I was first introduced to an amazing organization called Upcycle Life in 2012. As a marketing professional, one of my responsibilities is to select locations, oversee the design, and coordinate the installation of roadside billboards. Until being introduced to Upcycle Life, I never considered how un-sustainable this advertising medium truly is. At the end of its useful life, a beautiful billboard is nothing more than a lump of vinyl. According to the Upcycle website, more than 10,000 TONS of non-biodegradable vinyl ends up in landfills each year. Yikes! I have been contributing to this nonsense for years! Fortunately there is an alternative to the madness.
The team at Upcycle Life is turning discarded vinyl billboards into useful (and quite stylish) accessories. Billboard material is incredibly durable, easy to keep clean and wipe down, and relatively simple to use as a medium to create trendy cross-body bags, padfolios, yoga totes, wallets, koozies, or basically anything that you can dream up.
But what is even better than the fact that unwanted vinyl is being repurposed is the manner in which these cool items are produced.
Upcycle Life is powered by the men and women who run Project 658, a local non-profit
located on Central Avenue near Plaza Midwood in East Charlotte. Project 658 is a gathering place and catalyst for change in the immigrant and refugee community. Men and women (but primarily women who are mothers, often alone in a new country) seek refuge and community among people who are facing the same struggles. They arrived in the U.S. with very little money, and even less dignity. The team at Project 658 helps to get these men and women on their feet so that they can help provide for their families. One of the several initiatives that helps the women of this community get ahead is Upcycle Life. Women are invited to take free sewing classes. They learn to work from a pattern, and they build community among their small groups. Many have never had the opportunity to learn a skill, or to become self-sufficient. Most have young children who require their care. This barrier, coupled with their basic-at-best English skills, make it nearly impossible to find traditional employment. But Upcycle Life offers an alternative.
Upcycle Life is a steward of environmentally responsible economic development, and provides for the under served in our city. It’s a win/win combination!
I highly recommend that you check out what these great organizations are doing. Upcycle Life is about to introduce a new website, but for now you can learn more at Upcyclelife.com. I also encourage you to visit Project 658 to learn more about how they are serving families in need throughout the Charlotte area.