November 15 is National Recycling Day, and so we’ve “recycled” a few older blog posts to tell you all about the best, most-fun, clearly mind-blowing destinations highlighting recycled materials … and you can visit them all! According to National Geographic, Americans send 64 tons of waste to landfills during their lifetime. Not these places, oh no they don’t!
Best Recycled Community
The Earthship Biotecture (outside Taos, NM), an “eco-architecture” community of surreal homes buried into the Earth, will blow your mind! With solar and wind power, well insulated by being partially underground, greenhouse windows, upcycled materials like earth-packed tires and walls made of old bottles, these places have been around since the 1970’s. One of them has been made into a visitor center for touring, but the others are all still lived in by real people! REAL CONSCIENSCIOUS PEOPLE! Read the original post and see more pics here.
**If you like this place, also check out Tom Kelly’s Bottle House in Rhyolite, CA, the largest and oldest bottle house in the USA. It is constructed of an astounding 50,000 glass medicine, whisky and beer bottles gathered from local establishments (reportedly, Kelly did not drink from them, nor wash them out, before setting them in place). Read the original post and see more pics here.
Best Recycled Art Town
The entire town of Lucas, Kansas — known as the Grassroots Art Capital — has been turned into a showcase of grassroots, folksy art. Though less than 400 people live in Lucas, you’ll find more quirky art per square mile than you will in most big cities, and much of it uses recycled items! The city’s public restrooms are elaborately decorated and mosaic’ed using hot wheels cars and old dishes. A donated house was turned into a crazy art installation called the “Garden of Isis,” full of art made from “found objects” including hundreds of dolls. In the Grassroots Art Center, see a motorcycle made from 149,000 old-style can pull tabs, or head to the cameo portraits made out of chewed gum, created by Betty Milliken. Read the original post and see more pictures here.
If you liked this place but want something a little more, er, “rustic,” try the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art in Joshua Tree, CA. The now-deceased “assemblage sculptor” Noah Purifoy turned everyday detritus (toilets, bedframes, old newspapers, etc.) into large pieces of interesting and humorous art and set it out on 10 acres of scrub brush desert. Though many of them are now in varying stages of disrepair and decay, you can wander amongst them and let your imagination roam. Read the original post and see more pictures here.
Best Scrap Metal Sculpture Park
Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park (near Baraboo, WI) is home of (enact your best sci-fi, heavy-on-the-reverb voice here) “The Forevertron,” the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, standing 50 feet high and 120 feet wide, and weighing 300 tons. It recycles lightning rods, high-voltage components from 1920s power plants, scrap from the nearby Badger Army Ammunition Plant, and the decontamination chamber from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. And it’s not just the Forevertron … the entire property is filled with whimsical, fantastical, artistical, and (dare we say it?) just-plain-crazy art made from recycled scrap metal! Here, a huge ladybug just might be made of … a rocket escape hatch … massive bent screws … and surveyor markers! Recycling at its best … and it’s free-of-charge to visit! Read the original post and see more pics here.
**If you like this place, also check out Packway Materials Sculpture Park near Burney, CA, a collection of some other really fun junk-art statues! Two brothers who own a building materials company created this free-to-visit sculpture park using repurposed building supplies at the entrance of their supply yard. Included are a 40-foot-long 5-ton dinosaur, a rock man, a penguin, a dachshund, flying saucer, and many other big creations. Read the original post and see more pics here.
Best Recycled Art Political Statements
Lakenenland Sculpture Park (Marquette, MI) is the creation of Tom Lakenenland, who constructed over 80 unique metal sculptures over many years, and maintains them in a kind of one-man-show sculpture park. Visitors can drive through or walk the 1/2 mile road, lined with incredibly-detailed artwork which ranges from beautiful to whimsical to political, but all of it thought-provoking. A fair percentage of the art (and, in our opinion, the most interesting) makes various political statements. Will it recycle your thinking, or make you look at things in a different way? Find out as interact with all of it while wandering this free-to-visit property! Read the original post and see more pics here.
Best Recycled Art Cars
Art Cartopia (Trinidad, CO) is a super-cool nonprofit museum of cars that have been turned into art! Just opened in 2018, this free-to-visit place is home to over 25 art cars and “serves as a regional center of creativity and shenanigans.” Because: who doesn’t love shenanigans! Most of the cars have a theme, a story, a lesson, or an inspiration, and visitors get to hear the stories from fantastic, enthusiastic volunteer guides. For example, the Stinkbug Car is made entirely of recycled cigarette butts picked up by the artist off the beach near her home, in an effort to raise awareness of how terrible smoking is for you AND the beach. Read the original post and see more pictures here.
**If you like this place, also check out Old Car City in White, Georgia. It’s the World’s Largest Automobile Junkyard, with over 4,000 old cars are scattered in a loosely-organized fashion throughout the forest, which seems to be slowly eating them alive. Also on the property, lots of fun “art” made of all kinds of recycled materials. Read the original post and see more pictures here.
Best Recycled Castle
The not-to-be-believed, five-story tall Rubel Castle in Glendora, CA is billed as a “monumental Folk architecture site,” entirely built by hand by one Michael Rubel and hundreds of volunteers over 26 years in the 60’s-80’s. Located in an ordinary residential neighborhood, its stone masonry is made of (gathered) river rock, (stolen) railroad ties, (recycled) scrap steel and materials of all sorts, and an assemblage of relics and artifacts. People frequently dropped off items to be recycled into the castle; if it was interesting, it got embedded on the outside; if it was ugly or boring, it was buried deep inside the 8-foot-thick walls. Even an old Santa Fe caboose has been recycled into a guest house for friends of the people living on the property. Read the original post and check out more pictures here.
**If you like this place, also check out Solomon’s Castle (Ona, FL), a three-story home covered completely in recycled offset aluminum printing plates, and filled to the brim with the owner/builder’s own artwork, much of it made from things like old machinery, beer cans, oil drums and coat hangers. Also onsite, the Boat-In-The-Moat restaurant, because if you’ve got a pond on your Florida property, you might just as well build something in it. Cross the gangplank to this 60′ replica of the Santa Maria that Solomon made himself, and enjoy a homemade meal while you’re here. Read the original post and check out more pictures here.
Best Recycled Wildlife
The World’s Largest Roadrunner Sculpture outside Las Cruces, NM, is entirely visible from Highway I-10, probably because it’s huge: 20 feet tall and 40 feet long! It’s best explored with a visit to the rest stop where the roadrunner has been placed, and from where you can get right up next to this beauty. Made entirely of recycled items retrieved by artist Olin Calk from the Las Cruces landfill, it’s like a huge game of “I SPY” … I spy a crutch … I spy a computer keyboard … I spy a badminton racquet …. I spy flattened shoes … I SPY A REALLY CUTE ROADRUNNER!
Best Squatters Paradise
The East Jesus Camp at Slab City, CA (“The Slabs”) provides an “experimental, habitable art compound,” complete with an art walk of pieces recycled from cast-off belongings. Slab City, in which East Jesus is located, is a kind of squatters’ paradise which rose up on the site of a former WWII Marine Training Camp. When the base was decommissioned and the remaining buildings razed, the left-behind concrete slabs became the “homesites” for hundreds if not thousands of alternative-lifestyle people who have tuned in and dropped out to a place of marginal communal living, where one can find out if “Off The Grid” is all it’s cracked up to be. Read the original post and see more pics here.
**If you like this place, check out nearby Salvation Mountain, a literal man-made mountain, covered in half a million gallons (and counting) of latex paint. Salvation Mountain was started by a guy who built a sand and cement monument in the late 80’s. Over time, he had to rebuilt, using clay, hay bales and anything else he could get his hands on. The patchwork of stripes and color blocks must be continually refreshed by volunteers, using whatever paint in whatever colors are donated that week. He passed away in 2014, but his legacy continues, with the entire mountain covered in bright paint and biblical quotes in his tribute to God … and recycled paint.