Cork has been used for everything from yoga mats to car interiors as brands in a range of industries look to create more environmentally-responsible products, but is cork eco-friendly?
The good news is yes, cork is among the most earth-friendly materials being used today!
What makes cork eco-conscious exactly though?
I’m working with JORD to bring you a breakdown of 5 reasons that cork is an eco-friendly material…
1. Renewable and Regenerative
Cork is harvested by cork strippers who remove the bark of cork oak trees — meaning no trees are cut down to harvest cork. This cork stripping process is done carefully by skilled workers (not machines) to ensure that the tree does not get harmed in any way.
The cork oak tree renews quickly — once a cork oak tree reaches 25 years, the bark can be harvested about every 9-12 years! And with cork oaks living to about 200 years, each tree can be harvested numerous times. 
Plus, this harvesting can actually play a beneficial role in our environment as well.
After the cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, the tree regenerates more bark. The tree needs to absorb CO2 for this bark regeneration process and thus sequesters more CO2 from the atmosphere than it would if left unharvested. According to the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, a harvested cork oak tree absorbs up to 5 times more CO2 than an unharvested cork tree. 
This is a beautiful illustration of the Indigenous lessons taught in Braiding Sweetgrass (which is a must-read, by the way!) of the essential role humans can play in reciprocity with nature and regeneration of the earth.
2. Supports Biodiversity
Forests with cork oaks have more biodiversity than many other types of forests — they can be home to nearly 135 plant species per square kilometer and provide a habitat for a variety of animals, including some endangered species like the Iberian lynx and Barbary deer! 
But, as the cork industry faced reduced demand for wine corks (amidst the rise of screw-off caps and plastic wine stoppers), the value of these cork oak forests declined as well. And, as the value of forests decreases, the risk of exploitation and clearcutting the land for other purposes increases.
Providing a market for cork products, though, increases the incentive to preserve these cork oak trees and the forests they live in — all while also protecting thousands of well-paying green jobs in rural areas. 
A key attribute that must be taken into consideration when evaluating the eco-friendliness of a material is its durability. Can this material be used to make products that actually last the test of time? Is the material tough enough to withstand years of wear and tear? Would you be able to adopt the practice of fewer, better things with products made of this material?
Cork, while lightweight, is in fact an ultra-durable material, which just so happens to also be stain and weather-resistant!
In an analysis of the properties of cork, BioResources science journal concluded that cork is:
- “Not very permeable to fluids” (i.e. waterproof)
- Has a low thermal coefficient (i.e. can withstand very high temperatures)
- “Exhibits elasticity and deformation without fracturing under compression” (i.e. will not break or crack when pressure is applied)
- “And has considerable durability” (pretty self-explanatory! 
4. Plant-Based Leather Alternative
Natural doesn’t always mean cruelty-free and vegan doesn’t always mean natural, but the term ‘plant-based’ can be used to refer to materials that are both vegan and natural.
Although they may be (deceptively) marketed as “eco-friendly”, most mass-market vegan products are actually just made entirely from plastic materials manufactured from crude oil.
Vegan leather alternatives are commonly made from polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is known to be the most toxic and environmentally damaging form of plastic. In fact, vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute and WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. [5, 6]
Cork, though, can offer a viable natural leather alternative to these synthetic vegan leathers!
5. Reusable, Recyclable, and Biodegradable
Reusable: Cork is a versatile material used for anything from insulation to crafts to flooring!
Recyclable: Cork is recyclable! Check out Earth911 for a guide to recycling cork.
Biodegradable: Because cork is a natural material, it can biodegrade. Here are some tips for how to compost cork.
What is Suberhide™?
Suberhide™ is JORD’s trademarked “cork-infused vegan leather”. The word comes from a combination of hide (cork bark) and suberin, which is a waxy substance found in the cell structure of the cork that gives cork its resilience.
The process of converting raw cork into JORD’s signature Suberhide™ retains the most amount of suberin possible, making it an incredibly durable material, meant to last a lifetime.
JORD sources their cork from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified forests in Portugal, to ensure responsible sourcing.
As a material, Suberhide™ is soft and smooth. Though it is created from cork, it is nothing like the cork in wine stoppers; it’s actually a supple material available in several finishes.
Check out this page for more on the process behind JORD’s Suberhide™ material — it’s pretty fascinating!
Where to Find Cork Bags
If you’re looking for an investment handbag for yourself — or perhaps a gift for a loved one — JORD’s Suberhide™ cork handbag collection has some really fab choices. Here are a few of my favorite cork bags from JORD!
(And you can use the code CONSCIOUSLIFEANDSTYLE20 for 20% off if you find something you love or want to gift!)
- : Species Profile: Cork Oak, Rainforest Alliance
- : Cork Forest Conservation Alliance
- : Portugal Pops a Cork to the Regeneration of a Formerly Ailing Industry, Equal Times
- : The Rationale Behind Cork Properties: A Review of Structure and Chemistry, BioResources
- : Why You Should Avoid PVC Products, EcoWatch
- : Cancer-Causing Substances: Vinyl Chloride, National Cancer Institute
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