Upcycling and sustainable living: an interview with Planet Hero Lynne Lambourne

We spoke to Lynne Lambourne, a sustainable award-winning interior designer, founder of Warriors on Waste, upcycler and one of our Planet Heroes. Lynne’s mission is to inspire you with ideas to create a sustainable stylish home and garden. 

For anyone who doesn’t know, how would you define upcycling?

Upcycling is basically taking something and creatively making it more fit for its new purpose. Taking an old chair that looked terrible and painting it to match your dining room, old tyres in to planters, pallets into furniture -stopping waste by reusing things that would otherwise end up in landfills.

How did your journey start, was there a moment that you realised this could be a career path for you?

Not really one moment, I have always loved vintage things and hated binning anything, my friends called me a Womble because I was always repurposing old things, one mans trash is another’s treasure!!! I just see it as part of who I am, it’s just fabulous that suddenly this seems to be something that everyone now wants to be part of. Winning the Interior Designer of the Year on Grand Designs Live for my upcycled and recycled room set design I suppose sealed the fact that I was not a madwoman and that what I was creating did actually look good too!

What’s a simple upcycling challenge we can all do in our homes to get started?

I think right now planting your own veg in upcycled planters is a great thing to do. Make a raised bed from an old drawer or washing up bowl and grow your own salad. You don’t need a garden either you can grow on your window sill, save old yogurt pots or egg boxes. Upcycling a piece of furniture with chalk paint is also a great thing to do, things that have gone out of fashion can be updated in a few hours with very little skill, upcycling with chalk paint is addictive once you see how fabulous the results are.

People living in flats or small spaces without gardens may feel upcycling is inaccessible. What are your tips for people who want to grow plants, be creative and do DIY but are limited on space?

Growing plants does not need a garden, a windowsill is all you need or some hanging space. The fashion for vertical hanging plants in our homes is huge, grow your herbs in the kitchen in hanging pots. I always advise people who are trying to upcycle in smaller spaces to have a mobile workshop. Get a box and pop your newspaper to cover your floor, your brushes and paint in it to make things easy and assessable when you want to start a project. You don’t need masses of space but having everything organized so that it can be popped out of the way is helpful and easy.

You seem to be able to find a use in anything! What questions and processes can we go through in our minds to think and act more ‘thriftily’?

Before we waste anything or send it to landfill, we should ask ourselves some basic questions, can it be repaired, can it be repurposed, could you maybe upcycle it into something else. As a society, we have become so wasteful, not only are we filling up landfill sites but we are wasting money. I love the challenge of reusing something, I think that the lockdown situation has reinvigorated this ‘want not waste not’ mentality, people want to be more careful with their money and have had time to really think about how they live and how wasteful they have been.

Lynne Lambourne – Warrior on Waste

Tell us about the banana skins?! 

hahah that’s my little houseplant secret! If you use your old banana skins to polish the leaves of your house plants not only does it give them a lovely shine but it gets rid of all the dust in the leaves and helps keep them healthy too. I know it sounds crazy but try it it really works.

What, where or who do you draw your inspiration and motivation from?

I would say Nature is a huge influence on me- its protecting our natural world that makes me want to inspire people to make better choices. Nature is just amazing, the colours, the shapes, the textures and that is what I try to bring into my designs. I want to bring the outside in and I love to include the wonderful free things nature has to offer to style your home. I am always foraging on walks and coming home with twigs or ferns to style my home with. Obviously you need to be careful and respectful of what you forrage.

My love of the ocean is what spurs me on with the work I do with www.warriorsonwaste.co.uk , I want to make sure my Grandchildren can experience the Ocean as I have and not as a giant body of floating trash. I have to make sure that I educate the next generation to take better care of the planet.I cant sit around waiting for someone else to inspire the changes I want to see, I have to get on with it.

What does a sustainable home look like to you?

A sustainable home is just a home where people are consciously making better choices, nobody has the perfect sustainable home but if we can all commit to changing a few things then those small changes will add up to a big difference. Changing energy providers to greener energy, growing more of what we eat, buying from sustainable brands and only buying what we need, Swapping out single-use plastic wherever possible-actually if you want to see a sustainable home, think about how your Grandparents lived and try to go back and do things the way they did.

During lockdown you’ve launched ‘Zoom your Room’. Could you tell us a bit more about this and your favourite room transformation so far?

I have been helping people update their rooms virtually. I literally zoom call them and we wonder around their spaces virtually and Ioffer Interiors Design, Styling, and upcycling advice. I offer tips and ideas and pop a mood board and source all the things I think they need to transform the room. I help with upcycling top tips and recommend the best products. My favorite lockdown ‘zoom your room’ is where someone transformed all their kitchen cupboards using chalk paint. I talked them through the whole process virtually teaching them how to paint and what colors would look best. It looked amazing when they had finished and stopped them having to buy a whole new kitchen, they just upcycled the old cupboards.

You’re a big charity shop and second-hand fan – what’s your favourite item you’ve found in a charity shop? 

I have an amazing mid-century sideboard that I found in the Reading British Heart Foundation store, it was a really lucky find.

What are your top tips for people that want to start exploring thift stores for project to upcycle? Are there any online outlets you recommend and what should people be looking out for? 

Yes I would recommend the British Heart Foundation Furniture stores they have great things as do Preloved, ebay and Gumtree but your local Facebook pages and Freecycle are great places to find things too.

With Warriors on Waste and your ‘Saving Nemo’ school tour, what have you learnt about keeping the sustainability conversation inclusive and accessible, particularly with young people?

I always say ‘its cool to care’  this is particularly important with young people, to inspire then to want to be part of a movement for good but that is not stuffy and boring. I made a movie for children on Plastic Pollution with some very hard-hitting images of the damage we were doing to the ocean and some of the animals if was affecting. I think we have to show what is really going on and also just how significant the small changes they make will be on the situation. I give them ownership of the problem and explain that there is nobody else coming to sort this situation out- it’s up to them. Its up to all of us. 

We have a litter picking playlist, what are your three favourite songs to listen to whilst working on an upcycling project so we can add them? 

California Soul by Marlena Shaw 

Every Breaking Wave by U2 – well any U2 song really!!

Red light spells Danger by Billy Ocean – that has me dancing every time.

You can follow Lynne on Instagram here, find out more about her Warriors on Waste here and her website here.

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