Our Story

Posted by Mattie Larson on

            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).

 Upcycle Hawaii Our Story Blog Post
(Examples of early crafts, from childhood to adolescence.)


           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. 

Upcycle Hawaii Our Story Blog Post (Growing up on the Big Island.  Volcanoes, Surfing, Ziplines and more.)


            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.

 Upcycle Hawaii Our Story Blog Post
(Plastic Pollution and Marine Debris.  A big inspiration for Upcycle Hawaii)


          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.

Upcycle Hawaii Our Story Blog Post
(Conducting research with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.)


            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 Our Story Blog Post
(Examples of our upcycling with pop tabs, rubber and plastics.)

            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.

Mother Teresa Quote Upcycle Hawaii Our Story Blog

Share this post


  • Love this! Childhood is SUCH an important part of life and I wish nowadays more kids got to hang on to it longer… seems everyone is in a rush to grow up. Kids are brilliant with creativity! So cool you found your calling as a child, and didn’t even know it! Hooray for art, upcycling, sustainability and of course, the 90s!

    Charlene on
  • Thanks for the inspiring story, and here’s to your future upcycling success!!

    Willy Banta on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.