Upcyclin’ the Student Life

Saturday, June 09, 2012

In lieu of Jon’s recent blog on turning wooden pallets into furniture, I decided to write my own blog on sustainable student living. Mostly because I have found myself since I started university to be very anti-Ikea. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure the Swedes have a lot of unique, mass produced, and cheap furniture to adorn your apartment with (you may sense some sarcasm and contradictions, I apologize Ikea lovers) but maybe I am just too crafty or cheap to commit to buying things. Thus, I have upcycled many a thing since I’ve moved to Ottawa.

My tips:

Find friends that are moving, or strangers, around the end of the month and pester them for shit they don’t feel like carrying to a new place, or scour the streets on the night before garbage day .This is how I have acquired the majority of my stuff; whether coming across it randomly when walking home or through friends that had no interest in packing it away and transporting it.

Once you have found some stuff, customize it! This can be fairly inexpensive depending on your ambition and creative talents. My personal favourite is just sanding items down and staining them a certain colour, or even just spray painting things. I picked up a disgusting pink IKEA desk (yes, coincidentally I have never purchased a thing at Ikea but seem to own a fair bit through FREEGAN means) and spray painted it black to match some of my other stuff (including a FREE black Ikea bookshelf). It does not take much time or effort and gives you a sense of accomplishment when finished.

Incorporate GREEN in your DIY projects. Most of your upcycling student furnishing are inherently green as you’re saving these items from the dump but you should also consider adding a bit of greenery here and there. I’m talking specifically to gardening at this time of the year. I recently manufactured a garden:


  • Twine (I had hemp laying around from bracelet making- typical enviro geek)
  • Cloth shoe/shelving for closets (got mine free from the Dump n Run)
  • If you can’t get your hands on some, try scouring the neighbourhood the night before garbage day because you could come across old suitcases, wrecked desk and drawers, some other device that would work for holding your soil
  • Soil (well, I got lucky because we had extra from Community Garden but you can always employ a friend, family member to join you in a bike expedition to a local soil salesperson)
*tadaaaa, insert plants and love here*

What, you don’t have the money for plants? Try starting your own—such as with green onions that can be restarted and replanted by simply placing them in water on a sill that gets adequate light and transported to soil once they have taken off.

Get creative! We hope to incorporate some DIY student living into our Permanent Free Store location and would appreciate your input on what we should do (need creative storage ideas).

~ Merissa - campus sustainability coordinator
photo credit - cutedecision.com

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