Upcycling at Hildegard-von-Bingen gymnasium

The Hildegard-von-Bingen-Gymansium located in Cologne started a working group “Weltbürger-AG” in 2016. In their meetings they discussed new concepts on how to make the school environmentally friendly and sustainable. One of these concepts is the upcycling of old school materials (books, world maps and globes) into lampshades, bags, satchels and necklaces that are being sold to the school’s community. While upcycling these materials, the students and teachers discuss and learn about sustainability. In 2018 they became an official fairtrade school.


Hildegard-von-Bingen-Gymnasium website

Useful links

Upcycling globes
Upcycling old maps

21 Upcylcling hacks for teachers

Kids Just Recyle have some great ideas!





'Why not sell the items you upcycle to help pay for other planet-friendly initiatives in the school?'

How is the project linked to climate change and sustainability?

Lots of schools in Germany have been upgrading their materials with iPads instead of books and whiteboards instead of blackboards. Books, world maps, globes and many more items get thrown away or stored in the school’s basement. With the upcycling of these redundant materials, students develop new behaviours and learn to reuse their unwanted items. Upcycling old materials is also a lot of fun - new, individual items can be created and they are unique!

Who is involved?

The students and teachers create new products from the old, stored materials. Afterwards they sell their individually created products to the school community.

How are the participants involved?

The school’s working group meets on a regular basis and discusses options to become a more planet friendly school. The students and teachers collect old materials from the school’s storage basements and find ways to create new products with them. The community is later involved as they can buy these necklaces, lampshades, bags and satchels. Step by step, the working group hopes to reach more and more students and teachers to grow the overall awareness on sustainability. The school is taking part in the regional campaign 'Schule der Zukunft – Bildung für Nachhaltigkeit' which means 'School of the future – Education on sustainability'. This campaign helps schools and kindergardens with concepts for teaching sustainability. Schools and kindergardens can then apply and be certified as a sustainable educational establishment.

Key steps:

Step 1. Start a working group with voluntary students and teachers.

Step 2. Collect ideas for environment friendly and sustainable concepts. Collect information on how the school is dealing with old materials. Which items can be used and how can they be changed into new, useful ones? Gain inspiration for upcycling old items via YouTube, books and social media.

Step 3. Start upcycling and create new products.

Step 4. Keep and use your new products or sell them to the local community.