One World Weblog Photo Essay

Upcycle for the Holidays! 

Mindful Giving and Sustainable Celebration



Upcycling: "The act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable and beautiful than what it previously was."Upcycle That 


Is this word new to you? Sure, we know about regular-old recycling — it isn’t always the most thrilling of our day-to-day tasks, but it’s so worthwhile, especially in light of the increasingly dire problem of global climate change and those ever-growing landfills.


For many of us, though, recycling fails to capture the imagination. The rising Upcycle movement is quickly changing this perception.


As it specifically concerns us, we know the impact our native coffee industry has on the environment all too well. It’s our responsibility to know — and when we see the potential to reduce our footprint and help other small businesses do the same, we have an obligation to do our part.


This is why we are so excited about upcycling and One World Roasters’ collaborations with remarkable people in our community who are making a great effort to creatively repurpose and reuse the materials we work with everyday. We think of coffee as one of nature’s gifts, but with upcycling, it’s the gift that truly keeps on giving!

Vivian Adams works on her upcycled coffee aprons

Hey Jute!


Ahh the jute sack. You may not know the name, but you’ve seen them in coffee press photo after coffee press photo — they’re the big fibrous bags that hold the raw, dried beans we use to make our organic roasts. And as a material, jute is the stuff of dreams — let’s look at some fun facts:


• Jute fiber is 100% bio-degradable

• Jute requires minimal use of pesticides and fertilizers

• It has a natural silky, golden shine, garnering the nickname: “The

Golden Fiber.”

• It’s the cheapest vegetable fiber produced from the bast or skin of the

plant's stem.

• It is extremely durable and resistant to tearing

• It is often used for high quality industrial yarn, fabric, net, and sacks.

• Jute can be blended with other fibers, both synthetic and

natural, and can be easily dyed.

… And as many people are starting to notice, they’re also kind of … well — pretty.


Monroe-based craft artist Vivian Adams was so taken by the appearance the bags, which her daughter regularly used in her California coffee lab, that she felt the need to give them a new lease on life as artisan coffee aprons.


“When I saw the beautiful coffee bags that somebody took the time to create and design, I just wanted to do something with them,” Adams says.


“The artwork can still be appreciated, it can be repurposed, and people in the coffee of the industry are very appreciative of the work that went into them and the coffee — how it was grown, and everything that is involved with it.”


And, boy, is she right.


Vivian is one of a couple collaborators we work with at One World Roasters who helps us turn our jute sacks into useful and beautiful works of art that kitchen enthusiasts and baristas alike can use in their every day bustle.


They even have cellphone pockets and a secret lining that makes them totally comfortable and non-scratchy. 


Vivian admits though, it took a little work and some creativity to get the design just right. “It took me some time to come up with one that worked well,” she says.  I actually sent them to my daughter out in California for her to test them out in her coffee lab with all the people she works with and tell me how they felt and how they worked.”


Jute As Décor (and a new life calling)


The potential of jute material is hardly limited to aprons. Martha Cardellicio had a similar calling to the material, but its golden stands took the burlap enthusiast in the direction of eco-chic handbags and pillows instead.


“Burlap as a home décor item has been a big trend and I’m always looking for some kind of recycling,” says Cardellichio. “My friend had all of these burlap sacks and I thought, “wow, the graphics on these are phenomenal — lots of colors. She said, “pick whatever you want; I’m just gonna’ throw them out,” and I gag at that because it’s more things in a landfill!”


We met Martha for the first time at Green Expo in New Haven and were taken by her intense enthusiasm and contagious creativity. We shared some of her items in our booth and currently supply her, as well as Adams, with our world-traveling coffee sacks for their unique upcycle products.

“Certain materials speak to me and I can actually look at things and see in my head what I should create from them. Nothing is safe,” she declares.


As with a growing number of upcyclists, Martha didn’t only repurpose materials — she upcycled her career skills as well. As a person who held a number of roles in corporate customer service, sales, marketing, and business development, she in recent years hit what appeared at the time to be an unfortunate gap in employment — this is where everything changed. 

Rather than pursuing the same roles she had filled for years, Martha chose to take her talents and business skill to a new arena and founded her own upcycle company, Altered & REfab.


“Had I never been out of work supposedly, not being able to find a “real job,” I never would have known what I could do. All of that background has helped me in what I do as far as pricing, creating, selling, marketing [her products] etcetera. It sort of pushed and shoved me to what I’m doing today and it’s much more satisfying.


The Holidays and Mindful Gift-Giving 



Another reason we wanted to include both Martha and Vivian in our December blog, was that both of their upcycle crafts represent the exact kind of thinking we frankly need more of, especially around this time of year.


Holiday season is a treasured time for most of us, but from the angle of environmental impact, it’s also when we’re at our worst. According to Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The gift-wrapping — the packaging materials — food waste — and how about all of those red Starbucks cups?




While it’s reassuring that recycling participation in the United States is up significantly from where it stood 50 years ago (up to 34% from 6.2 according to Planet Aid), we’ve got a long way to go, especially relative to our peers in Europe, especially Austria and Germany that stand at nearly double that figure (63% and 62% percent respectively). On top of that, when late November rolls around, our awareness seems to drop off even more.


To combat the holiday garbage heap, our upcyclers recommend a few important changes to our habits:


• Lose the gift wrap! Nothing good ever comes of this stuff!


• Use old bags or various recyclable materials around you if you need wrapping


• If you order online, reuse the packing materials in the gifts you give others


• Shop at local small businesses


• Make meaningful gifts for friends and family out of things you currently have sitting around (i.e. do some upcycling!).


And on the coffee front:


• Ditch the red paper cups and bring your reusable mug to the coffee shop!


• Ruthlessly mock your family members who own Keurigs (and don’t use the reusable pods!)


• Give awesome upcycle gifts like those Vivian’s aprons and Martha’s bags and pillows to the coffee lovers in your life!


Interested in Upcycling? Just do it!


Ask any upcycler and about how to get started and they’ll probably tell you the same thing — just do it!


“Look around you — there are so many things can be repurposed — just be creative, Adams chimes. “I started with a lot of craft fairs and word of mouth in the coffee industry. If you have a passion, go for it.”


Martha takes a similar stance. “Just do it!,” she says. “The possibilities are endless! Visit a website and see — google whatever material you like and “recycled sweaters” and everything will come up. A lot people share their ideas and how to make them.”


Cardellichio who confesses to having a bit of a a love/hate relationship with Pinterest, highly recommends the platform for scouting new ideas. “I’ll get on and I’ll start looking and something will be posted and I’ll start looking here, and look at that, and look at that, and oh, hey that’s a great idea … and then next thing I know two hours have gone by.”

Additionally, Cardellichio recommends Etsy and Aftcra as other great places to start.


And that’s what upcycling is all about — there’s no wrong way to do — you just need to get started!


Want to purchase one of these awesome upcycle crafts? Visit Altered & REfab's Facebook page and order directly from Vivian Adams by email.

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967 North High St,
East Haven CT 06512

United States
Phone: 1.203.376.1589

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