Earth Day is Monday, April 22. If you're a wino, you can help the cause by doing what you do best: drinking wine.
The caveat is in the cork. Starting now, don't toss the stoppers in the garbage, because they aren't trash. Similar to recycling paper, cork can be used again, and again, and again, unlike screw caps and plastic-based closures.
Genuine cork is 100 percent natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. You can tell if your cork is "genuine" by its flaking ability. Real cork will crumble and peel when you pick at it, unlike faux cork, which will retain its shape. Also, real cork will take the stain and scent of the wine it's protecting.
What many wine connoisseurs may not realize is that cork is obtained from a cork oak tree—not from cutting it down, but from stripping the bark by hand every 9 to 12 years. Using this method, a cork oak tree can live to be 300 years old. It's one of the most environmentally friendly harvesting processes.
According to the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, promoting the use of real cork and recycling it keeps the cork forests in the Mediterranean flourishing. The organization actually estimates that there's enough cork to close all the wine bottles produced in the world for the next 100 years.
Also, during the process of biodegrading, a cork will slowly release its carbon for more than 100 years, which means its footprint is child-sized, and you can feel guiltless while opening another bottle.
Each year, there are 13 billion natural cork wine closures sold worldwide, which is why recycling is so important. Recycled corks can end up in shoes, fishing rod handles, flooring, building insulation, playground equipment and many other things.
Snoqualmie Vineyards is one of the local wineries that's dedicated to sustainable practices, demonstrated in their efficient water-use systems; soil practices that reduce erosion and increase fertility; pesticide-free pest control and their cork recycling programs.
Snoqualmie's recycled corks go back into their mulch, and they also collect cardboard, paper, aluminum and glass at their retail location. They've been collecting cork since 2005 as a way to keep recyclable material out of landfills. "Any time you can get your waste closer to zero, it's just going to benefit everyone down the line," said Snoqualmie winemaker Joy Andersen.
To make things easy, and less time consuming, keep a cork collector (say that three times fast) near your wine rack. Once it's full, drop it off at your preferred location.
Just think of drinking wine as your small part in protecting the environment.
Places to put a cork in it (where to recycle your corks).
Visit recork.org to find other drop-off locations near you.
Wine World and Spirits
400 NE 45th Street
PCC Natural Markets
Several locations in Seattle, Edmonds, Kirkland and Issaquah
Bellevue, Seattle and Northgate locations
Joyce Comb's is the Club's Purchasing Manager.