Email Upcycling and Other Ventures in Sustainable Digital Living

by Ken Mueller on January 17, 2014 · 2 comments

English: Recycle logo

After recycling came upcycling. Upcycling is the practice of taking something that many find useless and converting them into something of higher value. We have  lot of examples of this around here such as one woman who takes old Scrabble letter tiles or other game pieces, and turns them into jewelry. Others take old keys and other items and turn them into jewelry or wall hangings. It’s a great way of reusing things and creating new objects of art or usefulness.

As I was thinking about this, I started thinking about all the stuff we delete and trash in the digital world.

Take email, for starters. I probably get several hundred emails each day, 90% of which I delete without even opening them. They are either spam, or things I have subscribed to that I don’t have time to open, or messages that I can tell aren’t important to me based on the subject line.  But rather than just hit the delete button, isn’t there a better way? I get the feeling that there is a digital landfill somewhere that is rapidly running out of room. And believe me, some of these emails are probably toxic in nature. 

So rather than toss them away, I’ve decided to choose certain emails and upcycle them. I’ll forward them to some of my friends to show them that I care about them. I might even make them nicer and prettier by adding things to them. Like my friend Denis Gauthier. While he’s a musician by trade, he also happens to be an artist. He goes around to thrift shops, pops some tags, and purchases old cheesy paintings for a song. When he gets them home, he…uh…adds stuff to them to make them cooler and increase their value. You can see some of the finished products here, and while he won’t tell me actual numbers, I think he’s made millions selling them.



And if his musician thing falls through, he can always become the “painting things in old paintings guy.” (His words, not mine). Yeah, some Canadian musicians egg their neighbor’s (er…neighbour’s) houses, but Denis. He does something a bit more…constructive.

So I might just do something like that with emails. If you’re lucky, I might send you one. Or perhaps start an Upcycled Email-of-the-Month Club! Next month might be an artistically enhanced email from my Nigerian uncle…

But I think I can even make money off of some other digital sustainability initiatives. I’ve got some other business ideas I’m mulling over.

For instance, most of our entertainment choices have moved from the analog/physical realm to nothing but digital downloads. We buy MP3s for music, watch movies and television on Netflix or Hulu, and even download ebooks onto our Kindles and Nooks. Surely there has to be a way to capitalize on this. I mean we have used book and music stores, so I’m thinking of selling used MP3s and ebooks. When people are done with them, they can trade them in to me for credit, and then I’ll resell them. No reason a gently used digital download should go to waste!

And remember when we used to have to rewind cassettes and VHS tapes? There’s a lot of money to be made by opening up an MP3 and online video rewinding service. You know: Be Kind and Rewind. Nothing more annoying than going to Youtube to watch a video only to find that the person who watched before you never rewound it. Right??

Anyone want a good deal on some good quality, but inexpensive, real estate over on Xanga or Geocities? Oh, and I’ve got a few old Fantasy League digital trophies that I could probably convert into something fun.

Now if only I could figure out a good use for old Internet Explorer and Netscape browsers that are just taking up space in Grandma’s attic…




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