Speaker announcement: Your screw cap wine bottles aren’t saving the world

By TEDxSalem Storyteller, September 4, 2013

Patrick Spencer

Patrick Spencer

Patrick Spencer says he has had two epiphanies in his life.

One was when he met his wife, Libby. Another was when he walked into the cork forest of Portugal.

At the time, Patrick was the sustainability coordinator with Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner. He was invited by one of the winery’s cork suppliers to see close up how cork is harvested for wine bottle closures.

“It was an ah-ha moment for me,” Patrick said.

At TEDxSalem, Patrick will take us to that moment of illumination.

Sustainability and oneophilia are two of many things that make Oregon special, and often we and the rest of the country have combined the two passions.

At some point, that has led to an avoidance of corked bottles and a popularization of plastic closures and aluminum screw caps.

Well, what if there isn’t a shortage of cork? What if cork forests are strong and thriving? What if I told you that those who are in the cork industry are probably the greatest stewards of this natural resource?

Today, Patrick is the executive director of Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, a Salem-based global nonprofit that works to educate on and protect the cork forests of Europe and North Africa.

The 5-year-old organization runs the largest cork recycling program in the U.S. and it was recently awarded special consultative status to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

So why is a Salem-based man advocating for cork forests and their stewards thousands of miles away from home?

“What we do locally really affects the world globally,” Patrick says.