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The Green Life: Beer Bottles that Keep on Giving

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February 01, 2011

Beer Bottles that Keep on Giving

Bottlehood glasses When Steve Cherry spotted a cobalt-blue water bottle at a San Diego restaurant, a spark for a sustainable business ignited. He turned the glass bottle into a votive. Then "one thing led to another."

The co-founder of BottleHood, a San Diego startup that transforms beer, wine, and liquor bottles into tumblers, vases, light fixtures, and other eco-products, realized that trashed glass could be repurposed into something useful and attractive.

The business grew out of a "high-tech marketing guy meets eco-zealot" collision with co-founder Leslie Tiano. Today, the pair employs local labor to collect bottles from restaurants, bars, and community events. Their motto: "If you throw out your glass, throw it in our trucks."

Since starting the company in 2009, Cherry and Tiano have sold more than 50,000 pieces, and aim to repurpose 400 bottles per day. "In California alone, almost a billion wine bottles a year end up in landfills," Cherry says, "and a glass bottle takes more than 4,000 years to decompose."

This year, their goal is to repurpose 300,000 bottles. "In the next five years, we should be keeping millions of bottles out of landfills," he says.

The technique is derived from Cherry's experience cutting gemstones at a jewelry-manufacturing operation. "I took the same rock-cutting approach with the bottles," he says, "and they turned out pretty swell." 

Opting for diamond saws over torches and kilns to convert the beer containers into glassware, BottleHood saves energy. They also recycle boxes, packing peanuts, and wrapping paper for shipping products, and this week, will begin giving tours of their workspace to elementary-school kids as a way to educate about repurposing things that already exist.

"We're trying to make sure that the whole notion of sustainability is not a passing fad," Cherry says, "but something that gets woven into the fabric of life."

--Molly Oleson

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