The Cork Revolution: Eco-Friendly Bags, Wallets, and Surprisingly Stylish Goods
BY JUSTIN FAERMAN
In a world inundated with synthetic fiber and plastic goods, cork is a refreshingly natural, organic material that viscerally reminds us of the trees from whence it came. It’s remarkably soft and supple to the touch, with a luxurious smoothness that feels delicate despite its toughness and durability—after all, cork is the inner bark of a special variety of oak tree native to southwestern Europe.
Most of the world’s cork production takes place in Portugal, which has a long, sustainable history in the art and is home to over five million acres of oak forests. Cork is produced by carefully harvesting the bark of the cork oak—a process similar to shearing sheep that leaves the tree entirely intact, unharmed and able to continue growing for the remainder of its 150- to 250-year life cycle.
Cork oaks are a protected plant species in Portugal, which means the harvesting process is strictly regulated and highly sustainable. Every nine years a portion of each tree’s bark can be removed by well-trained harvesters. The tree continues to grow and thrive after each harvest, reaching heights of up to 20 meters (60 feet) over the course of its lifetime.
In fact, trees that have their bark removed are even better for the environment than those that are left in their natural state, as harvested trees absorb about five times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The ongoing existence and support of the cork industry ensures the continued flourishing of Portugal’s cork forests, which provide a home to several endangered species and preserve the native biodiversity of the region.
EcoCork is a California-based, conscious company that imports beautiful handmade, eco-friendly cork products from Portugal, where founder Taciana de Aguiar travels yearly to visit family and friends. Her passion for the environment and love for one of Portugal’s oldest industries inspired her to create an exclusive line of cork bags, wallets, purses, phone cases and more. Visit: ecocork.us