Illuminated Upcycling

Posted November 11, 2013

You’re an energy efficiency saint.

You’ve gone through your home and replaced all of your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs. But now, you’re staring down a number of old light bulbs. What to do? Upcycle.

Why pitch the old light bulbs when you can have your own, charming and trendy terrarium? Or twenty. Here’s the how-to, simplified from The Hipster Home. Check out their site for more details and images.


Dos, Don’ts, and Tools


  • Use sand or small pebbles.
  • Use Tillandsia, also known as air plants, they can live on your sand.
  • Use preserved moss instead of live moss. Preserved moss isn’t living, but it will hold moisture and help feed that air plant of yours.
  • Keep your terrarium in partial sunlight. It’s living afterall.
  • Give your air plant some water by either removing it and soaking it in water once a week or, giving it a small spritz of water every week or two.
  • Use little rocks, pieces of glass, or any other bits of things to help give your terrarium character.


  • Don’t use soil. If you use soil, you’ll be creating penicillin, not decorative flora.
  • Don’t use live moss.
  • Don’t keep your terrarium in the dark.
  • Don’t keep your terrarium in full sunlight.


  • Scissors
  • Long tweezers
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Glasses or goggles
  • Gloves

Prepare the light bulb

  1. Put on your goggles and gloves. Do it. Done? Great. Now that you’re safe, we’ll remove the light bulb filaments. Consider doing this over a box to catch any potentially broken glass.
  2. Remove the metal tip from the bottom of the bulb. Using needle-nose pliers, carefully nudge the sides of the metal tip from the black glass part.
  3. When you can get enough leverage on the sides of the lamp, hold one of the sides with your pliers and yank out the metal tip. It is easier than you think.
  4. Next remove the black glass. Hold one side of the glass with the pliers and firmly twist up to snap the glass. Repeat around the other sides and pull out any remaining bits of black glass. This glass is pretty thick and will take some force to break it; so be careful and hold onto the bulb firmly. You will be afraid the bulb might break, it wont, they are pretty tough.
  5. Using the flathead screwdriver as a lever, snap the interior tube from the side. Then twist the screwdriver around to smash the containing tube.
  6. If there are any last bits of glass around the interior edge, break these off with the screwdriver or if you have one, file it down with a metal file.

The fun part!

Now you have your terrarium! From here forward, it’s all about creativity. Keeping within the dos and don’ts, add your base materials (sand, pebbles) and your greenery (moss, air plant). You can even add little figurines. Our ILLUME terrariums use sheep and mice, but I have seen amazing terrariums with tongue-in-cheek figurines, like zombies. They are amazingly fun! A great conversation piece and the ultimate in re-use.

Go forth and upcycle!