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Upcycling ideas

Progressive Dairy Editor Emma Ohirko Published on 03 September 2021

There are a lot of buzzwords floating around concerning various environmental and sustainability issues, some useful and some confusing, but one term I have taken quite a liking to is “upcycling.”

The term upcycling was first coined in 1994 when it appeared in an article detailing the differences between upcycling and downcycling (also known as recycling). According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, to upcycle something means to “treat an item that has already been used in such a way that you make something of greater quality or value than the original item.”



Upcycling is often used to describe clothes that have been made from scrap or unconventional materials. Another example of upcycling takes food ingredients that would typically be discarded and processes them into palatable, marketable products.

I hopped on the upcycling bandwagon a few months ago when I purchased a handmade top sewn from used soccer scarves from England. Shortly after, I went through some old family jewelry and pulled together pieces from both my mum and dad’s sides of the family to create a very special necklace I wear daily – and which is much more valuable to me than any of the pieces were individually.

Beyond repurposing and giving new life to material things, I also think ideas can be upcycled. I think sometimes a solution to one’s problem may already be present in the form of current or former practices, but small tweaks and adaptations are needed to apply the concept to its full potential under new conditions.

I had the privilege of visiting Lone Pine Jerseys, a farm owned and operated by the Haeni family, who emigrated from Switzerland in the early ’90s. The farm uses rotational grazing, putting most of their herd out on pasture throughout the summer. The Haenis say they value the opportunity to let their cows out on pasture because of the health and cost benefits they believe it provides – but also because setting animals to graze on vast pastureland is a concept owner Adrian Haeni grew up around.

Although the farm says they do not have the land base or growing season to allow their lactating cows to be out grazing all day, they prioritize time each day for the lactating herd to graze. The farm says the rotational grazing they practice works well within the sustainability goals of their operation, which include maintaining as close to a closed circular farm economy as possible. Factors like their herd and land size facilitate the generation and use of resources between both the dairy and land management aspects of their operation. Rotational grazing is one tool that allows them to keep the “full spectrum” of their farm’s supply chain in mind.


Applying a common farm management technique to their own operation is not revolutionary, but the Haenis have found success tailoring the traditional practices they imported to Canada to their more recent goal of keeping their operation sustainable as the next generation joins the family business. Read more about their story on page 29.

If you’re curious about upcycling, the next time you think an object or idea is worn out and unusable, consider how you might transform it into something that better suits you. Beyond its potential to save money and resources, upcycling can be highly rewarding.  end mark