LIVING GREEN for April 4, 2013

For Weekly SurgeApril 1, 2013 

The art of repurposing

We have all heard that phrase, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and for people like me, it is my mantra.

I fell in love with the idea of repurposing when I met an artist by the name of Kimberly Dawn Clayton several years ago in Myrtle Beach. She had a colorful style of artwork that transformed pieces of trash into gorgeous works of art. She used to have an art gallery in downtown Conway and I frequented the shop to see her newest creations. I was immediately attracted to an old window with a blue manatee painted on it. I remember stopping by the shop regularly, just to check and see if it was still there. Every time I saw it, I knew it was meant for me. I spoke with Clayton and she was looking for more pieces of trash to paint on. So when my father-in-law replaced the windows in his house, I loaded up the old ones and brought them to her as a gift. I also finally bought that blue manatee painting that continues to hang in my home today. This was the start of my green spark of inspiration.

The business of upcycling has totally reinvented our economy in recent years. It seems that most artists are reusing materials that are typically thrown away and creating a business out of their creativity.

These artists of repurpose have mainly made their creations by experimenting or simply by accident.

In our local area, artists, such as Groovy Green Glass in Myrtle Beach, have turned traditional trash into treasured pieces of art and jewelry. Deana Vail and Shawn Vail started Groovy Green Glass in 2010 after having experimented with cutting a glass bottle. Their experiment has since exploded into a fulltime business of reinvention. In 2011, they saved 16,000 glass bottles from the landfill and in 2012, they saved 30,000 glass bottles from the landfill. They take these empty glass bottles of wine and liquor and transform them into necklaces, bracelets, earrings, custom drinking glasses and wind chimes. To them, glass is important because it’s the only safe vessel for drinks and it never breaks down. They fell in love with its beauty and complexity and through Groovy Green Glass, they hope to spread the love, You can check them out online at www.groovygreenglass.com

Another groovy company was started by Richie Spencer and Jane Spencer, Groovy Garbage in North Myrtle Beach, which was recently featured in the Costco Connection newsletter. They take trash, such as used bicycle inner tubes, signs and banners, and beach chair fabric to create durable accessories, such as purses and zipper pouches. The Spencers each have other fulltime jobs, but their passion for garbage has become a passionate hobby. You can check them out online at www.groovygarbage.com

Twitter has been a great source of random information for me and from it, I learned about an upcoming documentary about an orchestra in Paraguay that started from trash. The Landfill Harmonic orchestra is a group of young people in Cateura, Paraguay who live in one of the largest landfills in South America. Yes, they literally live in the landfill, which is just an open dump of garbage with families living in poverty. I watched the preview of the documentary and it brought me to tears of emotion. These kids live in the slums, but have created extraordinary instruments from objects they found in the trash. Bebi, a 19-year-old, made a cello out of an old oil can and used wood, but when he plays Bach's Cello Suite No.1, Prelude, you wouldn’t know the difference. In this town, a violin is actually worth more than a house. The documentary is about people transforming trash into music and their phrase has become, “The world sends us trash and we send back music.” The Landfill Harmonic orchestra is looking to tour the U.S. and the documentary is slated to come out in 2014. You can learn more about this fascinating story on Facebook at www.facebook.com/landfillharmonicmovie

We can also reinvent our perception of trash at home. If you don’t use Pinterest, I highly recommend it. Not only is it an abundant wealth of fun ideas, but it specifically brings together the opportunity for inspiration for do-it-yourself projects. Through Pinterest, I have found a multitude of ideas for reuse and repurpose. For example, you can easily take an old picture frame, attach some netting to it and voila, you’ve created an earring hanger. Another example is to take an old belt and use it to tie back curtains. You can also make a car trash can from a plastic cereal dispenser. My point is: the ideas for reinvention of trash are limitless.

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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