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  • Writer's pictureCraig Stoltz

Walk a mile on my wine corks

My new shoes are made, I think, with recycled wine corks.

It all started with an unexpected item packed in with a recent wine shipment: A cardboard pouch from an outfit called ReCork. It invited me to fill the pouch with my used wine corks, mail it in, save the world, and so forth. Something about carbon sequestration and regenerative farming, I think.

Always happy to save Mother Earth at no personal sacrifice, I dropped our used corks into the pouch, and the pouch in the mailbox. I forgot about it.

If the cork fits...

In a few days I got an email from the company, thanking me and explaining that they turn the cork into the soles of shoes, which they sell under the brand name Sole.

They grind up the corks and "agglomerate" them, their website explains, turning them into a footbed material that's kinder to the environment than the foams and plastics that comprise the soles of most shoes. And arguably more comfortable.

In a moment of good will and WTF late-night online shopping, I bought a pair.

"The District" model, $85.25 -- less than my favored Allbirds. They looked pretty stylin', I thought, and the site copy bragged up the orthopedically advanced design. I could return them for a full refund if I didn't like them. [We know how that one goes.]

Nice looking! Not really comfortable!

I've got to say, my first impression was that they looked really good, but the sole is pretty skimpy for a shoe designed to use up agglomerated cork. On first wearings they are not that comfortable -- way less so than my beloved Allbirds.

But I'm prepared to give them a chance. They look pretty good, my lovely wife says. But they have a fuzzy outer that looks to me like it might pick up dirt and get all pilly. And they have a harder sole than most of my shoes, so they clonk when I walk on any hard flooring. I'm not sure how grippy they'll be on slick surfaces.

I'm not sure I should wear them when I've been drinking.

A long walk to recycle

Meantime, it looks like the mail-in offer no longer applies. An FAQ on the site says ReCork will accept corks from individuals only in amounts over 15 pounds. I'm guessing that much cork could fill a box big enough to hold a Shetland pony, but who knows.

If I want to recycle my own popped corks, I have to take them to the closest collection location, which turns out to be a restaurant about 10 miles from my house. Call me a world-killer, but I'm not going to do that.

It appears the business is based more on working with the hospitality industry to harvest in bulk. Makes perfect sense.

So it looks like wine-drinking householders can support the effort mostly by buying Sole shoes.

There's some comfort in knowing you're supporting sustainable agriculture and green industry in your footwear purchase.

Whether the comfort extends to the shoes themselves is yet to be determined.

I'll report back after a few weeks of wear.

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