With a little creativity, some tools and what others might refer to as garbage, Jefferson County Extension Staff Chairman Lee Anderson can teach people how to make anything from coffee tables to bath racks and how to protect water quality at the same time.

Last May, Anderson, who is also a storm water educator, got the idea to create a workshop to teach people how to upcycle, or repurpose, objects like wood pallets that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill or illegally dumped somewhere. The idea is to show people how to revision items that they would normally discard, in hopes to keep major waterways litter free.

Anderson said that items thrown in a ditch will end up in the water. In Jefferson County, that is most often Bayou Bartholomew, the world’s longest bayou. That, in turn, diminishes the water quality.

According to the Bayou Bartholomew Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the bayou, Bayou Bartholomew’s water quality has diminished in recent years, due in part to people dumping trash, furniture and other items on its banks.

Not only does it affect water quality, it can also have disastrous effects on water flow.

“If trash accumulates, water can’t flow. If water can’t flow, then it comes up on the streets and you’re sitting at a light and your radiator is almost flooded because of the water,” Anderson said.

The class, that was originally only open to Master Gardeners, is now open to the public and is free. The materials are gathered from local businesses and the ideas for the projects come from Anderson.

Anderson works with each participant to build the project. Some of the past projects included coffee tables, wall art and bath trays. When the workshop is over, participants are left with an item they built with their own hands they can customize, a new set of skills and sense of pride.

“I give them a rough draft,” Anderson said. “They can take their project home and modify it how they want. There is a sense of pride about something you made.”

To register or find out more about upcycling workshops, contact the Jefferson County Extension Office or visit https://www.facebook.com/UAEX-Jefferson-County-243626945720854/.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

— Emily Thompson is with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.