Celebrate environmental education with these easy upcycle projects.
up·cy·cle: reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.
Turn Your Old T-Shirt into Bags
Lay the shirt on a flat table and cut the sleeves off. (Keep the sleeves, we will use them in the next step.) Then, cut the neck of the shirt off. You can make the cut round-ish or square-ish, as long as the hole is big enough for you to put stuff in the bag.
Cut 3 strips of cloth from the sleeves. The strips should be about 1/2 inch wide. Cutting all the way around the sleeve should give you strips of the right length. Stretch the strips a little to make them curl in.
On the bottom hem of the shirt, cut three small slits, just big enough to slip in the safety pin. Stick the safety pin through the end of one of the strips you made and close the pin.
Insert the pin with the strip into one of the slits in the hem. Push the pin through the hem until it reaches the next slit, then pull it out. Remove the safety pin from the strip and attach it to end of another strip. Repeat the process, pulling this strip through the next section of the hem. Continue until each of the three strips is pulled through a section of the hem. Now pull each string tight.
Done! Your t-shirt is now a bag that you can use to carry anything you want.
Turn Old Items into Planters
When you reuse an item, you prevent it from ending up in a landfill, thus reducing consumption and carbon emissions. This process is also known as upcycling or creative reuse, i.e. turning something old into something of better quality or environmental value.
One great way to upcycle and help the environment is by turning old items into a planter. Let your imagination run free, think of creative ways you can reuse items to make a planter for flowers, vegetables or a tree.
Here are a few examples, from practical inventions to wild creations!
Recycle all those metal cans into nice and colorful garden planters.
Don't have a lot of space to plant? Go vertical!
Leather or plastic sneakers, shoes, and boots make adorable holders for individual flowering or foliage plants. Sit them on the ground, prop them up on a rack or hang them on a wall or fence.
Recycle all those plastic bottles you and your neighbors use into gorgeous and useful garden planters that can be used to grow a variety of lettuces.
Make Cardboard Carton Bird Feeder
Adult supervision is required for this activity!
1 milk or juice carton
Pen or marker
Sticks or small dowels
String or twine
Acrylic paint or paint pens
Decorations recycled from household materials, crafts, or nature
Craft or hot glue
Cut a large hole in the center of each side of the carton, starting several inches from the bottom.
Beneath these large holes, cut a small holes to poke the sticks or dowels through. This will provide perches for dining birds.
Cut two small holes on either side of the top of the carton to thread the rope or wire through (if your carton has a spout, you can use this for one of the holes).
Paint and decorate your feeder. Want to make your backyard birds a cottage? An apartment building? Use your imagination!
Fill your feeder with birdseed. (Learn more about what types of seed attract different birds in the Audubon Guide to Birdseed.)
Hang your feeder in a spot about five feet from the ground, preferably with a good view from your window.
Take each plastic bag and cut it open to make them flat pieces. Cut off the handles and any extra pieces so you’re left with large rectangles of plastic.
Cut each rectangle into long strips. Start tying the strips together to make the strips longer in length.
Take six long strips and tape them together with painters tape. Tape the group of six to a table or the back of a chair.
Braid the six strips together. Repeat with a second group of six. You should have two long plastic braids.
Twist the two braids together tightly so that the jump rope will have enough weight to swing when jumping.
Tape the ends together with duct tape to create a handle.
Take your jump rope outside and get moving!
Turn Your Old T-Shirt into Coasters
Here is a project for you to reuse old t-shirts by turning them into braided coasters. They are cute and can make a great gift too.
White craft glue or a hot glue (Be careful if you decide to use hot glue; ask an adult to help you!)
Step 1: Make t-shirt yarn
Take your old t-shirt and lay it on a flat surface. Get your t-shirt as flat as possible, then cut straight across the arms, and cut off the bottom hem. Turn your t-shirt tube so that the folds are at the top and bottom and then fold the tube in half leaving an inch or two at the top. Cut the strips an inch wide, rearrange the tube so that it is laying flat and looks like a rib cage.
Then, cut on dotted lines. Take the pieces and stretch them until they curl up and become yarn. Now, you are ready to move to the next step.
Step 2: Create a braid
Take three pieces of yarn and begin to braid. To secure the braid, adhere three pieces together with tiny glue dots. When your yarn ends, take a new one, place it onto the glue, press it and roll the yard back up. To create a coaster, you need a braid approximately 24” – 28” long.
Step 3: Make a circle
Take a piece of cardboard, cut a circle approximately 3.75” in diameter, and cover it with glue.
Step 4: Make a coaster
Don’t wait until the glue dries, place one end of your braid down in the middle of the cardboard circle, and start winding it around until the entire circle is covered.
Step 5: Enjoy the fruit of your labor
Done! Your t-shirt is now a coaster that you can use it to place your favorite mug. Don’t stop and create a few more coasters for your friends and family members!
One large, full-sized sheet of newspaper
Thin strips of scrap fabric
Two thin sticks of bamboo
Clear packing tape or scotch tape
Elmer's or craft glue
Sharp scissors (garden shears)
Choose and prep your bamboo sticks. You’ll need one that’s stiff and runs the width of a newspaper sheet, and one that’s a little more flexible that matches the length of the newspaper.
Cut your stiffest bamboo stick to match to the length of the newspaper, and your flexible stick to the width of your newspaper.
Use some of your kite string to wrap the two sticks together at the center, making a “t” shape.
Cut small slits into the end of the bamboo sticks. Insert the end of the kite string in the little slot on one side of the shorter, flexible stick, wrap it around the end of the stick a couple of times and knot it so it’s attached to the end of the stick.
Pull the string tight across the stick, making the stick bend a little, and slide the string through the slot on the other end of the stick. Tie it off and cut the string.
Insert the end of the kite string in the slot on one end of the sturdier stick, wrap it around the end of the stick and continue until you’ve wrapped your kite string around every end of bamboo. (The string should make the shape of the kite.)
Place the kite skeleton on top of the newspaper, wrap the corners of the newspaper over the string and glue it to itself.
Tear an old sheet into long thin strips and tie the strip to the bamboo at the bottom of the kite for a tail.
Turn the kite over so the bamboo is not visible. Make two holes in the newspaper to thread the kite strong onto the bamboo stick behind. Put two small pieces of clear tape on the newspaper to reinforce it.
Poke the string through that hole on the front, loop it around the bamboo stick behind it and knot it, then cut the end of the string so it’s about two feet long. Poke the other end of the string through the other hole, loop it around the bamboo stick and tie it in a knot.
Tie the whole spool of kite string to the center of that two-foot loop.