There's a saying among eco-minded people that "the greenest item is the one you don't buy." The projects in this post take that idea even further: the greenest item is the one you make from something destined for the landfill (OK -- it's not very snappy. I'll work on it.)
Here is proof that you can turn anything from a gaudy old light fixture to a worn-out bicycle tire tube into something beautiful and useful.
1. Old Light Fixture to Terrarium
Old, outdated light fixtures are everywhere: garage sales, thrift stores, and, often, on the curb awaiting trash pick-up. The next time you come across one, consider turning it into a terrarium. This project from design*sponge takes a kind of blah old fixture and, with nothing more than a simple wood base and some plants, turns it into an awesome terrarium.
Bonus tip: These can also work as mini-greenhouses or cloches to protect your plants from frost. Just set them over tiny seedlings in your garden when frost threatens. And because they likely already have holes in them for the mounting hardware, they're even ventilated so you won't have to worry about frying your plants when the temps warm up again!
2. Condiment Bottle to Vase
For this project, the bloggers at Penelope and Pip were inspired by the awesome shapes of condiment bottles they were seeing in their recycling bin. Instead of tossing those bottles, they cleaned them up and gave them a whole new look with nothing more than yarn and Mod Podge. It literally takes minutes, and you have something that provides a great accent to your home.
Bonus Tip: You can honestly do this with just about any container. If you like the shape and it's sturdy, go for it! Baby food jars, tea tins, those nondescript bud vases you see at thrift stores -- all would be perfect for this.
3. Old Baby Clothes to One of a Kind Toy
This one's for the new parents out there. Babies grow out of clothing so quickly. Some can be donated, some can be saved for the next kid or a friend, and others just get saved for sentimental reasons. But what about those well-loved pieces of clothing that are, maybe, a little stained and worse for wear? Alisa Burke came up with a great idea -- cut them up and make adorable, one-of-a-kind toys for your baby.
Bonus Tip: Alisa used a sewing machine to both sew and make the faces for her toys. You could definitely hand-sew the toys together, and then use embroidery thread to make a simple face. Your baby will love it just as much!
4. Garage Sale Book to Filing System
I love any project that makes use of old books -- Jamie's recent post about turning an old book into a holder for your Kindle or iPad is an awesome example -- and this is another good one. Cathe Holden had a bunch of those old Reader's Digest condensed books, and, as you can see from the photo, the covers of these books were actually quite beautiful. So rather than toss them, Cathe got to work turning them into a great way to organize papers and receipts. She used a sewing machine, and sewed a few pages together to make pockets. A label for each pocket, and you've got a really attractive way to keep track of all of those bits of paper.
Bonus Tip: Cathe advises that if you want to have several years' worth of papers saved in one place, it's a good idea to get your hands on matching books so everything stays looking neat. Garage sales are a great place to find old condensed books like the ones she used, or old encyclopedia sets, which would be great as well.
5. Bike Tube to Headband
This is TreeHugger, after all, and what could be more TreeHugger than a project that marries our love of all things bike with a great upcycling project? This video from CRAFT Magazine shows how to turn a busted bike tube into a rather awesome chain-link headband.
Bonus Tip: This could work for so many projects: chain link bike tube bracelets, or a strap for a bag or purse, curtain tie-backs... you get the picture.
So, there you have it: five great upcycled craft projects. I hope we got your creative, crafty juices flowing today!