Last week a delegation of ReTweeders headed up to Edinburgh to spend the morning with the good folk of REMADE and the Edinburgh Remakery. REMADE is a campaign organisation for zero waste and their Remakery shop, workshops and events deliver practical upcycling and repair solutions for reducing landfill and preventing the problems associated with our ever-increasing consumption and waste before they are created.
Sophie Unwin, Founder and Director of REMADE in Edinburgh, is the 2016 UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year and so it was our tremendous privilege to just sit with her and hear the incredible story of the rapid journey of success. I guess for me, some of the most profound commentary was around Sophie’s aspiration to effect culture change around the Greener Scotland and Zero Waste priorities of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
The work being done on behalf of government advocates behaviour change which puts the onus and pressure on the individual rather than promoting a collective approach as a society. ReTweed’s work includes the aspiration to challenge people’s perceptions of second-hand and to encourage creative repurposing of textiles and stop them from ending up in landfill.
People often ask us what we mean by upcycling and how it differs from recycling? Essentially, upcycling is the process of transforming old products or materials into something useful and, we hope, beautiful. Unlike recycling, upcycling often gives an item a better purpose than its original.
Recycling basically takes materials – generally, plastic, paper, metal and glass – and breaks them down so they can be remade into a new consumer product, usually of lesser quality or value. When you upcycle an item, you aren’t breaking down the materials – generally, you will be refashioning them. ReTweed, for example, uses their donated textiles – old clothes, sheets, curtains and the like – and repurpose them into furnishings, crafts, and fashions. Our upcycled products are typically better or the same quality as the original and still use the original materials.
REMADE go further, they upcycle electrical and electronic goods and furniture! Their amazing workshop space transforms old furniture into unique pieces and adds to their value while delivering craft skills. They run an incredible variety of workshops every month so if you’re looking for a weekend of creative industry on tech geekery get yourself enlisted.
We certainly don’t wish to diminish the value of recycling all the same – we must all keep on keeping on with our efforts – sometimes I am there in the kitchen with the finished mayonnaise and peanut butter jars. I don’t really want to wash them out, but it is true that integrity is really about the things you do when no-one is watching.
And so, if you’re like me, sometimes swithering about the effort, get those manky plastics washed out or put your old furniture, electrical stuff, and clothes to the charity shop rather than the dump – or worse still in the bin – and really ask yourself… does the latest iPhone or gadget REALLY make you a happier and more fulfilled human being? No. For sure, we have sufficient emotional intelligence to know that is not the case but all the while we are still seduced by the big corporations who promote the ethos of ‘I consume therefore I am’ – let’s get back to basics and enjoy the artistic expression and sense of achievement via the medium of upcycling.
“Creativity is a contagious passion” – Albert Einstein
This blog post was written by Hazel Smith – ReTweed Founding Director