Thursday, March 3, 2011

Upcycling... The Story of the Rejected Belt

This is the not so sad story of my husband's braided leather belt. The belt began its' live as a what I'm sure must have been a sweet cow. A farmer somewhere had worked very hard to raise that cow, while that same farmer may have also grown the crops to feed that cow.  The fact is that it wasn't easy to raise the cow and it took lots of energy and resources to raise it from birth.  Now this same animal animal had sacrificed it's very life so that my husband could keep his pants from falling to the ground.

Although I don't claim to know anything about what it takes to make a belt from there, the skin of the cow then went through the manufacturing process where it was turned into a very nice men's braided belt.  For many years that belt did all  it was intended to do, until one day, for no particular reason at all, just like that, it had made it's way to the pile that was headed for the trash! After years of faithful service, much like the way people who have worked hard for years, have been losing their jobs, this belt had lost it's job and it's purpose.

We often bring clothing to drop boxes or donate to goodwill, but for whatever reason, it was set to be on its way to the dump.   I never did find out the reason for the sudden lack of usefulness,  maybe my husband thought the belt was no longer in style, or perhaps it was to tight, or just didn't fit quite right. Just as the belt was headed for the end, that is when I stepped in. I picked up that belt, gave it a second look and just like that I had rescued it from it's premature deadly fate.  I had no idea what would become if it, but I knew that it's useful life had not been met yet.  So into the craft supply box it went.

A few months later I received an Etsy custom order request to turn the magnets that I had been making into "boyish" necklaces that would be used as favors for a young boys birthday party. Of course I was thrilled that she had selected me to make her necklace favors, as anyone who shops on Etsy knows, that there must be millions of extremely talented people to choose from, and she asked me :)

Just like that a lightbulb (a CFL or an LED, of course) lit in my brain and I suddenly knew just what I would do with that old belt! I had figured out how I would make those necklaces "boyish".  I would use the strands of the braided leather belt!  One otherwise useless item, would now become the pleasure of many, all with a few tools and some jewelry findings.

Now it is true that we cannot save everything.  People who are crafty, artistic, frugal, or just plain pack rats may have a hard time letting things go. It can cause problems and absorb our energy when we have too much stuff.  Americans as a whole have become a nation of people with far too much stuff.  In fact I challenge you to take steps to become a more thoughtful consumer, purchase less, use the things you already have. Let's forget about the Jones' family, who wants to keep up with them anyway!!  Why not try your hand at a craft that gives new life to something you no longer have a use for?  It's fun and rewarding and good for our environment.

What I did with the belt is called Upcycling. Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. I'm not sure if you can get better quality than the original belt, but I certainly found a way to give that sweet cow new life and in the process, it cost me less to produce the necklaces.  I was able to create a high quality product and I was able to pass that savings on directly to my customer.  In fact, my customer will be getting handmade, custom favors at a total cost that is probably lower or comparable to a mass manufactured item. All this and we did our part for the environment too!!  I would be willing to bet that the children who receive these necklaces may think they are even cooler when they hear the story behind them.  Fortunately, kids today are more environmentally aware than ever!

Here are a few snapshots to give you the idea of the materials and the process.  Feel free to comment or ask questions for greater detail! Thanks for stopping by!  And don't forget to BelieveinURdream2!

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