Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Upcycling Revolution

Recycling is the processing of used material into something more useful.  The products of recycling fall into two categories: 1) Downcycling - creating products of lower value, and 2) Upcycling - creating products of higher value.  An example of downcycling would be processing used office paper into toilet paper, while examples of upcycling can be found in multiple booth spaces at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

Upcycling is the repurposing of an excess of unused resources into something usable.  The common expression is "one man's waste is another man's treasure," but upcyclers see it a different way.  To the upcycler, waste or unused material doesn't immediately convert to treasure, rather, the product goes through a transformation according to the vision of the artist. 

NiteOwl Z-3 by Red Ranger Rayguns
Recycle, repurpose, recreate is the mantra at the heart of this movement.  Melanie Woods of threeRdesigns refashions old records, cassette tape inserts, and chip bags into wallets, notebooks, and purses.  Caleb Massey of Red Ranger Rayguns transforms otherwise useless gun-shaped tools and toys into Atomic Disintegrators and other futuristic imaginings.

Recycling is all about reducing the rate of consumption of raw materials, while upcycling does this and increases the value of the product at the same time.  Nowadays, reusing quality, older paraphernalia outweighs the expense of utilizing raw materials.

The  Deep Ellum Outdoor Market itself is a reinvention of public space.  What was otherwise 5000 square feet of car shade is now a place of commerce and a reason to inhabit a space of little use.  What we intend to do is produce a quality, positive experience to attract a lot of people, in other words, to upcycle the parking lot.

Deep Ellum has the advantage of being a place that has been attractive to people ever since Bonnie and Clyde terrorized Texas banks in the early 20th century.  Over time, the buildings have been repurposed to fit the needs of the contemporary generation.  So, what does this generation need, and how can we use the resources available to us to make it happen?

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