Reduce Reuse Upcycle

Environmental friendliness is a big issue today. With all the talk about the earth slowly but surely getting to a point of no repair or return we need to start making better decisions. With Reduce, reuse and upcycle we wanted to challenge ourselves and to report on our experiences so we might be able to inspire others. Our goals right now are trying out a zero-waste lifestyle, giving away old clothing instead of throwing it away and upcycling trash by making jewellery out of it.

Environmental friendliness = Umweltfreundlichkeit
Reduce, reuse and upcycle = Reduzieren, wiederverwenden und verwerten
Zero-waste lifestyle = Abfallfreier Lebensstil

Facts about Trash

Every year Switzerland produces 80 to 90 million tons of trash, that’s around 700 kg per Person. Only 53% of that trash gets recycled. The only countries where more trash is produced per person are the USA and Denmark. While Switzerland is quite responsible with getting rid of trash, we do overconsume unrenewable materials. It takes approximately 450 years for a plastic bottle, 600 years for fishing nets, 200 years for straws and 10 to 20 years for plastic bags to degrade, causing landfills full of plastic an ocean full of microplastics. Scientists have only recently discovered, that microplastic can now be found in the human body, which is very problematic. Many more reasons to try reducing your consumption. Preferably with the 3 R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle.

overconsume = überkonsumieren
degrade = abbauen

Abfall und Rohstoffe: Das Wichtigste in Kürze [1]
Wie die Schweiz mit Abfall umgeht [2]
An unserem Plastik werden selbst noch unsere Ur-Ur-Ur-Ur-Ur-Enkel «Freude» haben [3]
Längst überall: Das Plastik in uns [4]


In the beginning we had difficulties to find a collaboration peration partner. We even tried to contact Greta Thunberg, but unfortunately we didn’t get a response. Later, we thought about collaborating with a zero-waste influencer, but we couldn’t get in touch with any of them. Our last resort was to ask a family from abroad. We considered collaborating with Yara’s cousin from Poland, but she was still too young. Finally, Julie asked some of her relatives, and fortunately her cousin Babette decided to join us.
Babette is an elementary school teacher from the Netherlands. She is also a mother of two and enjoys sewing in her spare time.
We went from feeling very defeated to being excited about our project really quick. After a few emails back and forth, we were able to inform Babette about our project and we could finally start with the collaboration part. Here is a picture of her!

Here you can see a picture of our collaboration partner who accompanied us on our project.
Our collaboration Partner, Babette, from the Netherlands [a]



To begin, let’s explain the term “zero-waste. Zero-waste means to live in such a way that no waste is produced. It must be clear that zero-waste does not exist, it is rather a utopia that aims to avoid as much waste as possible.

So from Monday the 14th to Sunday the 20th of February 2022 we will live zero-waste. For this we have been preparing through research, YouTube videos and blogs. Our collaboration partner, Babette, will be participating in this self-experiment.


We want to inspire people to start reusing, reducing and upcycling.We humans are obsessed with consuming and buying things. This pattern is very harmful to everyone. We are ruining our planet with our materialism.We will live a zero-waste lifestyle with the goal of being able to share our views and experiences with people.

consuming = konsumieren
harmful = schädlich

Report from Julie

I’ve always been interested in alternative lifestyles like veganism and such, so I was really looking forward to zero-waste week. Over the weekend leading up to the start of our main project, here’s how I prepared; I got all my Tupperwares ready, picked out my recipes, and I went over the key points in my head. Such as shopping thoughtfully, bringing meals from home, and buying things packaged with recyclable material.

On Sunday night, I cooked my lunch for Monday and Tuesday. I prepared the rest of the meals the night before each day.

Report from Yara

Back when I was younger, I had an obsession with no-waste Youtubers. I started eating vegetarian, actively paying attention to where my food was coming from and what exactly was behind it. Especially in terms of animal suffering and environmental friendliness. Now it’s time to take the next step; produce less waste! As for myself, I’ve always wanted to try a no-waste lifestyle. In the past, I have also tried no-waste cosmetics, such as an unpackaged shampoo from the brand Lush. So I was really looking forward to our self-experiment.

After Julie and I committed the necessary research about it, we knew it was going to be a bigger change. Every lunchtime, you quickly go to the Coop and buy a salad, a drink, and disposable cutlery. All of this, of course, wrapped in plastic. Now we will have to take all our food and cutlery with us.

disposable cutlery = Einwegbesteck

Report from Babette

As a teacher, I always try to be a good example for my students in many different ways. I also like to show the children how important it is to take care of the environment, as it is our home and keeps us alive. When Julie asked me to join this project, I was hesitant at first, but the thought of my students inspired me. Finally, I agreed to participate in the one no-waste week but to skip the clothes swap and jewelry making from trash. This is because I just don’t have enough time with two small children at home.


If you want to change your life in this direction, you should inform yourself about the alternatives and which ones you can use in your city without any problems. It does not need much equipment. A few cans, bags and vials are enough.
We noticed that we ate healthier than usual because of the zero-waste products on offer.

The whole thing suddenly went easier than expected. Especially with the ulterior motive “It’s only for this week”. Of course, this is the wrong approach, but it happens unconsciously in the mind. Therefore, we will continue to deal with the topic in the future and hopefully find suitable alternatives.

Our final waste analysis shows: We have indeed reduced our waste considerably!

How to Start Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle [5]


We don’t actually wear around 60 percent of the clothes in our closet anymore.
The solution: simply swap the clothes. After all, it would be a shame to throw away sweaters, jeans, bags or shoes just because we no longer like them or they no longer fit.
A pleasant side effect of this is that the closet becomes emptier and something new can come in that we really like. And if we don’t like it anymore, the whole thing goes back into the cycle. Maybe someone else will like it again.

So our plan is to rummage through our closet for old, but still usable clothes. We want to gifts those finds to each other, so we can reuse something that would otherwise be thrown away. Here is a picture of the clothes we gave each other:

These are the clothes that Yara gave to Julie for our clothing-swap part of the project.
Yara’s clothes to Julie [b]
These are the clothes that Julie gave to Yara for our clothing swap part of the project.
Julies’s clothes to Yara [c]




Another option is to donate the old clothes to thrift stores or even to proletarian countries.
Some organizations to which one can turn for such a donation would be:

Clothing-Swap = Kleidertausch
cycle = Zyklus

donate = spenden

Making jewellery out of trash

The upcycling part of our project is making jewellery out of trash and old jewellery that would have gone in the bin as well as ashtrays out of beer cans. To end this full circle, we are repurposing something old and making it new. I personally always loved making jewellery as a child and now as a young adult I like expressing myself through eccentric accessoires.

We were brainstorming, what jewellery to make and out of what we were going to make it. We got very tired from brainstorming and therefor drank a Redbull. And then the perfect idea hit us. We were going to make Earrings out of Redbull-can-lids.

The process was very easy. You just make a hole into the can-lid, and attach it to an old earring with some pliers. Simple process with a very stylish outcome.

We made earrings out of these Redbull can-lids for our upcycling part of the project.
Earrings out of Redbull-can-lids [d]
Many of our friends loved the idea so we ended up selling some earrings to them. We wanted to donate the proceeds to charity. We ended up making 18 Swiss francs. Not much, but earned through honest work.

Lastly we wanted to make ashtrays out of beer cans. We saw a tutorial on how to do it on the internet and we were mesmerized. The end result came out really nicely in our opinion.

We made ashtrays out of these beer cans for our upcycling part of the project.
Ashtrays out of beercans [e]
Source: Make A Beer Can Ashtray Using Only Scissors (And A Beer Can) ( [6]

Reflection – Self-experiment

We realised very quickly that we had to change and reduce a lot in this one week. For example, in order to get unpacked goods, we first had to find out where to get them.

After some research, we got to know the organic supermarket, Unverpackt Zürioberland ( in Uster, with its unpacked assortment.

Here is a picture from inside the shop:

For our self-experiment of living zero-waste for a week, we went to the "Unverpackt Zürioberland" shop to buy our unpackaged food.
Bring your own packaging or buy it in the shop and reuse it.
So, we bought some carbohydrate-rich foods there, like couscous, rice and bulgur there, and took the goods with us in our preserving jars.We bought vegetables and fruits in “normal shops” like Migros and Coop, only we packed the things in reusable bags. We cooked a meal from these goods on the previous evenings so that we could eat it the next day.

We also only bought what was necessary. That means clothes, cosmetics or jewellery that we really considered necessary.

The zero-waste lifestyle helped us to become more mindful and to focus on things that are really important. Or in other words, we first had to find out what was really important to us. We recommend everyone to do this self-experiment because it really opens your eyes.

carbohydrate-rich foods = kohlenhydrathaltige Lebensmittel
preserving jars = Einweckgläser

Reflection – Jewellery production

In the beginning it was difficult to come up with an idea to make jewellery out of trash. We had to find something out of trash that looked hip and cool. As you can imagine, this is not the easiest task.

We are very proud of our upcycling project and have received many compliments on it.

We have learned that you can really create anything, even trash, into something new. We even see potential in our trash now!

Reflection – Clothing Swap

When this idea first came to our minds, we weren’t entirely sold on it. We suspected that we wouldn’t find anything in each other’s wardrobes that really convinced us.

Nevertheless, we rummaged through each other’s wardrobes and actually found some things we liked. We didn’t expect to be successful, as we have very different tastes in clothes.

In retrospect, we are very glad we did it because it turned to be a positive outcome.

It would be great if we could organise a bigger clothes swap in the future, with more people. This way we can introduce other people to a new way to get rid of old clothes and swap even more clothes!


Abfall und Rohstoffe: Das Wichtigste in Kürze [1]
Wie die Schweiz mit Abfall umgeht [2]
An unserem Plastik werden selbst noch unsere Ur-Ur-Ur-Ur-Ur-Enkel «Freude» haben [3]
Längst überall: Das Plastik in uns [4]
How to Start Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle [5]
Make A Beer Can Ashtray Using Only Scissors (And A Beer Can) [6]

Reviewed by

Femmeke de Ruijter
Daniela Zimmermann

Project Partners

Julie de Ruijter (Switzerland)
Yara Nova Zimmermann (Switzerland)
Babette H. (Netherlands)


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☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

One thought on “Reduce Reuse Upcycle

  1. I think packaging is one of the bigger problems with pollution. Especially the everyday “side waste” which is so big! I try to reduce, reuse or repair the things. Nice varied article, gave me some ideas! Like the pic!

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