By Liesl Clark
Wine corks have a natural mystique. There’s something attractive about those stoppers of cork once they’re released from a bottle of fine wine. And when you’ve accumulated a few, cork projects come to mind. One of the first DIY projects I made for my first home was a cork board out of a frame of recycled old painted wood found at the dump in Aspen, Colorado. It was such a thing of beauty, I made several of them, collecting corks from local restaurants, and I sold them to a shabby chic antique barn.
Before I start in with this list, I feel compelled to bring attention to the fact that cork is a renewable recyclable material. Recycling your cork through Recork, Cork Forest, or Cork ReHarvest will keep your cork out of the landfill and result in cork flooring and other cool products made of cork like shoes. Each organization can point you to your nearest recycler or you can take corks to a bin at Whole Foods Markets since they have a partnership with Cork ReHarvest.
The cork forests of Portugal are one of the oldest forms of sustainable agroforestry in the world. They’ve been in production since the 13th century and harvesting of the cork does not require cutting down the tree. Buying wines that use natural instead of plastic corks helps sustain these forests and their biodiverse habitats that need continued protection. But how do you know which wines have natural corks? There’s now a web app for that! Put out by Recork, I love this app called CorkWatch. I did a search for my favorite local winery, Eleven Winery, and found that all of their wines are corked with natural cork. Kendall-Jackson by contrast has a Reserve chardonnay in natural cork and their less expensive everyday chardonnay in plastic.
Although there’s risk of getting a wine with cork taint if you sample a natural cork wine, I still prefer purchasing a plastic-free wine. We know plastics leach BPA into liquids and there is good evidence showing that the plastic corks are not allowing wines to mature properly. Recork’s CorkWatch is helping me reduce my plastic footprint. Furthermore, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has a method of identification on the bottles themselves which some wineries are using: If you see an acorn on the bottle it means the cork is natural.
If you have accumulated some plastic corks, apparently the industry says you can recycle them. Of course our recycler won’t take them. I couldn’t find any information whether Seattle takes them and Earth911 had zero results for a recycler in our region. Hmmm. I think I’ll stick with traditional cork.
Ok, so you want to do something cool with your saved natural corks rather than recycle them? That’s cool. Here are a few ideas.
1) Wine Cork Cork Board: It’s as simple as gluing the corks against particle board with a frame around it. I used wood glue.
2) Wine Cork Pot Grippers: I squeeze them inside the handles of my cookware so I can pick up the pot tops when they’re hot without the need of a pot holder. Corks don’t conduct heat so these cork handles have become a staple in our kitchen.
3) Cork Stamps: If you’re good with an exacto knife, try carving some stamps.
4) Bulletin Bar: Line up your corks and glue them to a yardstick. This makes a yard-long bar for pinning things like your children’s art.
5) Cork Placemat: With 50 corks, a utility knife, and a hot glue gun you’ll have a cork placemat in no time (Okay, it’ll take some time.)
6) Cork Plant Labels: Cork looks natural in the garden labelled with the names of your veggies and herbs you’ve planted.
7) Furniture Leg & Floor Protector: Little cork disks make great furniture leg pads to protect your wood floors from scratches.
8) Wine Cork Key Chains: They might keep your keys afloat!
9) Cork Horse: Make a cute cork horse with cork, string, and matches.
10) Cork Centerpiece: If you have a large glass bowl and a tea light you can make a pretty cork centerpiece.
11) Cork Trivet: Cork is a great material for making a trivet.
12) Cork Backsplash: If you have a wet bar, a cork backsplash would look great.
13) Cork Ornaments: Corks and beads make pretty Christmas ornaments.
14) Wine Cork Wine Coasters: They might be a bit wobbly for your wine glass but the do look cool.
15) Cork Wreath: Even wreaths can be made from wine corks. Next thing you know, you’ll be able to make a planter out of wine corks.
16) Cork Succulent Planters: This picture tutorial shows you how.
17) Wine Cork Bird House: This video shows you how to do it. Doesn’t look tough.
18) Wine Cork Place Card Holder: These aren’t difficult to make and they leave a great impression.
19) Wine Cork Curtain: Alas, I can’t find a decent tutorial, but imagine stringing corks and beads together to create a 60’s-ish curtain of cork-strings in your doorway.
— Time for a brief commercial break: If you haven’t visited our Trash Backwards app, now’s the time! You can input any item, like “wine corks” and get hundreds of curated reduce, reuse and recycle ideas for your item. (ok, maybe not hundreds yet but we’re on our way.)
20) Cork Jewelry Organizer: Selectively placed on a picture frame, wine corks can help you organize and display your jewelry.
21) Wine Cork Base Board: This Old House shows you how to make a base board runner made of wine corks.
22) Cork Fire Starters: Soaked in isopropyl alcohol, just about anything will burn. Wine corks are no exception.
23) Wine Cork Lamp Stand: It’s just what it sounds like. Corks circling a lamp stand and painted, too.
24) Wine Cork Dog Leash: Really! And it’s not hard to make. This one’s my fave.
25) Plant Pot Moisture Absorbers: This one is 2 ideas in 1. You can place corks in the bottom of your large pots to reduce the amount of potting soil you need to put in while providing drainage. But you can also grind up some corks in your vitamix and put the bits in your soil to help hold moisture on hot days.
If you have wine corks, then you definitely have wine bottles, too. In case you’re interested, we have all sorts of cool reuses for your wine bottles in our Trash Backwards app:
Have more wine cork reuses to share? Please do in the comments below.