling — taking a used or discarded product and refashioning it to create an entirely new product — has grown in recent years due to its marketability and the lowered cost of reused materials. Upcycling is used on a range of products including jewelry, furniture and fashion items.
In Paulson’s home-based business, Wild Apple Design, upcycling comes in the form of hair clips, earrings, broaches and necklaces. Each piece utilizes aluminum from various pop cans. After removing the top and bottom and then making one cut down the can to create a flat piece of aluminum, Paulson either uses a paper-hole puncher or utility knife to create the pieces she needs for flower petals or other shapes.
And get this: Customers often hand over specific cans they want used to make the product.
“I’d like to think that they want to do something to keep cans out of our landfills,” Paulson said on Wednesday while fiddling with a magnet made from an old bottle cap. “This is an eco-friendly way to get the exact piece of jewelry you’d like.”
Paulson’s jewelry items are among the 263,685 items that are currently tagged with the word “upcycled” on Etsy.com, a buy-and-sell site for handmade or vintage items. She’s sold pieces of her jewelry to people all over the United States as well as in Australia and Qatar.
The fall 2012 opening of All Seasons Thrift Store in downtown Faribault meant yet one more opportunity for Paulson and other local upcyclers to find treasures close to home. Connie Bongers, who’s lived in Faribault for 35 years, visits the store at least once a week but also said the local Salvation Army and various garage and estate sales have proven helpful.
“It’s always my mission to find those items that other people got rid of because they were no use to them, but they’re perfect for me,” Bongers said.
Bongers admits that most of her upcycle projects are more decorative than practical. She’s made wreaths out of garden hoses and turned a flower store glass vase into a lace and decoupaged candle holder. She also enjoys incorporating old family photos and inspirational words into her projects.
Her one piece of advice to wanna-be upcyclers? “Husbands aren’t going to like this, but I’d say don’t throw anything away,” she said. “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. So re-sell it or donate it and let someone else be inspired.”
Take the upcycle challenge
Both the Faribault and Kenyon All Seasons Thrift Stores are sponsoring upcycling contests during the month of April with a spring or garden theme. The basic rules are:
Entry form is available at each thrift location. In Faribault the store address is 310 Central Ave.
One entry per person. Multiple entries will be narrowed down to one entry eligible for voting.
A contestant’s upcycled item must contain 75 percent materials from either All Seasons Thrift Store.
Items created must be tasteful — anything otherwise may not be eligible for voting.
People may vote once for a favorite item, and the top 10 entries from each store receiving the most votes will be submitted for judging by a special panel.
The winners will be announced May 1.
Prizes for each location are: First place $50 cash, second place $20 All Seasons Thrift Store gift certificate, third place $10 All Seasons Thrift Store punch card or gift certificate. In addition, prize winning entries from each place will be displayed on the thrift store Facebook page and in the store.
Terri Washburn with the Kenyon Leader contributed to this report. Reach reporter Rebecca Rodenborg at 333-3128, or follow her on Twitter.com @FDNRebecca