Hope can spring from the most unlikely of places.

Places like trash piles.

Garbage dumps.

Plastic bottles.

And paint peeling from old brick buildings.

What does it take to take trash and turn it into hope?

First it takes compassion.

Caring about the homeless, the hungry, the unwanted, and marginalized — caring with more than just lip service.

Understanding that a person’s current circumstances don’t determine their future.

Deciding not to look away from those in need. That’s the beginning.

The next step is learning to see possibilities where others see only junk.

I’m not only talking about the broken bits and pieces and the no-longer-needed material stuff that we toss out. Let’s be honest, too many people in our country are considered “junk.” Looked down upon, vilified, or completely ignored. Cast on life’s trash heap without a second thought.

Turning trash into hope is about much more than turning scraps and waste into useful products.


It’s really about optimism.


Belief in the power of positive change.


It’s about dreams, hard work, and shared humanity.


Detroit residents Amy Peterson and Diana Russell saw incredible potential in old pieces of graffiti. Instead of chunks of old paint scattered on the sidewalk, they envisioned wearable art. Their company, Rebel Nell, employs women rebuilding their lives after leaving abusive situations. By repurposing fallen chunks of painted graffiti into beautiful pieces of jewelry they create income and a path to a better future.

They turn trash into hope.


Turning plastic waste into new products. . . yeah, we all know about that concept. You need big money to buy big machines to recycle plastics. Not for those without deep pockets.

But Dave Hakkens came up with a better idea. A way that ordinary people can build simple, affordable machines that turn “garbage” into useful items — at low cost and on the local level. And his designs are free. Open source.

turn-trash-into-hope-10000-butterflies-projectIn other words, anyone can now recycle plastic and turn trash into treasure. With Hakkens’ designs and a little out-of-the-box thinking, here’s an opportunity for non-profits or kids or the elderly on tight budgets turn plastic trash into income — and hope.

Here’s a great example of how that works in “real life.” Naga Earth turns trash into jobs for rural Cambodians. There’s not much garbage collection in the rural areas of the country so most people just burn their plastic waste. Bad for the environment and not so great for people either. Naga Earth creates good jobs by tackling poverty and plastic waste head-on using Hakkens Precious Plastics open-source designs.

They turn trash into hope.

Want another example of turning trash into hope? Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) uses old tires dumped in vacant lots around Detroit to provide green jobs for the homeless. Those tires are cut up, woven into sturdy mud mats and a line of sandals called Detroit Threads.  Sales of these products provide income and the dignity of employment to some of Detroit’s homeless population. Over the last eight years, volunteers have cleaned up and recycled over 90,000 tires while CCSS has provided jobs and a way out of poverty for many people living on the streets.

They turn trash into hope.

Want more ideas for turning trash into hope? Check out these recycling and upcycling resources.


Our choices matter.

Our actions matter.

And our voices matter.


10,000-butterflies-project-hope-beauty-transformation10,000 Butterflies is dedicated to planting hope and growing change. Every one of us has the power to create positive change — in our own lives and in the lives of others. Together we can solve problems and build stronger communities. 10,000 Butterflies is a place to connect with others making good things happen, to find resources, to be inspired and to celebrate what connects us instead of what divides us.


Please join us.

Bonnie Pond is the founder of the 10,000 Butterflies Project and author of The Power of Three: How to be Happy and Get What You Want in Life (Without Doing Anything Illegal, Immoral, or Unethical) and Unlock Your Creativity: 30 Days to a More Creative YOU! 




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