— Let's do this

Why I upcycle, and why we should all find homes for our so-called "junk"

Marcus Butt/Getty Images

First, let’s talk about some statistics regarding waste in the United States. Even though we only make up 4.6% of the global population, we contribute 33% of the earth’s solid waste. 80% of the products purchased in the U.S. are used once before they are thrown away.

In December, I was working as an elf (official title: decorations coordinator) for a nice company that catered corporate holiday parties and needed some extra help.

Part of my job required me to package light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and wipe off the glitter and check their batteries when they returned back from a party. Anything that did not glow very brightly was to be chucked.

But that did not sit well with this elf.

I asked my boss if we could just buy new batteries to reduce waste.

She loved the idea, but we were short on time – and it cost much less to purchase a brand new LED than to buy a brand-name battery that would last longer.

There were about 70 LEDs that would be trashed. I said I would find them new batteries and a place they could go. A few days later, I was relating this to a friend, who said she knew of someone looking for LEDs to use at church gatherings. The congregation had been using candles, but felt LEDs would be safer. She offered to take the LEDs to them.

And just like that, the LEDs had a new home — one that was not at the bottom of a landfill.

landfill
Hero Images/Getty Images

We can all upcycle that which looks like junk, but deep down, we know isn’t junk. Whether you are in a huge city or a small town, you can find someone who needs whatever you want to get rid of. Plus, it is easier than ever in the age of social media.

So why don’t we do it?

Cost. Time. Getting in trouble with the higher-ups for removing what they were going to throw away.

I am not even kidding about that last one.

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