ecology & sustainability

Total global waste production is more then devastating. Some of it is recycled but tons of it is thoughtless disposed, causing huge problems for the environment. Most people consider that the current approach is known as the “3R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle“.
Recycling is a process by which waste materials are changed to create new products. There are two kinds of Recycling: Downcycling and Upcycling. Downcycling involves breaking down the product into its constituent components and made into something new, but loses some of its original quality in the process and is often made into a product of lesser quality. It applies to many everyday products. When plastic bottles are collected for recycling, they are frequently downcycled into lower quality products such as doormats, toys or winter fleeces, things that will eventually also become trash. Recycled writing paper often ends up as lower quality card board. When paper is recycled and reprocessed, it loses some of its original quality. High-quality paper can normally be recycled about seven times before the fibres in the paper pulp become too short to use again, rendering it useless.
Those processes are good start but less bad for the traditional linear Take-Make-Waste system because they only postpone the moment where the Natural Resources of our Planet will be exhausted. In this sense, we are only minimizing damage but we not prevent it.
A true long-term solution for the global garbage disposal is the Cradle to Cradle® concept where product materials are in continuous cycle (Upcycling) which requires rethinking and different design approach.

Upcycling drives up materials back up the supply chain to be reused, negating the need for further virgin stock and reducing waste. In the case of plastic, this means less oil wells drilled, for metals – less mountains mined, for paper – less trees felled. All around this means less expended energy.

The term Upcycling began to gain traction in the mid 90s by Gunter Pauli. The concept was later incorporated by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book Cradle to Cradle : Remaking the Way We Make Things.
Cradle to Cradle® is the creation and qualification of a circular economy – Retake-Remake-Use-Return. It’s an intelligent product design which combines chemistry, biology and environmental science with product optimization and product development. The concept reconciles industry and ecology by manufacturing healthy and high-quality products. By doing so, a company no longer has to feel guilty about their impact on the environment and also because the consumer is no longer polluter.

The Cradle to Cradle®  (C2C*) philosophy describes the principle of two continuous cycles. Non durable consumer goods are biodegradable and return to the natural nutrient cycle. Durable consumer goods are broken down into separate raw materials after use and returned to a technical cycle. Material quality is retained, so downcycling – with loss of quality – is avoided. All ingredients are chemically safe and recyclable. There is no waste in the conventional sense – only reusable ‘nutrients’.

*Cradle to Cradle® is a registered trademark of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, LLC (MBDC).


One of the reasons for the rebirth of Upcycling is the increased awareness of environmental responsibility. It occurs in our day to day activity and as average consumer and waste producer, we are taking an active role in driving this process forward. We remade previously used items destined for the landfill and turn them to something useful without degrading their quality.

For our projects, before we buying something new, we consider what we already have that can be upcycled to meet our needs. We use any kind of disposable or discarded items and our creativity to make them useful or simply aesthetically pleasing, which is for us undoubtedly better than sending things to the landfill.


Temporary Green Living Room

An installation made from discarded materials and second hand plants.
Mostly of the materials were collected from different landscapes and gardens and integrated in this installation.

Location: gallery and off-space AU
Date of Completion: April 2013
Images: © Dino R.



More projects in category Upcycling:  Urban Garden AUhof  Rooftop Terrace C5.  Balcony M17.


© Rafael Rosenmayer

Modern agriculture and forestry have destroyed many habitats. Dead tree stumps and hedges which served as nesting sites for insects have been disposed of. Moreover, insects have been killed by herbicides and pesticides. *  In fact, Nature does a lot to help our fruits and vegetables along, not least by providing a legion of beneficial insects to pollinate our crops and prey on pests. It’s impossible to quantify just how valuable these creepy crawlies are in keeping things ticking over on the productive plot. *

With the construction of an insect house some species can be supported in their continued existence and their struggle for survival by providing them niches to inhabit. In cold climates, an insect house serves as a hibernation place and in the summer as a nesting place. The insect house occupants are of great use for the ecological balance. Bugs like lacewings, hoverfly, ladybugs, beetles and earwigs destroy the lice and mites and also pollinate the crops and ornamental plants.

As we are hugely indebted to those beneficial insects, our idea was to mounting insect houses in the urban areas to foster biodiversity. By doing that, we could enhance the activity of the beneficial insects by replacing lost habitats and to provide them a quiet, sheltered space where they can settle to develop and reproduce.

The Insect House is a project which was created within the framework of the project Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Urban Areas, University of Natural Resources and Life Science, Vienna.

Idea and concept: Galya A.T. & Rafael Rosenmayer
Complementation: June 2014
Supervision by university lecturer and landscape architect Thomas Proksch, Austrian Society of Landscape Planning and Landscape Architecture