In this episode, Brandon talks to Dave Campbell. Dave answers our question, “What is upcycling?” Dave got into Upcycling at the worst possible time and got his business leased just weeks before Covid hit the globe in 2020. However, he still remains a success in the midst of all the issues in Trudeau’s Canada.
You can checkout and contact Dave at https://upcyclecanada.ca/
If you’ve been asking, “what is upcycling?” Dave lets you know! I hadn’t even heard of Upycling to ask what it is! Now I know though.
He also has his own podcast based on Upcycling. He has done this in a very similar matter to matty lansdown, how he made a podcast based on his business.
The Magic Trend of Upcycling: Dave Campbell of UpCycle Canada in Action
This post is based on an interview conducted with Dave Campbell on my podcast, “Let’s Go Brandon Green Podcast.” The full interview can be found on the podcast website here. In our 19-minute chat, we talked about:
- What is upcycling?
- What kinds of objects can you upcycle?
- What kinds of objects can you make from upcycled materials?
- How did Dave Campbell get started upcycling?
- What makes upcycled products special?
- How widespread and popular is upcycling?
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” the old saying goes. For Dave Campbell of Ontario, Canada, this saying is literal. The way a sculptor looks at a block of marble and sees the sculpture waiting inside, Dave looks at garbage, on the threshold of being dumped in a landfill and forgotten, and sees nothing but potential.
Dave and his wife Jennifer have been turning trash into treasure, a process known as upcycling, for the past 8 years. “Upcycling is like recycling, but not just plastic for plastic, wood for wood. We’re taking something that was one thing and making a completely different thing out of it,” Dave explains. He rattles off a huge list of examples: 120-year-old scrap wood turned into moose-shaped signs, an organ passed down through a family for years turned into sentimental mementos and keepsakes, benches, and tables made from broken hockey sticks and cupboard doors, and more. The Campbells’ upcycling business has been so successful in the years since they began that they were able to open a storefront named UpCycle Canada in 2020, where their work is now done and their wares are sold.
In many ways, the origin of UpCycle Canada is itself a story of something beautiful coming out of a situation no one wants. In 2014, Dave and Jennifer were working 3 part-time jobs each already, but they found that 6 jobs still were not enough to cover their children’s dental work. Dave needed more money, but he found that he had no time left in his schedule to take on a 4th job, so he set out to start a new project on his own. “With no money, and no ability to buy materials, we thought the next best option was to recycle and find used materials and repurpose them,” Dave says. Born out of necessity, this side hustle snowballed through word of mouth from friends and family into what it is today.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The UpCycle Canada storefront was opened just 4 weeks before the coronavirus pandemic began. “Great timing, right?” Dave quips. “The store’s been open for two years, and out of that, six months each year we were closed because of the pandemic here in Canada.” To make matters worse, even with a closed store the Campbells still have to pay the lease on the storefront, so they each work a full-time night job and then work at the store during the day when it’s open, with just a couple hours of sleep to get them through the day. Still, Dave is hopeful. “Once we can be open for 12 calendar months at a time… we hopefully will be ready for me to leave my nighttime job and just stay on the store and make that go.”
The Campbells’ passion is apparent not just in the blood, sweat, and tears they have put into this work, but the care with which they talk about it. When asked what his favorite object to work with and repurpose is, Dave says, “We like anything with a story. That’s really what we do. All the products in our store had a life before they came to us…. So we’re able to take those items with a story and a past. And it’s not something you can buy at a big box store. It’s not brand new lumber, brand new materials, so it does have some meaning to it.” He speaks with pride about the mayor performing the ribbon-cutting for the store, about his creations making their way to distant countries from Scotland to Australia, about giving other upcycling vendors a place to sell their products.
But perhaps the most touching story Dave tells is that of a mother in Canada who bought her pro hockey player son some hockey gear they had made for the holidays. “He plays professional hockey in America, and he makes a lot of money, but he unwrapped something that I made this Christmas season, which is amazing,” Dave beams. It’s no wonder that Dave and Jennifer see so much more than landfill fodder when looking at these objects. For parents who worked 7 jobs to afford their children’s dental work, the ability to take something in a state of disrepair and turn it into something new for a family to share is everything. Take a page out of the Campbells’ book and think twice before throwing something away next time. Instead, visit https://www.upcyclecanada.ca to get in touch with UpCycle Canada and find a wealth of resources including classes, podcasts, and blogs about the upcycling world and community. Get started turning your own trash into treasure today!
Upcycle Canada turns waste and a potential landfill into cool new stuff, like furniture that can be reused and loved all over again!