Why Cork? | 7 Benefits Of Using Products Made With Cork

On my quest for a more sustainable, eco-friendly and ethical material to use for my bottle carrier, my research took me all over the place. From bamboo to pineapple leather, I even made inquiries into cactus leather (yes, it’s a thing!). But the material I couldn’t look past the whole time was cork.

Why Cork?

Well after reading more than I care to admit on the subject… I’m convinced cork has got to be one of the most eco-friendly natural resources on the planet. 

To showcase why, here are my top 7 benefits of using products made from cork. 

1. Harvesting cork helps to fight global warming

Yes, you read that right… We know that global warming is linked to the introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. 

Well, every year, cork oak forests help to absorb up to 14 million tonnes of CO2, and this ability to retain carbon dioxide is passed on to manufactured cork products, like our bottle carrier, which continues to ensure this critical function. 

With an average lifespan of more than 200 years, in their lifetime, cork oaks become massive carbon sinks, reducing greenhouse gas emissions whilst also making a significant contribution to the quality of the air we breathe.

What's even better? During the natural regeneration process that follows the harvesting of the cork bark, the tree's ability to absorb CO2 increases up to five times. Literally, the more it is harvested, the more it protects the environment!

2. Cork harvesting is one of the highest-paid agricultural jobs in the world

Every nine years, highly skilled workers carefully strip the bark from the cork oak tree, a very physical job performed during the hottest months of the year. After being removed from the tree, it is left in stacks of large curved planks for 6 months to dry out.

The traditional name of these cork harvesters is Corticadores. In Portugal, where over 50% of the world's cork is produced (including ours), cork harvesting is both a unique cultural heritage, passed from one generation to the next and a strategic economic activity.  Allowing people to literally live from the land. 

 

 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that around 100 thousand people in Southern Europe and North Africa directly or indirectly rely on cork oak forests as an important social and economic pillar.2 A perfect example of the balance between preserving the environment and sustainable economic development.

3. Cork oaks help to prevent forest fires

After living through the traumatic and devastating Australian bushfires which occurred at the end of 2019. Trees that can be planted which actually help to stop the spread of wildfires are alright in my books.  

Thanks to the fire-retardant properties of cork, the thick bark on the cork oak trees acts as a protective barrier against fire and heat. This protection extends to the forest itself and the animals within it. 

While harvesting the bark essentially eliminates this benefit, not every cork tree is harvested at the same time. So there are always areas of these forests which have higher protection against fires. 

4. Supporting cork is supporting nature

The more people who buy cork products, the more cork the industry needs and the more cork oak trees which need to be planted and harvested. This creates a virtuous cycle that is healthy for the environment and for our planet. 

According to the WWF:

“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”.

 

 So, the best way to support the preservation of these habitats is to choose cork over other synthetic or animal-derived products2.

Hint-hint - You can do this by grabbing one of our cork-leather bottle carriers!

5. Cork can be produced in a closed-loop waste-free cycle

Besides being entirely natural and helping to preserve a myriad of species, there is very little processing involved in the extraction of cork. This means the ecological footprint from extraction until the final product is incredibly low. Especially when compared to that of plastic or leather.

The reason for such a low ecological footprint lies in two qualities of cork: it is both recyclable and biodegradable. This means that even during the manufacturing process, cork waste can be reused to make other cork products. 

"Unused cork can also be ground up, compressed and turned into a biofuel." 

 

This biofuel can then be used to power the machines in the factories making products from cork5. Turning the whole process into a closed-loop system. Because biomass fuel has a net-zero carbon release (since the trees absorb carbon) it is a much greener alternative to coal and petroleum-powered factories. 

6. Cork leather makes the perfect substitute for animal-derived or synthetic leather

Being an all-natural product, cork doesn’t leave anything to be desired from its industrial counterparts, quite the contrary. 

Because of its durability, strength, and flexibility, it can easily replace harmful and chemical-heavy materials, like leather, in the production of everyday objects like our bottle carrier

 

 

Try holding a cork object in your hands, and you will spot the differences right away. It feels altogether very different from a synthetic man-made material – it’s like you have a piece of nature in your hands. Because that’s exactly what it is.

7. Cork leather can be produced without the harmful chemicals found in leather production

Cork leather or cork-fabric, as it’s otherwise named, is produced using very thin cork sheets obtained from slicing raw cork planks or blocks. 


The thin cork sheets are then carefully placed together by hand using a water-based adhesive onto any woven or non-woven backing material. This requires a high precision skillset and is similar to patchwork7. The fabric is then sanded and ends with the application of a protective finish. 

The result is a soft and natural touch, very difficult to find with any other material and only possible using the best quality cork shavings. 

Conclusion

In summary, you can see why we are crazy about cork. It not only helps to literally suck carbon out of the atmosphere, it cleans our air, supports a myriad of animal species and contributes to the livelihood of 100s of thousands of people.  

But unfortunately with more and more wineries swapping to plastic wine stoppers the demand for cork is threatened1. As the market for cork decreases, fewer cork oak landscapes will be conserved and endangered species will be placed at greater risk.

So at Carrymore, we’d like to be responsible for ensuring the longevity of this fantastic ecosystem by supporting it as much as we can.

This is the reason why we chose to make our bottle carrier from cork. 

Know of any other interesting uses for cork? Leave them as a comment below.



1. Source: WWF – Cork Screwed? Environmental and economic impacts of the cork stopper, pg. 8 | Download pdf

2. Source: WWF – Cork Screwed? Environmental and economic impacts of the cork stopper, pg. 2 | Download pdf

3. Source: Rainforest Alliance, Species Profile: Cork Oak Trees | https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/cork-oak

4. Source: Cork Oak Vulnerability to Fire: The Role of Bark Harvesting, Tree Characteristics and Abiotic Factors, Filipe X. Catry ,Francisco Moreira,Juli G. Pausas,Paulo M. Fernandes,Francisco Rego,Enrique Cardillo,Thomas Curt | Published: June 28, 2012 | https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039810

5. Source: Sepúlveda, F.J.; Arranz, J.I.; Miranda, M.T.; Montero, I.; Rojas, C.V. Drying and Pelletizing Analysis of Waste from Cork Granulated Industry. Energies 201811, 109. | https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/11/1/109

6. Source: Images by Daniel Michalik | https://www.core77.com/gallery/28676/how-cork-is-made/

7. Source: Images and words by Folclore Crafts | https://folclorecrafts.pt/

 

1 comment

Gloria Nixon

Is it possible or do you already have a water bottle holder that goes around your hip instead? Mabe on that would also have a pouch to put your keys and ID in?

Matias Salinas

I'm the founder of Carrymore™

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published