Unconsumption means the accomplishment of properly recycling your old cellphone, rather than the guilt of letting it sit in a drawer.
Unconsumption means the thrill of finding a new use for something that you were about to throw away.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a service like Freecycle (or Craigslist, Goodwill, or Salvation Army) to find a new home for the functioning DVD player you just replaced, rather than throwing it in the garbage.
Unconsumption means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a pair of sneakers until they are truly worn out – as opposed to the nagging feeling of defeat when they simply go out of style.
Unconsumption means feeling good about the simple act of turning off the lights when you leave the room.
Unconsumption is not about the rejection of things, or the demonization of things. It’s not a bunch of rules.
Unconsumption is an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective.
Unconsumption is free.
Founder & Editor:Rob Walker, journalist, Savannah, GA
Editorial & Community Manager: Molly Block, marketing and business development geek, Houston, TX
Maya Pedal's remarkable upcycling project is a veritable post-industrial revolution for rural Guatemalans… and potentially for underdeveloped communities the world over. The San Andrés Itzapa-based NGO accepts donated bicycles from the US and Canada, which are either refurbished and sold or, more interestingly, converted into “Bicimaquinas" (pedal-powered machines).
"Pedal power can be harnessed for countless applications which would otherwise require electricity (which may not be available) or hand power (which is far more effort). Bicimaquinas are easy and enjoyable to use. They can be built using locally available materials and can be easily adapted to suit the needs of local people. They free the user from rising energy costs, can be used anywhere, are easy to maintain, produce no pollution and provide healthy exercise."
In short, Maya Pedal turns scrap bicycle parts into all variety of human-powered municipal machinery: “water pumps, grinders, threshers, tile makers, nut shellers, blenders (for making soaps and shampoos as well as food products), trikes, trailers and more.”
Liane Rossler and Sarah Kings’s latest project, “Yours to Care For,” transforms approximately 1,000 recycled straws into charmingly simple, single-stem vases. The crafty concept is one of several sustainably-minded ideas they have brought to fruition while working under the moniker Supercyclers, a collaborative group they co-founded last year.
Sydney-based King and Rossler are acutely aware of the damaging effects plastics have on the world’s oceans, and center much of their design work around recycling these common seawater pollutants. The vases—made from discarded plastic drinking straws—provide just one example of the Supercycler’s unique take on scavenging. Their combined talent also led to a range of elegant bowls made from the ubiquitous plastic bag—a DIY series dubbed “Plastic Fantastic.”
You know those cardboard coffee sleeves you get for free at Starbucks? Well back in 1840 or so, they didn’t exist. Instead, they used things called Zarfs, into which they would place their hot coffee containers. Here’s one. It’s coming up at Christie’s, with an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. That’s a bit more than “free”, of course. And it’s only 2.5” high, so you’re not going to be able to get much coffee in there. But still, imagine taking this into your local coffee shop, and explaining that if you really cared about your coffee, you’d use a zarf.
“Grande extra-hot pumpkin spice latte in a zarf, please.” — rachel
A rather elaborate example of reuse (circa 1840), but still.
We’ve mentioned here what I’d say is a contemporary take on this: the “coffee cuff,” a wooden sleeve made from “architectural veneer offcuts,” that can be worn as a bracelet.
Wellies have become as much a part of festival culture as the music, beer and straw hats. And, just like festival tents, they tend to get left behind in the muddy field at the end of the weekend, forgotten, sodden and anonymous.
So one guy decided to collect them up and do something good with them. Steffan Lemke-Elms set up Festival Reboot, a company that collects, cleans and reuses these unwanted wellington boots….
Once cleaned, the tops get chopped off leaving a clog like shoe at the bottom and a strip of welly material…. The rubbery material gets upcycled in either a beer holder, a notebook or a bracelet.. Steffan sells these in order to raise money to send the bottom part (the cleaned, paired Welly Clogs) out to the slums in Nairobi and Nakuru in Kenya.
Imagine if a cereal box could be reused as a USPS package. That’s the notion suggseted in the image above, by recent graduate BYU-Idaho Tyler McCann. He sent us news of his final BFA project, which is pretty cool:
The premise for this project is sustainability and your blog helped inspire my mindset while researching and designing.
The problem I found was that we are not making the best use of our resources … . My solution involves companies packaging together, so that the consumer can use the product and then reuse the package.
This method makes it easy for the consumer and cuts the impact on our resources and environment in half.
I would also like to credit my professor Shawn Randall as a mentor.
Benjamin Yates creates futuristic looking cityscapes—think Blade Runner’s Los Angeles crossed with 60s retro-futurism—made from old electronic parts, like old circuit boards, and lights them up so they look all pretty and colorful.
He houses them inside perspex coffee tables, and they contain miniature people, old VCRs, and digital picture frames.
He calls them Electri-Cities and he’ll even produce them so they can play music and, incredibly, check your email. That’s right, a musical, dystopian coffee table that can check emails—that’s the sort of furniture anybody can get excited about.
The two main goals were first, to avoid sending items with “functional value” to the landfill by reworking their components into new pieces and second, to promote the reuse of items that can alternatively find value elsewhere.
CLOUD is an interactive lighting installation designed by Caitlind Brown for Nuit Blanche Calgary – an all-night art festival that took place on September 15th.
Brown began the project by collecting old burnt-out incandescent bulbs from people in the community. CLOUD received contributions from individual households, museums, historic attractions, arenas, and Eco Stations. The project was an experiment in community collaboration and re-imagining the potential of garbage as well as a beautiful art installation.
Once they had enough bulbs, Brown and her team built a metal cloud-shaped frame to which they attached over 6,000 old bulbs.
Visitors stood underneath the cloud and played with it by turning lights on and off. There are so many lights that it’s uncertain which string connects to which light, so visitors would spend minutes trying to get them all off or on….
Woodguards [alternative to traditional bike mudguards] are made using re-claimed European and African timber and brightly coloured formica. They look fantastic and are very practical (they are actually lighter than your average plastic mudguards).
Each pair are hand-made in Edinburgh, with a furniture-makers skill and attention to detail.