Pal Kathryn asked if I'd read the article in yesterday's New York Times about Ikea hackers, people who take Ikea products and change them somehow, like the guy who used two red salad bowls to make a speaker array (left), or the woman who took two green crates and made a combination litter box/end table for her cats. There's even a blog, created by a young woman in Malaysia, that documents this apparently global phenomenon.
This kind of creative use of everyday objects is described by Robert Kalin of Etsy.com as "a very urban phenomenon: we have the resources we need and we have become expert at repurposing them, like taking these broken Ikea chairs and making them into a table." This process has been described as "upcycling," a word the article says was coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in the book, "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things."
All I can say is, the Northwest has been on that train for some time now. From places like ReFind Furniture (upper right), part of Portland's ReBuilding Center, to Resource Revival (left), started in 1994 by a young Oregonian named Graham Bergh who got a flat tire on his bike and looked for a way to put it to use, this region has been at the forefront of making do with less for a long time now.
And Metro, our regional government that protects parks and open spaces, handles land use and transportation, as well as managing garbage disposal and recycling in two states, three counties and 14 cities, has a list of business that produce and feature "upcycled" products. It's very worth your while to check out, and you'll be impressed at the breadth of products your neighbors are producing from your trash!