4 Ways to Get Started Community Upcycling

At Lucidity we love to build. We build our own structures, hire collaborators to design and build 3D art and interactive installations, and invite participants to help build our festival.

Together we build stages, arches, boxes, booths, posts, signs, walls, columns, frames, whales, portals, monkey swings, coffee shops, toilet paper holders and visionary climbable art.

Sazanov, the 4th Dimensional Space Whale.
Sazanov, the 4th Dimensional Space Whale, by Fez of Alchemy Arts Collective.

All this requires a tremendous amount of source material (mostly wood and metal), which is both costly and wasteful. One of Lucidity’s core values is “Environmental and Social Responsibility”. We can adhere to this by diverting and re-using materials from the waste stream. A few weeks before Lucidity’s second festival in April 2013 (Lucidity Universe), Creative Director Luke Holden set out an ambitious goal: “We want to be able to measure our progress, and eventually completely rely on upcycled, repurposed materials to build all the structures for the festival.”

While there are some materials that will always be sourced new, Lucidity has made remarkable strides toward achieving that goal, thanks primarily to our beloved Dave Moore, the passionate and indomitable captain of Lucidity’s Up-cycling program. (Read to the end to learn Dave’s 4 Essential Tips for Anyone Wanting to Upcycle!)

“I think I got my knack for this from my Irish uncle Art. When I was a young child, he would drive me and my sisters around Oxnard’s Silver Strand beach in his Old Rambler Classic. He would spot materials in fields and abandoned warehouses, and have me and my sisters run in and grab them.” Dave winked at the memory of this. “I’m not entirely sure my uncle was sober or if what we were doing was actually legal, but it was great fun!”

Three years ago Dave More found himself in Adam Green’s class at Santa Barbara City College, “Projects and Sustainability.” Dave explained: “We each got to propose a project, and a few got selected to be worked on collaboratively. Mine didn’t get voted in, so I got paired up with two young students who had a project called “Upcycling”. Dave had used upcycled materials for his own constructions and repairs, but this project, led by SBCC students Dakota MacIntyre and Daniel Larringa, gave Moore a glimpse of what was possible on a larger scale and at just the right time.

“I can’t remember what really jump-started my involvement with Upcycling at Lucidity,” says Dave Moore. “It just evolved naturally: the build crews were already upcycling materials, and I must have heard someone needed something and I knew a buddy who might have it.” Dave Moore had the experience, connections and drive to take it to the next level.

“Our first big grab was from a construction site on Chapala Street,” recalls Moore. “A large house from the nineteen-twenties was being torn down. Moore was able to connect with the owner of the dump truck, who let the Lucidity build crew take all the wood from the floors. “These were all high quality pieces, in large quantity. We were able to build all our stages bases with it,” says Moore. The very sturdy stage bases constructed by Lucidity’s build crew are still in use today.

This past year the Lucidity build department was able to track materials use, and an estimated 10,000 pounds of source material (lumber and metal mostly) was deferred from the waste stream. 95% of the dimensional lumber used to build the festival came from up-cycled sources.

From a mere idea, the Lucidity Up-cycling program has become a Lucidity Department in its own right, with Dave Moore as the dedicated program manager, and 10 volunteers pre-festival to help with the transportation and the abundant prep work. Helping coordinate all this are the festival build manager, the art dept. operations manager, and the Creative director.

There are many steps to consider for an UpCycling program to be effective. “The real shift, says Luke Holden, is in getting our crews and collaborators to think in terms of what is out there in the waste stream that I can play with to create my idea? We made great progress this year in communicating early with the project leads. Upcycling takes time to fulfill because you can’t walk into a store for upcycled materials”

Where do all these materials come from?

“The trick says Dave Moore, is to have connections with contractors. If you know a couple contractors who do remodels, you’re golden.” Disposing of waste from construction sites costs money, and diverting materials will lower their dump fees. A good Upcycling program has materials coming from a variety of sources. Luke Holden notes: “Lucidity was even lucky enough to develop a relationship with the local waste transit center staff who was excited to collect and separate still useable materials as they came in for Lucidity to pick up weekly.”

Once the sources have been found, the next consideration is transportation and storage. “We had 3 different storage locations, says Dave Moore. But we made it work. Having the crew of volunteers was instrumental. My friend Craft spent over 60 hours de-nailing the lumber. He liked doing it!”

Sazanov, the 4th Dimensional Space Whale.
Sazanov, the 4th Dimensional Space Whale, by Fez of Alchemy Arts Collective.

Fez, from Alchemy Arts Collective was one of the Lucidity artists who made the most use of the UpCycling program, to create his Fourth Dimensional Space Whale. With the help of Dave Moore, he was able to collect a variety of R-Bar and piping, chain link fencing, large swaths of cardboard, ocean filtration filters, steel cogs and gears, and blown glass trinkets. Some of it was simply found in the free section of craigslist.

“I have to say,” muses Dave Moore, “I took real pride in seeing all the materials we sourced show up in all the different parts of the festival: Fez’s whale, the street signs, the installations in Nomad’s nook, the whole environment around the Alive Stage, the Coffee shop, the Healing Sanctuary welcome pavilion (all redwood 2×4’s!), the Jenkstar pieces in Trixter’s playground, and so much more!”

Luke Holden wrote a beautiful report on the program’s first year, in which he concludes, “The development of the Lucidity’s Upcycling dept. shows that it takes time, forethought and manpower, and it also necessitates the participation of a community to be most effective.  When communities in Santa Barbara became aware of Lucidity’s request to rescue materials, resources began to flow ever more consistently from an ever increasing number of sources.” Dave Moore sees the need for better storage solutions, and adds, “My real wish as we move into the future, is to develop more ways to redirect materials after the festival to community projects. Last year we re-used redwood planks to make planter boxes at a local school. We want more opportunities like that.”

4 Essential Tips for Anyone Wanting to Upcycle, from Dave Moore

1. Keep your eyes open, there are harvestable resources everywhere.

2. Use technology. Craigslist, Freecycle, Yerdle, are the big gifting sites but there are other smaller local ones out there.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask. There are treasures to be had. Be direct be bold and ask for something that you see sitting in that storage yard.

4. Make it mutually beneficial. Figure out ways to be of service to the people who have the items you need be helpful, keep your appointments and leave it cleaner than when you got there.

“Anything that has been used, battered and loved can be made anew” —Dave Moore

One thought on “4 Ways to Get Started Community Upcycling

  1. Aloha Dave,
    I am very proud of you. you left out the part that the City of Oxnard made Art clean out his carport when it got so full of “stuff” you couldn’t safely get in the door.
    Love Dad

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