Interview with Andrew Sell, Founder of Hipcycle

"float rope mat"Hipcycle, a new online marketplace for upcycled products, shows mainstreamers that upcycling can be hip.

Shopping local and sustainable is always best, but when you can’t find locally made, sustainably made, or upcycled products around – sometimes the internet is the best way to go.  Online marketplaces such as Etsy, Mideast ecostore Ekotribe, or the Yiuco Marketplace for strictly handmade upcycled, recycled or reused products are all great, but we have not yet seen an online store devoted strictly to upcycled products.  Until a couple weeks ago, when Hipcycle launched its online upcycled store.  Hipcycle currently features almost 300 stylish, affordable upcycled products (check out some of them in the photos below) with the goal of bringing beautiful, useful and eco-friendly products to mainstream consumers.

We got in touch with Andrew Sell, the Founder of Hipcycle, to learn more about this great project.

How did the idea for starting Hipcycle first come about?

This is my first entrepreneurial venture. I have had the desire to be an entrepreneur for years, but I had just never done it for one reason or another…probably all pretty lame excuses, to be truly candid. I have been involved with various environmental initiatives in the past. I was on the team that organized the first major international environmental conference in China, and I was the President of my Net Impact chapter in business school.

When I came across upcycling and realized that it was not just a bunch of individuals reusing stuff, but rather a nascent, quickly growing industry, I was intrigued. It appealed to both my entrepreneurial and environment interests, and when I realized that there were all these great products out there, and no one easy place to shop for them, the idea for Hipcycle was born.

"upcycled tire basket"Are you an avid upcycler yourself? If so, what have been some of your favorite creations?

I don’t yet produce upcycled products for Hipcycle, but I do have plans to do so soon. Around the house, I upcycle as much as I can, trying to keep our waste bins as empty as possible. I recently built a tree house for my kids, and I made an abstract tiled door for that house out of woodscraps and some shelving out of old Ikea furniture parts. Currently, I’ve got a broken wooden lamp sitting on my office floor now, and I’m just waiting for inspiration to strike. I’m thinking about stripping out the electrics for a new lamp of some sort.

How have you gone about finding upcycled products to sell on the site?

In this regard, the internet is a wonderful thing! Online, I have found so many talented, passionate people that make upcycled products. It is a pretty fragmented market, and many of my Product Partners are one-person operations, and Hipcycle represents the first broader exposure of their products. Of course, I also work with some larger companies, but even then, those are usually small enterprises with a half-dozen employees or so. One of the biggest pleasures in growing Hipcycle has been getting to know my Product Partners. They truly inspire to make Hipcycle better every day.

"wine bottle tray"What upcyclers have you been in contact with in the Middle East?

It seems to me that Tel Aviv is one of the global hubs of the upcycling movement. There is some really awesome stuff being created there. For example, Mesila is making housewares and furniture from found materials across the city, and they get extra points for labeling each of their products with the percentage of upcycled materials that are in each design. Junktion is one of the most fun upcyclers I have come across. They use all kinds of found materials, including things like spigots and old appliance parts, in ways that would never have occurred to me.

In your search for upcycled products, have you noticed whether they are more common in certain parts of the world?

There are definitely some areas in the world where upcycling has really taken hold, and thought leaders have emerged that not only take design to new places, but also think about how those designs can be used by consumers on a daily basis. I mentioned Tel Aviv earlier, and Amsterdam and London have strong upcycling presences in Europe. In the U.S., New York City (especially Brooklyn); Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon are dynamic parts of the growing upcycling industry.

"folding chopstick basket"Do you think that purchasing upcycled products will ever be as mainstream as buying entirely new ones?

I would love to see that, but unless the situation with our environment deteriorates to a point where it directly affects everyday life, most consumers will continue to make buying decisions based on what they like need, want, and can afford. The impact that a purchase makes on the environment is not a top priority for many consumers. Therefore, if upcycled products are going to approach a level of acceptance enjoyed by mainstream products, they have to push the same consumer buttons as that mainstream product does. Namely, upcycled products have to be as attractive, durable and otherwise as marketable as mainstream products (if not more so) and at a comparable price point. That’s exactly what we strive to do with Hipcycle’s line of products, which gives our customers the opportunity to meet their needs, and do a small part to help our planet.

:: Hipcycle

Read more about other eco-friendly online marketplaces:
9 Israeli Etsy Shops That Make Online Shopping Greener (and Funner)
Dubai’s Ekotribe to Open Online Mideast Ecostore
Yiuco Marketplace for Handmade Upcycled, Recycled or Reused Products

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