Some Amazing DIY Pallet Projects

If ever there was the perfect ingredient for upcycling it would have to be the ubiquitous wooden pallet. I make a habit of counting how many I see ditched kerbside on my morning walks and it boggles my mind to think that they are considered junk. Pallets are the perfect material to create rustic, quirky and bespoke furniture. Here are a few of my absolute favourite uses of pallets in the home.

Shabby Chic Shelving System

From Design Sponge

I am a massive fan of clutter. My husband is not. Solution? Shelving units: little contained spaces of magical clutter. This is why I squealed with joy when I saw this amazing shelf, a fabulous creation by New Zealand sensation Claire Terry AKA Madame Fancy Pants. For the entire DIY tutorial see here – I might finally be able to start working through the stock pile of pallets that I have in the shed!

Pallet Daybed for a nursery

From Ashley Ann Photography Blog

This awesome design not only uses pallets but also includes an old and beautifully worn door – hinges included! By creating a mish-mash of textures (the crocheted blanket, ornate photo frames, and the amazing collection of lanterns) it celebrates what is best about this old rickety piece of ‘trash’ – its coarseness. That is one of my favourite aspects of the upcycling movement – celebrating imperfection! This is a really simple DIY project that you can find here care of one of my favourite Phoblographers (yes I made that up) Under the Sycamore.

Pallet Bed with built in storage

From Organic Authority

Have you ever seen a more relaxing room? I love that it is minimalist but still absolutely reaks of character – especially with the trellis above the bed. Mental note, check! The great thing about pallets – and probably why they are starting to explode in the world of upcycling – is that they are really sturdy. Perfect for the base of a bed and with the added benefit perfectly sized storage slots for shoes and books. While I couldn’t find the link to make this exact version a similar version can be found here at the Flaxseed and Soynuts blog along with some other inspirational ideas for all things recycled.

Cheapest Bed Head Ever!

From Green Home Design Source

While we are talking all things bed, why not tack on an old pallet as a bed head. All you need to do is bolt two pallets together and then attach them to the base of your bed. I am going to give it a go and stencil on some inspiring, happy words onto it like this..

Image by Adorning Alabama.blogspot.com.au

Kitchen Island

From Homedit.com

In my dream house I will have this kitchen bench – but maybe in a lighter colour. This DIY requires a minimum of three pallets, a few tools and some paint. I could not find instructions on how to make this but luckily it is a very simple structure that would be easy enough to replicate with a bit of guess work. I like the industrial look and think it brings a bit of warmth into a modern kitchen.

Pallet Art

From Twiddlerhouse.blogspot.com.au

If you are already sorted for all your furniture needs you could even make a simple, gorgeous art piece from the wood of the pallets. You’ll need to get your Destructo hat on and remove the boards from the pallet and reposition them to how you like. I would saw them to be different lengths and create a bit of interest but I have seen some beautifully effective square pieces. They can be as colourful and as natural as you choose and create a truly individual piece that will be sure to get many comments from visitors. This is perfect for me as a renter, because I can actually stand the pallet up rather than drilling it into the wall. Here is an amazing DIY tutorial that I will be using on the weekend.

Proof that one man’s trash is another’s treasure! 

Tackling The Plastic Bag Problem Around The World

The Bangladesh Jute industry has bounced back due to the plastic bag ban – Image from http://www.hello.news352.lu

A wise man once said “with great power comes great responsibility”. I believe that man was Spiderman? Never mind – the point is that thought-provoking little hybrid got me thinking about Australia. We really are ‘the lucky country’ sitting pretty on the comparative global scale. Sure, we complain about drought but last year more than 29,000 children under age 5 died in 90 days in southern Somalia. We complain about ignorant politicians but despite my loathing of his attitudes (and taste in swimwear) I still prefer Abbott to the likes of Gaddafi, Mugabe or al-Assad. We complain about the rising price of groceries while 75,000 people die every day from starvation. We are unbelievably privileged.

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’

Donald Horne, The Lucky County, 1964

This fortunate position should inspire Australia to become leaders in technologies, ideas and attitudes that will help the planet, yet sadly we are lagging behind. A prime example is the great plastic bag debate. Why are we not employing a bit of forethought and banning plastic bags like many countries (developed and developing) around the world are? South Australia and now the Australian Capital Territory have led the charge but we need to do more. Clean Up Australia says that Australians use in excess of 6 billion plastic bags per year. It isn’t good enough.

Maybe we can take some inspiration from other countries around the world that are reducing (or have already significantly reduced) their plastic appetite…

Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Jute industry has bounced back due to the plastic bag ban – Image from http://www.hello.news352.lu

As I explained in my post about the effects of plastic, in 1988 and 1998 plastic bags were determined the main cause of devastating floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. In 2002 Bangladesh was the first large country to impose an outright ban of the use of polyethylene bags. Not only was there a significant reduction in plastic pollution but it also revived sustainable industries which have biodegradable alternatives such as the Jute Bag industry.

Italy

Italy used to be responsible for 25% of all the plastic bags in Europe which equates to roughly 25 billion a year.  As of January 1st 2011 single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags were outlawed. Retailers – predictably – warned of pandemonium at the checkouts but evidently people have survived. Maybe the customers were smarter than the retailers thought and noticed those wonderful appendages at the end of their arms that can be used for carrying things?

South Africa

SA really came to the table! Not only did they ban the use of thin plastic bags in 2003  but also imposed a 100,000 rand ($12020AUD) fine and a 10-year jail sentence for any retailers caught handing out bags! This has encouraged shoppers to either take their own sustainable carry bags or invest in plastic bags that can be used more than once.

More information can be found at the BBC South Africa bans plastic bags.

Ireland

This is my favourite example of plastic bag reduction because (to me) it absolutely typifies the flippant Western attitude towards plastic bags. In May 2002 Ireland placed a 15 euro-cent (25cAUD) levy on supermarket checkout bags. Within 3 months Ireland had cut its plastic usage by 90%. There was a 95% decrease in plastic bag litter. This model has been so successful that the Department of Environment (Department of The Environment, Ireland ) have since increased the levy to 22euro-cents. The health of the planets oceans, animals, people and atmosphere proved to be worth less than 15cents. I guess the ends justify the means?

China

More than 1.3billion people live in China. If they had not recognised the danger of plastic the results would be catastrophic.  It has been estimated that 37 million barrels of crude oil are used to produce China’s annual supply of plastic bags – 3 billion every year! In June 2008 (before the Olympics) the Chinese State Council put a nationwide ban on plastic bags. It prohibited all shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from handing out free plastic bags and banned the production, sale, and use of ultra-thin plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick.  Since the ban China has reduced its bag consumption by half which saves 1.6million ton of oil! Looks like the red is greener than the green and gold! ()

India

Similar to Bangladesh, India also had severe flooding and landslides due to plastic bags blocking drain systems during monsoon season. Many cows also died after mistakenly ingesting the plastic bags. A ban was imposed banning the manufacture, sale and use of all plastic bags.

New Zealand

Our Kiwi kinsman used to have an impressive appetite for plastic consuming 1 billion bags per year. A five-year initiative (the New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004 – 2009) was introduced to attempt to reduce plastic bag usage by a fifth. While they still have a way to go AC Nielsen data shows that consumers are now taking on average 5.8 bags down from twelve months earlier (6.5 bags). It sounds measly but actually equates to 100million less bags!

Europe

Similar to some companies in Australia (Officeworks for one) a select few countries throughout Europe have decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting for government legislation to force their hands, most retailers in Germany, Switzerland and Denmark charge for plastic bags at the check-out.

Kenya

The late, great Professor Wangari Mathaai – Image from http://www.elleafriquemagazine.wordpress.com

Last year Kenya (and indeed the world) lost an amazing woman – Professor Wangari Mathaai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Before she died Mathaai had spoken out about the effect that plastic bags were having, not only in Kenya but all across Africa. Discarded plastic bags were filling up with rainwater and were becoming perfect little pools for mosquitos to breed in which caused a dramatic rise in vector-borne diseases such as malaria. In early 2005 the Kenyan government (with the help of UNEP and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis) imposed a ban on thin plastic bags as well as placing a levy on the heavier varieties. Any money raised is put towards recycling schemes.

San Francisco

In 2007 San Francisco became the first state in the USA to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. Biodegradable bags made from materials such as paper or corn by-prodcuts are allowed. Just two years after the ban was imposed San Fran saw a reduction of 18%.

USA

Around the US many towns, cities and sometimes entire states are taking note of the dangers of prolific plastic bag use. In January 2010 bans were placed in the following counties – Brownsville, Texas and Kauai (Hawaii). While a complete ban was overthrown in Californies various Cali cities agreed to it (Malibu, Fairfax and Palo Alto). Other notable cities were Bethel (Alaska), Edmonds (Washington) and Westport (Connecticut). Slowly, slowly America is starting to act on their 100billion bag a year habit.

Last and… well, probably least… Australia!

South Australia – as always – are leading the plastic free charge. In 2009 a ban was placed on all lightweight shopping bags. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at UniSA has reported that before the ban six in ten shoppers would take their own reusable bags to the shops, which has now risen to nine in ten! What a fantastic success. The Northern Territory and the ACT are now also taking steps to reduce their consumption. The ACT are trialed a four-month transitional ban (July – November 2011) and is now in full effect after getting a great result from an environmental perspective as well as from consumer attitudes.

The is more information about the South Australian plastic bag ban here.

What are we waiting for?

The above list is just a small selection of forward thinking countries that are fighting the war on plastic. Honourable mentions go to Bhutan, Cameroon, Eritrea, Brazil, Canada, France, Holland and Nepal. We really have no excuse not to act. Beyond that it is our responsibility  to act.

If the government fails to act then there are always steps that you can take, at an individual level or within your community, to make a difference. Tomorrow I will upload my post on reducing plastic in your life. If you want to learn more about the issues, here are some fantastic resources;