International Upcycling: Carolina in Costa Rica


A good friend from Haiti visited Kansas City last summer and while I was talking with him about transitioning my third world perspective to first world living, he told me of a Costa Rican friend who upcycles plastic bottles into flower accessories. Of course, I was intrigued (another country? upcycling? two of my favorite topics!), so I got the whole story recently to share with you. 

Here's the scoop: Carolina Leon Castro is a Costa Rican who studied pharmacy, and makes upcycled accessories from plastic bottles. How does she do it? After retrieving an old plastic bottle (the bumpy bottom kind), she cuts off the base, forms "petals" in the plastic and then melts it into shape with a candle. Then she paints it, glues on the details/hardware and voilà! Something pretty - from trash, no less.

She sold some of these "upcycled" jewelry treasures that she made in order to go on a medical mission trip to Haiti with some other Latino doctors and my friend, Brendan, in August 2010. She's featured them in some art shows, was interviewed on a local television show and helped teach a little workshop to some kids in the barrio where Brendan lives. Here are a couple of photos from a workshop.

Brendan also told me that Costa Rica, incidentally, has a "culture" of "upcycling"/recycling stuff you throw away to do neat little crafts and home-made solutions. It's a very common practice, and kids learn to do it early on in school. It's about being resourcefulness and caring for their environment, because they're very proud of their country's natural beauty. To not be environmentally conscious in Costa Rica would be equivalent to being careless and wasteful with your money in the States.

story and photos courtesy of Brendan Blowers (San José, Costa Rica) and Carolina's facebook page

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