From Used Event Banners to Sustainable Designs – Our Upcycling Initiative
“As a designer we create, which means we have to think consciously about what we create. [….] I believe it’s our responsibility to create designs that are meaningful and long-lasting, or that can be reused or upcycled in another way.” Julia Buchmann, one of our Corporate Communication Designers, talks about her upcycling initiative that she started at trivago after realising that we can turn some of our used event banners into new beautifully designed products with the help of our own talents!
Social distancing disclaimer: All images in this article where taken in 2019 when the workshop referenced in this article took place.
What is upcycling and what are the benefits for the environment?
Upcycling is a form of reusing existing materials and transforming the material or product into something new. Upcycling is extremely beneficial to the environment as the amount of resources needed to manufacture new materials is tremendous. We have a massive problem of waste, let’s admit that. With upcycling we can keep materials out of the landfill and create a second life cycle or even more.
Could you tell us how you got the idea to start an upcycling initiative at trivago?
As a designer we create, which means we have to think consciously about what we create. Especially when it comes to once-off events some things are only used for a couple of hours and/or days and then thrown away after the event. I believe it’s our responsibility to create designs that are meaningful and long-lasting, or that can be reused or upcycled in another way.
While I was working on the designs for trivago on tour 2018, one of our biggest internal events, we designed a huge amount of PVC, mesh and silk banners. Those banners were used as an orientation system in our own festival area. The pile of banners we produced was massive and after the event and I felt like doing something to upcycle those banners as I couldn’t bear the fact that all of that good quality material would go straight to a landfill. So I arranged to have it packed up and brought them back to our campus.
As a designer I decided to not create waste, but rather try to upcycle the banners with the help of my fellow trivago talents. After announcing the upcycling workshop, many talents signed up and classes were immediately booked. In our first workshop, we analysed the materials and brainstormed about how we could reuse the banners to produce new products.
How does the process of upcycling work and what are the possibilities with the materials that you plan on reusing?
PVC banners are made from a very strong and resistent material which can be reused in many ways. Many ideas came out of our first brainstorming session, such as bags, baskets, flower pots and many more.
After our first workshop, one of my fellow designers, Melinda Kruse, who also participated in the workshop, used the opportunity to integrate the aspect of upcycling into one of her projects within trivago. For a merchandise project, she was reviewing the options for branding a passport holder and instead of creating a ready-made holder, she decided that we should upcycle customised holders from our old event materials.
This process was quite new for the company as we had to first find a provider who would clean the banners, reuse our own materials and then produce them for us. The outcome is amazing – the passport holders look super unique and didn’t need to be produced out of new material. I’m super proud of this one! We even saved more PVC banners from other events and we’ll try to keep on the upcycling aspect as an option for new projects.
How did you involve other talents in the process?
I have the feeling that our talents are super engaged and motivated to do something positive. I think the ability to save trash out of landfill and to help the environment is very motivating to people who like to craft and work on DIY projects. As we spend most of our time in front of screens, we tend to forget what it’s like to work and create something with your own hands. In our workshop with around 25 attendees we handed out the materials and our talents could freely upcycle the materials in the workshop or take it home.
What is the most unique upcycled product you’ve either come up with or have seen/heard of?
I think everything that’s connected to ocean plastic upcycling amazes me and I love to support those initiatives as we do have a big plastic problem on our hands. But I also believe we can upcycle many things in our surroundings as well before buying something new. You can upcycle an old chair into the most unique designer chair, upcycle your old washed out t-shirts into a huge designer rug, or upcycle your old dusty lamp into the most chic designer lamp… be creative and look around you before buying something new.
What are your plans for upcycling at trivago in the future?
We just started to learn the process behind it and recently rolled out the first upcycled merchandise product for our talents. The Corporate Design team will keep on testing and try to integrate recycled, upcycled or sustainable merchandise ideas in everything we do.
Thanks for coming up with this creative and sustainable initiative and for sharing it with us Julia! Curious to see what’s to come in terms of upcycling for us in the future 🌍