July 2011 Challenge

We challenged Simon to make something functional from rubbish.


Everyone knows recycling. Welcome to Chi-cycling. Chi  (pronounced ‘chee‘ and sometimes spelt Qi) is the traditional Chinese idea of life force or the energy that flows through everything. Chi-cycling is about combining what you already have in new ways to create something useful by adding the vital impulse of human imagination. Recycling can turn used plastic packaging into new plastic packaging.Chi-cycling can turn used plastic packaging into anything. It can turn a cardboard tea box into a wallet. In a few seconds it can turn a humble paperclip into a funky Scandinavian-inspired incense holder.


I was challenged to build something out of recycled materials that I would otherwise put in the bin. I decided to build something I’d been thinking about for a while – a vertical garden – out of plastic packaging and supermarket ‘green’ bags. I love apples and it seems bizarre to me that some apples are sold in large rectangular plastic boxes. One of the beautiful things about fruit is that it needs no packaging. I decided that these boxes would be my basic building material and over the course of two weeks ate lots of apples.



A vertical garden is a garden that is geared for the metropolitan landscape where space is at a premium. Many plants are climbers and can happily grow in the vertical plane. Walls can become living walls. This idea is starting to gain traction in architecture and expect to see more and more of them in coming years. Hanging gardens are one aspect of this vertical movement and involve sets of garden beds one underneath the other allowing excess water to flow with gravity from the higher to the lower ones.


The challenge went well. You can see all the building materials in the first photo and the final result in the others. Building this vertical garden did involve tying more knots than your average Inca quipu but the plastic green bags retain the knots well with little slipping. I did some strength testing on it before adding the soil and was surprised by just how strong the whole thing was. During this phase I decided to make it a hybrid structure that was part vertical garden and part fruit basket to add some colour to the room while the greenery is growing. Lower to the ground where there is more light I planted sage leaf, a curry plant and a flower. If you love making things out of things too it would be cool to hear from you.

Top of vertical garden

Fruit holder



Chi-cyling is definitely an uplifting experience and its the same part of you that sees the wallet in the tea box that sees the opportunity in the crisis and the silver lining in the cloud: the part that senses the possibility for transformation. So why just think outside the box when you can grab the box and turn it into something awesome!


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