Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You Can Recycle That: Wine Corks

I drink wine. You drink wine. We all drink wine. In fact, 892 million gallons of wine were consumed in the United States in 2013. That's an average of 2.82 gallons per American. GALLONS. There are about 13 billion natural corks finding their way to landfills around the planet every year.

Surprisingly, the demand for cork is not threatening the natural cork forests. On the contrary, cork forests are being sustainably maintained in a way that is actually good for the environment! That's because cork trees aren't cut down. The bark is harvested from the trees every 9 years or so, and the trees themselves can live up to 300 years! The forests support high levels of biodiversity including some endangered species, and they absorb millions of tons of carbon every year. Natural cork is a sustainable and renewable material. The problem lies in the disposal of wine corks. Natural cork is an organic material, but it is impermeable, so it doesn't biodegrade very quickly. That means it will sit in the land fill for a really long time.

The most important thing to do is be more selective about the wine you purchase. Natural cork is a way better option than synthetic corks and metal screw tops, which don't biodegrade and are harder to recycle. Next time you're shopping for wine, look for the "Real Cork Inside" acorn on the label.

Once you've finished drinking your wine, hang onto the corks instead of tossing them into the trash. There are plenty of options for recycling them.

Here's a video of a wonderful TEDx talk given by Patrick Spencer, executive director of the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA). He speaks about why it's important to maintain natural cork forests.

The CFCA has created the Cork ReHarvest campaign and partnered with a variety of companies to recycle used wine corks and turn them into a variety of products. You can drop your corks off at any Whole Foods location. If you don't live near a WF, here is a list of collection sites.

ReCORK is another company that recycles used wine corks. The cork they collect is used to manufacture shoes for the SOLE brand. Find a cork collection site near you using their location finder.

You can also ship your used wine corks to Yemm & Hart, a materials manufacturer that actually pays 1/2 cent per cork. The minimum package weight requirement is 15 lbs, so this option is probably best for groups of wine drinkers or businesses that go through large quantities of wine. But maybe you can package up 15 lbs of wine corks on your own. No judgement!

You can even compost your natural corks. As I mentioned, they won't biodegrade quickly, so you may want to cut them up into small pieces before you toss them into your compost pile. Try giving your corks a quick whir in the food processor to break them down. Having bits of cork in the soil will actually help to retain water for your plants!

And if you're crafty, there is no shortage of cork craft ideas on Pinterest!

If you want to support cork recycling even further, you can purchase products that are made out of used wine corks. When you purchase one of these products, you are supporting the maintenance of natural cork forests and keeping wine corks out of the landfill.

Further Reading

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Father's Day Gift Guide for Eco Dads!

My Dad is impossible to shop for. He is a man who appreciates what he has and doesn't want or feel he needs more material possessions than what he already has. Which is lovely in theory, but really hard when I want give him a gift he'll appreciate! I've spent a lot of time searching the internet for the perfect dad gift. To save you the time of doing the same, I'm listing my top choices here.

Conscious Step Socks
These are not your typical boring dad socks. The ethically manufactured socks come in some really great colors and patterns, each supporting a different cause. Make your go-to fathers day gift more meaningful and get a few pairs for Dad!

Conscious Steps Socks support a number of great causes.

Electric Mower
A lot of us associate Dads with lawn mowers. That's probably because most of our fathers seem to enjoy mowing the lawn! Instead of a gas-powered mower, be better to the planet and give your father or husband an electric mower. I've done some research and this one has a great review rating. I was surprised by how affordable it actually is!

Elvis & Kresse
Don't go for the same old boring leather wallet for Dad. Elvis & Kresse makes all of their products out of decommissioned fire hoses. Not only do these wallets (or iPad cases, handbags, belts, keychains, etc.) keep waste out of landfills, but I like to think that each one played a part in saving someone's life.

Billfold wallet from Elvis & Kresse

Kobo eReaders
This device is perfect for anyone who prefers the convenience of ereaders but still wants to support their local independent book store. When you purchase a Kobo in person, a portion of the sales from each ebook you read on it will automatically go to the store where it was originally purchased.

Solar Grill Light
Dinner time in the summer often came after sunset for my family, and Dad was always forced to grill with a flashlight. Save your Dad the trouble with this grill lamp. It's solar powered, weather proof, and adjustable.

Sole Rebels
Sole Rebels is still one of my favorite shoe brands. They're the only WFTO Fair Trade footwear company on the planet, which is great news for the people who make the materials and manufacture the shoes. They also make a line of strictly vegan shoes.

These Sole Rebels boat shoes are vegan, carbon neutral, and fair trade!

Need some more gift ideas for your Dad, brother, baby daddy, husband, etc? Check out my "Green Gifts For Him" board on Pinterest. It comes in handy for Father's Day, birthdays, Christmas, etc!

Follow Rachel Gottlieb's board Green Gifts for Him on Pinterest.

And of course I had to make a "Dads" playlist! Take a listen to some of my favorite father tunes. Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother's Day Gift Guide for Earth Mamas

While you take some time this weekend to honor the mothers in your life, remember to honor our Mother Earth, and all mothers of the world. You can do that by giving gifts that are earth-friendly and fair trade. Here are some suggestions.

For Valentine's Day, I wrote about why it's important to shop ethically for flowers and chocolates. If you had those in mind for mom this year, check out that post from February.

Organic Bouquet offers flowers that are fair trade and organically grown.

Bangle bracelets from Alex & Ani are hugely popular right now. You've probably seen them on a few wrists, but did you know that they're made in America out of recycled materials? This bracelet features a flower and the word "Mom" so every time she puts it on, she'll know you think she's wonderful.

Mom bangle bracelet from Alex & Ani
Mom bangle bracelet from Alex & Ani

A really great online marketplace to shop for moms is SERRV. They are "a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide." They sell a wide array of items that would make great Mother's Day gifts, such as housewares and apparel. My mother and I both adore scarves, and SERRV has a great selection of beautiful ones.

Painted Silk Scarf from SERRV

There are also some wonderful options for the new or expecting mothers in your life. Alicia Silverstone's latest book, The Kind Mama is a guide for anyone who wants to have a naturally healthy pregnancy. I'm a fan of her blog, The Kind Life, and have heard great things about the book. Another really thoughtful and unique idea is a package of pre or post natal yoga classes! Here in Buffalo, Yoga Parkside offers a series of those as well as Mommy and Baby classes.

The Kind Mama by Alicia Silverstone

Some moms can be really hard to shop for. If yours is like mine, she has everything she needs! If you want to do something meaningful for the woman who does everything for you, give to someone else in honor of her. Heifer International is a wonderful organization whose important work is helping to reduce hunger and poverty in developing countries. They provide farm animals and other resources to women and families, empowering them to create a sustainable source of income and to overcome hunger. This year, if you give the gift a goat or share of a goat to a struggling mother in southern Zimbabwe, your donation will be matched to make twice the impact.

Gift a gift to empower mothers around the world through Heifer International!

For more gift ideas for Mothers Day, check out my Pinterest Board, below!

Follow Rachel Gottlieb's board Mother's Day for Earth Mamas on Pinterest.

Here are some of my favorite musical tributes to moms!