Have You Heard of "Upcycling"?
If you don't know what "upcycling" means, don't feel bad. As I type this right now I can see that my computer doesn't either. It keeps trying to autocorrect me.
Upcycling, as you can probably infer, is closely related to recycling. Whereas recycling simply re-uses a product that would otherwise be waste, upcycling increases its value. You'll be hearing more and more about upcycling thanks in part to these six awesome, innovative companies.
MycoWorks is a San Francisco start up that turns sawdust into all-natural, vegan, eco-friendly leather. And you won't believe how.
Like original leather, MycoWorks' leather breathes, stretches, and is weather resistant. Unlike leather, it can be grow into just about any shape. This means, for example, that instead of stitching on a zipper to a jacket, they can grow the mushroom to attach it. It's like a natural, upcycling 3-D printer.
MycoWorks' production uses waste sawdust as input, takes a fraction of the time and resources to create compared to traditional leather, and is carbon negative. If you're eco-warrior why not literally put your money where your mouth is and get a MycoWorks wallet?
What do you get when you mix crushed shells from the shellfish industry and discarded plastic water bottles?
Yep. Londrë's founders, fellow Vancouverites Ainsley and Hannah, managed to combine their interests in travel, fashion, and sustainability into stylish (and flattering) one-piece bathing suits.
While bathing suits made from crushed shells and plastic may not sound comfortable at first, the founders report that their fabric is super comfy, durable, "locks those extra bits in", and even repels odour. Jorge and I have yet to try a swimsuit on to verify, but we agree they look nice.
Another fellow Vancouver-based upcycling company, ChopValue crafts beautiful items out of used chopsticks.
For those of you who know Vancouver and how many Asian restaurants we have, you'll know that this means they have an almost endless supply of inputs. Chop value has partnered with these restaurants to upcycle their trash into various items like cutting boards, wall frames, and, since this is Vancouver after all, yoga blocks.
The definition of the word "chickenshit" is "worthless and contemptible". Real chicken shit is even worse. It seeps into and devastates waterways.
Not everyone hates chicken shit though. Houseflies love it.
They devour chicken shit voraciously and convert it into... housefly shit! And housefly shit is magical. It is steroids for plants. In side-by-side tests, plants fed with housefly fertilizer look like AC Slater whereas those fed traditional fertilizers (which are environmentally damaging in their own right) look like Screech.
NASA has gotten involved, some Chinese businessmen have tried to steal his technology, the government of Maryland has brought him in to clean up their mess, and legal marijuana grow ups pay a super premium for his product.
Strangely, nobody fully understands why it works so well. EcoSpace's founder, Ivin Milin, has an evolutionary explanation: Before humans started interfering, plants wouldn't feed on large animals' manure. Instead, insects would eat it. Plants would feed on those insects' much smaller, but more powerful, manure instead.
If EcoSpace succeeds in making housefly manure mainstream maybe we'll then add a new term to use the dictionary: "houseflyshit." It could mean the opposite of chickenshit, "precious and admirable".
You know the liquid that comes in a can of chickpeas? That stuff is called aquafaba. Hummus manufacturers generate an ungodly amount of it and would pour it down the drain. Then Sir Kensington's came along.
They realized that this aquafaba had a lot of nutritional value value and figured out how to upcycle it into a vegan alternative to mayonnaise they call Fabanaise.
Turning trash to treasure has created an immense treasure for the founders as well. They recently sold the company to Unilever for $140 million.
At Heilu we are upcycling perfectly good scraps from food manufacturing into nutritional ingredients—butter and protein powder—that food experts have found to be virtually indistinguishable from their conventional alternatives. What is distinguishable, however, is how we make these ingredients.
They're made from an incredible (distinguished?) animal, an insect we call Heilu.
Currently we are working to get regulatory approval so that we can join upcycling peers in creating a better future by turning trash into treasure. If you haven't already, sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when Heilu is available and have the opportunity to try our delicious products!
Get On The Upcycle!
Next time you're looking for a gift for yourself or a friend, why not make it a gift to Mother Nature as well? Get an upcycled product from one of these awesome companies!
And if you come across other upcycling companies please let us know.
Thanks as always,
Chris & Jorge
(Cover photo courtesy of Ainsley Rose Photography and Londrë Bodywear)