There’s a fine line between being crafty and hoarding junk; that line is called upcycling.

The process of upcycling focuses on the “reuse” aspect of the three Rs – with an interesting twist. The online Oxford English Dictionary generally defines upcycle as, “to repurpose, renovate, or improve (an old or unwanted item) to make something more attractive, valuable, etc.”

Upcycling can be very useful for college students on a budget who are trying to be greener. Here are five ideas, courtesy of the Internet, about how to use cheap tools to upcycle materials that a typical college student would otherwise throw out.



Any student past his or her second semester has an unwanted textbook not really worth trying to sell back to the bookstore. Instead of throwing it out, turn it into a secret book safe. It will fit right in with all the other outrageously priced and underused textbooks in your room, so no one will guess it’s there.

Materials Needed:

  • A hardback book
  • A box Cutter
  • A cheap paintbrush
  • Puzzle glue

This tutorial from The Art of Manliness shows you how to glue the pages together, cut the storage compartment into the middle, and hide your secret safe from wandering eyes with trickery.

2. No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag

With the weather finally warming up, it’s just about time for students to start transitioning to their spring and summer wardrobes. Instead of going out to buy a new tote bag to match, why not make one from an old T-Shirt? Totes can function as a variety of things: purses, reusable shopping bags, bags for taking clothes to the gym, etc.

Materials Needed:

  • An old T-shirt
  • Sharp scissors
  • Washable marker (optional)