Other uses for wine corks and bottles

I’m a consummate, almost rabid, recycler. Every plastic or paper bag, aluminum and paper scrap gets either reused, recycled or both. It hacks me off to see bottles in the trash, as I envision a massive garbage heap bloated with items rejected by Mother Nature. People have declared with disdain that it costs more to recycle wine bottles than to dispose of them, but generating an avoidable giant trash heap isn’t logical either. So I’ve traveled a third path and found other ways to use the numerous wine bottles and corks laying around my home, from crafty to silly. In honor of Earth Day, here’s a list — something on here should ring right for you.

Empty wine bottles:
• Use them to line a pathway in your yard. Simply wash them and bury upside down into the soil (removing the label makes it look cleaner). Doesn’t matter if the colored glass matches — it’s cooler if it doesn’t — only that they’re lined up with each other. Sunlight reflects off of them, creating a kaleidoscope effect.
• Paint the bottle and use it as a flower vase. Use acrylic paint — the goofier the design, the better.
• Build a countertop lamp by feeding a string of 25 mini white Christmas tree lights into the bottle (LEDs work best). Leave the plug outside, using the cork to secure the cord in the bottle’s neck. If desired, decorate it with fake grapes, ribbons, etc.
• A few years ago, a tragedy occurred: A large, 3-liter bottle of wine broke on my tile floor. Besides the devastating loss of treasured wine, it was signed by the winemaker and meant a lot to me. To avoid parting with the memory, I decided to craft it into a candle holder. I took the neck of the bottle (cork still in place), filled it with sand and pushed a small candle into it. Works pretty nifty, as long as you smooth down the jagged edges. Of course, if you haven’t broken a favorite bottle lately, you can take the easy road and buy candles designed especially for the 750-ml wine bottle opening. Simply shove it in the empty hole and light ‘er up.
• Other uses: a rolling pin, meat pounder, vessel for homemade flavored vinegars (screwtops are best), and a more attractive dishwashing soap dispenser.

Used corks:
• Cork is used for flooring these days, but you can also reinvent your wine stoppers as table trivets. Many craft stores have simple kits, or head to Home Depot for a wire clamp that holds them in place.
• Since they float, cork works quite nicely as a fishing bobber. Or try throwing a couple into your toddler’s bath. Free toy.
• One year, I made reindeer Christmas tree ornaments. Although time consuming, it was cool to hear my friends say: "Oh my god, you made this?" I recycled four corks per reindeer, glued them together with some googly eyes, a puffy red dot nose and felt piping for the antlers. I’m so far from Martha Stewart, it’s laughable, but I felt pretty damn crafty.
• Make your own bulletin board for the wall. Glue corks end-on-end for the outside frame and then fill in the middle with others, creating interesting patterns.
• If you’re not particularly handy, send in your used corks to Recork America that reuses them as flooring, building insulation, sports equipment and more. Details at recorkamerica.com.

Whatever you do, celebrate Earth Day on April 22 with a glass of wine in your hand and a clear, green conscience as you recycle the bottle.

Wine Recommendation
Artesa 2006 Pinot Noir Carneros (California) Cool climate Carneros delivers up some great pinots and chards, and this refined Artesa beauty delivers value too. Soft, elegant tannins and subtle acidity break into bright, luscious red cherry, raspberry, apple pie spice and a long, dusty finish. Sw=2. $22. 4.5 stars.

Sweetness (Sw) rating: 1-10. Star rating: 1-5. Reach Taylor at [email protected], on Twitter @tayloreason, and on Facebook.

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