Four Recycling Business Ideas For The Creative Eco-Entrepreneur

by mbryce2012 on October 18, 2012

If you  are one of the many talented, energetic people looking for a way to make ends meet in this tricky economy, you might find your niche in one of these simple recycling business ideas.

Idea #1:  Sew It to Grow It

Thrifts shops, garage sales, and trash barrels are rife with old clothing.  If you have a sewing machine and an imagination, you can transform jeans with holes in the knees or button up shirts with eclectic patterns to skirts, purses, and even diaper bags.

Start with your own “donate” pile.  Pull out jeans, corduroys, button-up shirts, skirts, slacks, and even tightly woven sweaters that have some reusable parts left in them.  When you’ve run down your  own pile, send out an email or message to your family and friends offering to buy their old clothes for a nominal price (like $1 a pair of jeans, or 50 cents a shirt).

When they run out of fabric, that means your business is doing great… and you can head to the thrift shops and garage sales for cheap supplies!

Decide what you want to make.  Skirts with Jean tops and fluffy patterned bottoms, denim handbags, quilts, or even patchwork Christmas stockings.  The possibilities are endless!  Find a pattern online, or create one of your own.  Start sewing!


Idea #2:  Crafty Corners

If you are a crafter, you’ve opened up a world of recycled business opportunities.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Turn broken ceramics into tile mosaic artwork, table tops, counter tops, bird baths, and more.  Collect your old, colorful, use-able plates, mugs, bowls, cups and pitchers at yard sales and thrift shops.  You can find mosaic instructions on line, or pick up a book at your local craft store for more information.
  • Re-style old lamp shades by adding flare with odd buttons, ribbon, faux fur, pins, broken jewelry, even pieces of stuffed animal for a fun kids lamp!  Collect a big basket of materials, some old stained or torn lamp shades, and a hot glue gun.  You’ll have your boutique running in no time.
  • Turn baby socks into coin purses by simply attaching a clasp or zipper.  Or, fill them with foraged and dried organic catnip, sew them up and sell them as cat toys.
Idea #3:  Strip and Stain
Old furniture can turn into incredible show pieces with a little elbow grease.  Try picking up battered trunks, tables, buffets and dressers at estate sales or even on the side of the road on trash day.  Make sure they are structurally sound, and maybe even have a unique aspect to them (like the chest of drawers below).
If you plan on re-staining wood pieces ( with an eco-friendly product, of course), you’ll have to strip the existing stain and finish down to the bare wood… so stock up on the sandpaper!  If you’re painting over existing paint, you’ll just need to scour what’s there until all rough spots are worn out and you have a scuffed up surface that the new paint will stick to.
You can paint these decoratively if you have an artistic flair, or sell them as refinished furniture.  An alternate idea is to start a refinishing business, where customers bring the piece to you and you are paid for your time.
Idea #4:  Hand-Made Paper
Old paper is easy to come by, and can be turned into beautiful cards and stationary with just a few simple tools.  Check out the following video by Paper Alice for complete instructions.

Once you’ve collected a small stock of products, you can start to sell.  But where?

If you like face-to-face local commerce, check out your area’s farmer’s markets and craft fairs.  You may have to comply with some rules (sometimes including insurance riders), so make sure you check out all that information before getting your booth up and running.

There are several avenues to sell online.

  • eBay is a site where you can post products and customers bid on them.  This site covers a wide range of items from cars to tutus, so your crafting might get a little lost in the shuffle.
  • Etsy is a specialized site for hand made arts and crafts.  Simply set up a “shop” and start selling.  It really is quite simple, and many people are successful selling their products here.
  • ArtFire is another great independent online marketplace for artists and crafters.  A bonus to this one is that you can link products to your Amazon wish list.

So what are you waiting for?  Get up, get your materials, and get that eco-friendly recycled-product business started!

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