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Nice-Cycling: Giving Stuff Up For Good

First there was recycling — reusing old material instead of throwing it away.

Then came: Upcycling — remaking something in a way that increases its value or quality, like scissoring ratty old T-shirts into yarn to knit a new bath mat. Downcycling — remaking something in a way that decreases its value or quality, like refashioning a flannel sheet into a "family cloth." And — in which one person's trash becomes a hipster's treasure, such as whisky bottles retooled into bangle bracelets and bike chain plates repurposed as earrings.

Now comes the practice of taking old things and using them for good causes. Let's call it nice-cycling. Here are a few examples:

  • in Los Angeles – The idea: Collect old keys; hire homeless people to engrave sweet words, such as FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, on the keys; sell the recycled keys on necklaces and use the profits to help the homeless people get keys — to a house or apartment — of their own.
  • in New York City – Developed by America's cotton producers and importers, the program takes in used denim blue jeans and turns the material into insulation "to be distributed to help communities in need."
  • in Norcross, Ga. — Dedicated to improving health around the world, this group takes in bits and pieces of bar soap from hotels and other places, remakes them into new bars of soap and ships the soap bars to people who really need them.
  • The Protojournalist is an experiment in reporting. Abstract. Concrete. @NPRtpj

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    Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.

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