5 Inspiring Upcycling Companies and 5 Takeaways

5 Inspiring Upcycling Companies and 5 Takeaways

Posted on Aug 3rd 2016

“Upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful.” 

Upcycling has to be one of our favorite trends. Obviously, creative reuse is often the MOST environmentally friendly strategy – even before recycling or composting. It also tugs at our heart strings a bit…creating beautiful products that celebrate and honor material that would have otherwise gone to waste. It’s the stuff of poetry!

We are fortunate to have some incredible companies in the EcoEnclose family who have taken upcycling to new heights – creating gorgeous products out of waste. Here are 5 that inspire us and 5 things you might learn from them!

Project Repat: The average American trashes 65 lbs of clothing per year. Crazy! Project Repat helps you turn those clothes otherwise destined for the dumpster into beautiful quilts laden with memories. They are also “repat-triating” textile jobs, with each of their blankets crafted by designers, cutters, and sewers earning a fair and living wage right here in the United States. And their quilts are backed with PolarTec fleece, made from recycled plastic bottles. Now we have something to do with all those cute onesies our sons grew out of after just two wears!

Recycled Firefighter: Tough, quality wallets, belts and bags made from fire hoses and Military Spec binding, webbing, and elastic. These products are durable, practical and fashionable and made in the USA. To top it off, a portion of each order is given to the burn care unit at the company’s local Kosair Children's hospital. And orders come with a customized email that tells the history of each product's valiant career. They have repurposed over 15,000 feet of decommissioned fire hose from around the U.S. and in doing so, have showcased the history of the hoses and the fire fighters who have used them. As much as we love these awesome products, we also loved reading about Jake’s journey from the grueling life of a full-time firefighter to the (also grueling at times) life of an entrepreneur.

RemaineWicked: Rain’s Etsy Shop is filled with eco-friendly products ranging from toys to apparel, all reincarnated from upcycled, repurposed or salvaged fabrics. There is virtually no waste from her products. When she takes apart an old article of clothing – such as an outdated jacket or a shrunken wool sweater, she uses those pieces thoughtfully - down to the last scraps which are either used as appliques or filler for pillows, stuffed animals or dog beds.

Just as importantly, her products are ingenious! Her toy pillows (one shown here) are absolutely amazing. And her clever, customized children’s books made with real fabrics are truly special - with each page providing a unique instructional lesson such as lacing or counting or memory games.

Eco Paws Pet Supply: An animal loving, environmentally conscious company headquartered right here in Colorado. Their online shop features leashes made from climbing rope, collars made from bike tubes, and dog toys made from old fire hose. Every product aims to reduce our carbon pawprint. They also partner with Humane Societies, donating boxes of toys and leashes, and provide monthly "Pet Starter Pack" giveaways to families adopting animals.

Natterdoodle: Hand lettered prints, greeting cards, maps, inspirational quotes that #sprinklepositivityconfetti! What started as an outlet for relaxation for Natalie became a business that brings whimsical, colorful, original pieces into your homes, offices and special moments. Some of her goods (including the map shown here!) utilize vintage, upcycled paper goods – showcasing these original prints with vibrant and funky water colored quotes.

While it’s not practical for all of us to upcycle for the products we make and sell, here are 5 things we took away from this inspiring group of companies:

Tell your customers about your journey. Reading about how these entrepreneurs got started, and their long and winding journeys in launching and growing their businesses was inspiring, at times heart wrenching, and ultimately pretty powerful motivation to make a purchase.

Share product stories. These products have poignant stories that are almost as important as the products themselves. Find fun ways to tell your customers about the products they are purchasing: What inspired their creation? How are they sourced and why? What do they represent? How were they designed?

You can do good and be successful.  In addition to being successful businesses, each of these companies has its own passion and mission whether it be protecting Mother Earth, creating jobs in specific communities, honoring and supporting America’s best, or raising money for a meaningful cause. These guys remind us that knowing and adhering to what matters can be good for business and good for your soul.

You can upcycle too – even if it’s not for your product!  Inspired by these customers, we at Eco have turned old pallets into a work table for our fulfillment team. Our equipment boxes become trash cans and storage bins; an unused sample kit has become the welcome sign at our front door; and we are now working on turning pallets into office furniture.

A hobby can become a great business.  Several of these entrepreneurs talk about how they started with a hobby, selling a few items to family and friends; and only then did they realize they had a potential income generating business.  As they grew, they have each worked hard to stay true to the vision that originally inspired them. Have an idea? Go ahead and make a few prototypes, shop them around to your friends and family and see what happens…you never know where it might lead you!


We are obsessed with our customers. If reading about just a handful of them isn’t enough, check out our Pinterest board, where we feature and categorize hundreds of the companies we have the privilege of serving.