Upcycling is a creative business practice with the power to literally transform our material world.  Adam Wegener and Scott Hamlin are the creators of two young businesses which are applying upcycling principles to innovate the very way they approach product innovation. Adam is out to inspire a generation of future upcyclers, while Scott is out to change the way the apparel supply chain is materially sourced. The “waste” materials they are upcycling are perfectly sound, ready to be used/reused, and carrying forward their sunken costs including their natural resources and the overall carbon footprint involved in their production. 

Businesses based on upcycling principles begin with the question: “What can we design with the materials that already exist?”  The “up” materials chosen for upcycling become the canvas and paint for the creative process.  The creative constraints are a “given”, and the properties inherent to the upcycled objects and materials are inherited -- ready to serve again in the context of a new product life.   

Adam’s product line at TrashAmps focuses on linking music with trash.  His objective is to reveal upcycling as cool while presenting an accessible example to young consumers and future upcyclers.  Beverage cans are the trash of choice here. Interestingly, their reuse creates an implicit branding partnership with beverage-makers, while taking advantage of an existing widespread infrastructure created to hold cans.  There is more than a sleeve of aluminum being reused here!

Meanwhile, Scott ‘s product line at LooptWorks focuses on designing new sportswear products exclusively from pre-consumer waste --which he aptly reframes as “excess materials”, having calculated that pre-consumer waste amasses in the apparel business at 70x that of post-consumer waste.   Their process designs, manufactures and distributes limited runs of both classic and freshly original designs, delivering boutique sportswear at non-boutique prices!  
The results of both new businesses are stylish and beautiful – nothing boring here!  I quickly found my daughter’s April birthday gift (modeled by her here) in LooptWorks’ delightful and frequently-changing catalog.  And who could help but smile to find the portable speakers in your backpack skinned in this week’s favorite beverage package?

Does upcycling matter?   Only more than we ever thought.  So be inspired by these young entrepreneurs who are innovatively embracing the creative constraints before us. 

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Sue Lebeck 

  Cool Block Platform Director

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