Upcycling is a great low-cost, environmentally-friendly activity that will help keep kids busy and save what can’t be recycled from going straight to landfill. Here are five easy ways to upcycle.

Tie dye

Tie dying is an inexpensive and fun way to upcycle anything that’s old and white into something new and colourful. You could turn an old bed spread into a colourful tent for the kids or upcycle an old pillowcase into an eco-friendly tie dyed shopping bag. You can also save old white T-shirts that have seen better days by adding a splash of colour.

Learn how to tie dye.

Tie dye colours

Image by Brent Leimenstoll.


Kids love bunting and, if we’re being honest, we do too. Having bunting on a wall instantly adds colour and life to any room or outdoor space. You can make bunting from any fabrics like an old pillowcase, tablecloth, a duvet cover, a reusable shopping bag and just about anything else you can find. All you need is some bias binding tape, fabric, scissors and a needle and thread.

How to make bunting.

Bunting in the garden

Stylish shopping bags

Want to cut down on the amount of plastic you’re using? You can create your own stylish and unique shopping bags from spare or old pillowcases. Upcycle pillowcases with patterns, or  if you have a white one you could always add a splash of colour using tie dye. This idea will save you money with buying plastic bags in the supermarket as well as helping you do your bit for the environment.

Create your own bag.

Transform old jars

Give your hairbands and other bits and bobs the jar they deserve with a quick upcycle. Glass jars are common items in most kitchens and once they’re empty they can be re-vamped and given a second lease of life. Simply wash out the jar, peel off the label and redecorate as you see fit. Why not paint the lid, add a vintage-looking label or paint the jar for a unique look? You could even make a useful sewing kit holder with a pin cushion as the lid.

How to upcycle jars.

Jars with a sewing cushion for a lid.

Image by Nicole Vaughan

Outdoor luminaries

Light up your garden or patio with tin can lanterns. It’s one very quick and cheap way to transform your outdoor space during the summer months. Simply save your old tin cans, wash them out and get creative with paint. Two layers of acrylic paint will do and imperfect coverage will add to the rustic look. Add some sealant and punch some holes into the cans to complete the upcycle. You can place them on the ground as they are or hang them up using wire. It’s simple to do and can really make a garden come alive for those family BBQs.

Make your own recycled luminaries.

Luminaries made from tin cans

What ways do you like to upcycle? Share your ideas in the comments sections below.

Visit your local district or borough council site to learn what you can put in your recycling bin.