We believe that investing in sustainable materials is one of the most empowering ways to create environmental change. So when we first found out about cork fabrics and the incredible positive impact it holds, we couldn't help but fall deeply in love with this magnificent tree, and her product.
At the end of 2020 *what a year* we drove to Portugal with the intention to settle down and wait for the world to calm down a little. As we landed in our little house near Porto, I went online to search for local materials and crafts and boy, was I in for a treat!
Turns out Portugal is the biggest producer of cork in the world and that cork is awesome. It's one of the most highly renewable and eco-friendly resources on the planet.
Cork is pretty much as sustainable we can wish for a material to be: it is natural, renewable, 100% biodegradable and recyclable with a great impact on environment and rural economies.
After hours of research, I couldn’t find a soul with a different opinion. There is an overwhelming amount of reasons to work with cork and I can't wait to tell you all about it.
The cork oak
A TREE THAT GIVES SO MUCH AND TAKES SO LITTLE
The cork oak tree is one of the most generous and resilient trees in the world. Its existence both awe-inspiring and humbling.
This tree protects forests, offers home to an incredible number of (endangered) animal and plant species, prevents soil erosion and guards against fire, desertification other serious environmental threats, it absorbs a substantial amount CO2 out of the atmosphere, provides oxygen, and supports local communities.
The tree requires very little resources to grow with zero input; so no soil preparation, irrigation, fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides, or pruning.
HARVESTING CORK HELPS HEAL THE EARTH
No trees are killed for cork.
Cork is made from the bark of the cork tree, and does not harm the tree. The cork is harvested from the tree every 9-12 year during the tree’s 300 year lifespan and, here comes the most incredible part; due to its regeneration process, a harvested Cork Oak absorbs up to 5 times more CO2 out of the atmosphere than a non-harvested tree.
Cork oak tree forests in Portugal alone help offset 14 million metric tons of carbon every year, to put in perspective: a normal household produces about 50 metric tons of CO2 per year. Besides all this, Cork oaks are great oxygen producers.
Cork forests: A biodiversity as rich as the Amazonian rainforest.
Cork tree forests are some of the most bio-diverse environments on the planet. The world’s cork oak forests hosts millions of migratory birds every year and is home to a diversity of plant and animals species, many of which are endangered or critically endangered, like the Iberian Lynx, Iberian Imperial Eagle, the Barbary Deer, the Barbary macaque, the Black Vulture, Black Stork, and the Barbary Stag. Were it not for the preservation cork forests, many of the species within these unique ecosystems would be extinct.
“Cork oak forests support one of the highest levels of biodiversity among forest habitats, as well as the highest diversity of plants found anywhere in the world” - World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Cork forests protect against forest fires.
The bark of the Cork tree serves as a great protective barrier against fire and heat. In a place like Portugal where forest fires are a big issue, cork forests protect surrounding forests while providing a safe haven for wildlife.
Cork oak forests - or ‘montados’ in Portuguese - are a vital source of regional rural employment. The WWF estimates around a hundred thousand people’s livelihoods to depend on cork oak forests. Cork oak woodlands provide employment and guarantee the survival of local communities; demonstrating a beautiful balance between sustainable development and environmental preservation.
Harvesting the cork
The cork oak is the only tree that can have its entire bark removed without causing it any harm - providing the harvesters, known as ‘triadors’, wield their tools correctly. The triadors have a symbiotic relationship with the forest. Because the survival of the tree depends on their precision and care, cork harvesting is a skill taken extremely seriously. Young aspiring triadors apprentice for a year, as the skill is passed down from one generation to the next. Cork harvesting is of such high value to the environment and local economy that it’s amongst the best paying agricultural jobs in the world.
The cork industry is a near perfect example of renewable production. The WWF urges people to choose cork stating that the environmentally and economically sustainable cork industry is necessary for the forests to thrive and ensure the future of the countless species that rely on them.
Green, zero-waste processing
When the cork is harvested it get’s taken to factories where it is dried, boiled and turned into the cork fabric we use for our carriers. The amazing thing about these factories is that up to 90% of the energy used for processing the cork is made from burning cork dust; a byproduct of production.
Of the cork that gets taken from the tree, absolutely none of it goes to waste.
Supporting cork is
Choosing a cork product is a vote to preserve cork forests, to support the workers who make their living off of them, and to protect the endangered creatures who call these branches home.