Our Story, Upcycle Hawaii

Our Story, Upcycle Hawaii

4 minute read

            Looking back on it, Upcycle Hawaii’s roots go as far back as my childhood where the seeds of creativity in my life were planted at a very young age.  Combine that with the fact that I was literally raised in the wilderness with a deep connection to the environment, and it would seem natural that I would end up in creative and “green” business.  Getting to this point, however, has not been as natural a transition as one may think.  It has been a bit of an adventure and I’d like to share some of that story with you.

            I have literally been crafting and creating as long as I can remember.  From pottery to painting, woodworking to weaving, and even music to machinery, my childhood was full of the arts.  I even won my first art contest in Kindergarten and, by the 8th grade, was simultaneously awarded the Golden Hammer in Woodshop and named the Home Economics student of the Year (thanks in large part to my sewing skills).

           All of this creativity took place on a background growing up in one of the most amazing places in the world during what I consider a very special time. Life as a child on the Big Island of Hawaii during the 1990’s was really quite magical.  We spent time doing everything from exploring underwater caves to observing active volcanoes.  Our seasons were defined by surf, whales and school.  We also grew up without the concept of “big box” stores or social media and were always able to (somehow) make due with the resources at hand.  In fact, it was in large part due to this lack of conventional “art supplies” that would lead to my upcycling and repurposing at a very young age. 

            One of those unique places that we would visit as a child was known colloquially as “plastic beach” – a long stretch of coastline along our southern shores where massive amounts of marine debris and plastic pollution accumulate.  These visits were treasure-hunting missions for the adults of the group; but were long, hot and dry hikes for us youngsters where we would entertain ourselves playing “king of the plastic mountain” and trash dress-up.  Little did I know then how much this place would come to impact me to this very day.

           Cut to several decades later when I was a young environmental science student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Not only was I already seeing the degradation of my own natural environment, but I was realizing the frightening scale at which we were changing our earth – and not for the better.

            It was also starting to affect my creativity.  The more I analyzed my own carbon footprint and consumption, the more I began to rethink my art.  A lot of the material and processes I was working with were certainly far from sustainable.  At the same time, I was getting more and more frustrated by the quality of several products that I was purchasing as a consumer.  I knew that there had to be a better – and more sustainable – way.  It was at that point that I made a commitment to change through creative repurposing.  A journey down a rabbit hole from which I still have not returned… and had resulted in the creation of a new business and, I hope, a new way of thinking.

            Upcycle Hawaii was not created overnight and we continue to grow and change in an ever-adapting world.  We look forward to sharing more of our story with you and appreciate your support in getting us here today.

Mahalo for reading and being a part of #teamtrashionista!  See you next post, Mattie Mae Larson 👋🏽 

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After being motivated to upcycle by marine debris, we figured out a way to repurpose it...


Melted Marine Debris Keyrings

Melted Marine Debris Keyrings


These keyrings get their color from the fibers of ropes and nets which are re covered during local beach cleanup efforts.  Selected cuts of rope are taken home before being washed and dried.  Cleaned portions are then broken down into… Read More


Our Story written by Mattie Mae Larson

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