Co-op Production

As a co-op we are most well-known for our rain barrels painted with ecological designs.  Henry Wills, one of our members, does the conversions of the barrels, earning a small piece-rate commission for cutting holes in the tops, and adding a faucet and overflow valve and screening to each. [He also leads workshops to teach others]. Most of the painting is done by volunteers, although we have sometimes paid members for custom paint jobs. Our barrels sell for $75 (in stock/ecological designs); $85 for orders of ecological designs (or custom jobs) [1-2 week lead time needed]; and $65 (solid colors). We also have periodic rain barrel events for paint-your-own designs for prospective barrel buyers.  For more info, email @; or come by the shop during our regular hours. We deliver to the Watts-Hillandale/Old West Durham neighborhood for free, and within Durham or Chapel Hill area for $10-$20, depending on distance.

Other products that we have spent time on as a co-op include upcycled jewelry, lamps, and handbags, plus individual items such as small furniture. We are equipping our workshop space at our site with supplies and materials for a wide variety of projects including work with fabric, leather, lamps, jewelry, paper products, mosaic and small furniture. Our goal is to create prototypes of other marketable upcycled products made mostly of scrap or waste materials which can generate “green cash flows” for underemployed local artisans, while serving as an inspiration to others about the potential for sustainable lifeways.

Our origins as an “upcycling co-op” date to March 2009 when a group of about 10 interested people began meeting — initially at the Scrap Exchange and later at Sandy’s house. Marc Dreyfors offered us space for a workshop at his biodiesel site (the Green Oil and Light Campus) off Alston Avenue in East Durham.  We met for a couple of hours once a week, usually on Thursday afternoons or a weekend to work on projects.

Our initial efforts focused on developing a prototype and producing rain barrels from donated food-grade industrial plastic barrels, which we painted with ecological designs and sold at festivals (eg. the Eno Festival and Earth Day in Durham and Chapel Hill) and craft fairs such as Centerfest and the Durham Craft Market. We also did rain barrel making or painting workshops at churches, with scout groups, at schools, and community organizations.

We received large donations of barrels initially from a dairy farm and later from a car wash soap distributor, both in Roxboro. In fall 2009 four of us, aided by a team of students from Durham Tech’s Brownsfield mitigation class, spent three days renovating and insulated our workshop and later, with Anthony Watt’s help, we added a heating vent.  In spring 2010 nine college students in a service learning class at UNC worked with Recyclique on projects aimed at strengthening our organization.  That summer we held a two-day 3-D mosaic workshop led by artist Paula Macleod, and we held focus groups to improve our organizational structure, with an intern from GoodWork.  In the fall we worked with 10 student interns from Sandy’s “Globalization, Social Movements and the Environment” class at UNC to carry out an upcycling competition that culminated in the “Re-Hashed Trash Bash” on the UNC campus on Dec. 4th, 2010.  Outreach from that event helped build connections with several upcycler artists who later joined us to open the Recyclique shop in spring 2011.