• Michelle Martin

Upcycling...it's a thing

I remember my first Earth Day back in April 1970. I was excited to be part of this movement to save the trees and wear my cool Earth shoes (remember those?). It was a time of environmental awareness and equality and we all wanted to make a difference. But, that is really one ugly shoe!



It was initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmentalist who created a grass-roots movement to move the government to take legislative action to protect the earth, reduce pollution and create awareness of sustainability for future generations.


This week, inspired by the spring weather, everything green and growing, I watched a documentary on Amazon Prime Don’t Flush Your Future which is all about the Earthship Biotecture movement in Taos, New Mexico. This is a community of 75 homes, built entirely out of recycled materials, spread over the desert landscape. The goal is to create ecologically sound homes that use a minimum of power, enabling you to live "off the grid" and produce your own food and water.


The documentary shared how to build sustainable homes and buildings in different environments, from upcycled and repurposed materials. The locations were in Taos, Malawi and the Philippines, all of which have decidedly different economic and environmental conditions, yet all get the same treatment.


The brainchild of the movement is architect, Mike Reynolds, who encourages his builders and buyers to embrace a radical approach to home building, re-use and repurposing. Watch people build attractive homes from tires, bottles and aluminum cans. Amazing.


I am proud that we reduce food waste in our home by putting our vegetable scraps and coffee grounds in a composter out back to create a nutrient-rich soil enhancer for our garden.


However, there are companies that go further and upcycle food waste into food for human consumption that is healthy and nutritious, and reduce 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases, increase economic opportunity, and help feed a growing world population in the process. 57% of consumers want to buy more upcycled foods but where can they get them?


Lucky for us, we have Misfits Market right in our own backyard, selling “ugly produce” that won’t cut it on the supermarket shelf. The food is organic, but not attractive and not only will it cost you 40% less, it also helps cut down on food waste.


Another company is Repurposed Pod which uses the remains of the chocolate-making process to make cacao juice. And there is The Ugly Pickle Co. which uses “unattractive cucumbers” – is there such a thing? to make their pickles. And of course, there is a new tea made from the leaves of the avocado tree offered by The Avocado Tea Company.


Upcycled food is in its nascent stage, however it is exciting to see that people want these products and companies are being creative and responsive. To find out more check out the Upcycled Food Association.


And to think the modern environmental movement began back in 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson of the effect of pesticides on the environment. This helped fuel the back to nature, sustainability movement of the 1960s and encourage folks to eat organic. Feel free to recycle a copy from your local library.



Check out all the events going on this week to celebrate our Earth, from April 20- 22. What do you think of Earth Day? Do you do anything special to commemorate it? Or is every day “earth day” for you and your family? I would love to hear from you.

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