If you open a bottle of champagne or wine this New Year’s Eve, take a look at the stopper.

In recent years, plastic stoppers and screw tops have come on the market as alternatives to natural cork, but cork can be better for the climate.

Cork is harvested in the Mediterranean from the bark of cork oak trees. The process does not harm the tree, and the bark regrows. But the first harvest cannot begin until the tree is about 25 years old.

“You can only harvest that oak every nine years, but because they live for hundreds of years, you actually get to harvest them 18, 19, 20, 22 times,” says Carlos de Jesus of Amarim Cork.

He says cork forests store a great deal of carbon, and manufacturing cork stoppers creates little carbon pollution. To minimize waste and help power manufacturing, production plants often burn cork dust.

“In the case of Amarim, 65% of our energy needs comes from the dust generated by the production of cork stoppers,” de Jesus says.

Independent studies have found that there is far more carbon stored in a single natural cork than is emitted to the atmosphere by producing it.

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So using cork instead of plastic or aluminum stoppers is not only traditional, it’s more sustainable.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.