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Shocking Facts about Cork

Shocking Facts about Cork – the Ultimate Fabric

If cork is good enough for NASA, airplanes and the Olympics, it is definitely good enough for me!                                                                             

      This is an amazing list on the benefits of cork. How did we live this long without incorporating cork into our lives, besides as wine corks? These are some of the benefits of cork:

  • Human health
    • Physical health
    • Emotional health
    • Mental health
  • Animal health
    • Decreases unnecessary slaying
    • Provides a home for some endangered species
  • Environmental health
    • Improves climate change and decreases the greenhouse effect
    • Cork forests that improve health of animals and humans with more oxygen (less CO2)
    • Prevention of soil erosion, better soil
    • Naturally fire retardant to prevent forest fires
    • Can grow in less than ideal climates
    • 100% recyclable!
    • Biodegradable, but can withstand 30 years of wear and tear
    • Durable/Strong in thin slices
    • Self-sustainable (renewable resource – cork is reproduced on same tree every 9 years)

And what are the disadvantages of using cork? NONE

  • NOT using enough cork so we then have to limit the number of oak cork forests, which limits the benefits.

Cork is a completely natural substance with over 50% of cork coming from Portugal, with Spain being second. The cork oat tree is considered an evergreen and does not loose its leaves. Cork comes from the bark of an oak bark tree, the outside of the tree. Thus, the entire tree does not need to be cut down to obtain the cork.  Special workers harvest (cut and peel large sections of) the cork from the outside of the tree every nine years, once the tree has matured, usually once the tree is 25 years old. Cork is very unique in the fact that every nine years, cork trees need to be shaved in order for the tree to regenerate itself and live. The tree continues to grow after it has been harvested and live for over 200 years. Thus, one tree can be harvested around 19 times in its life and produce tons of cork. Harvesting begins in early May and ends in late August when the tree is growing and easier to strip. Therefore, it is one of the most sustainable practices in the world.  Now, that should have shaken your world a little bit!

The additional unique features of cork include:

  •  100% Recyclable -all of the cork properties can be broken down and reused
  • Biodegradable after the cork is used for about 30 years every day, the cork may then start to show its wear and tear, but then will become part of earth again
  •  Renewable resource cork naturally regenerates itself and will be harvested every 9 years
  • Vegan - 100% plant material - (PETA – approved vegan) – no animal properties; completely vegan; cruelty free
  • Highly sustainable/abrasion resistant – even with using extremely thin layers
  • Waterproof/Water-repellent/water-resistant - Don’t get caught in the rain and worry about the contents in your handbags! The science behind this exclusive property also prevents the growth of mold, mildew and moisture. The honeycomb cellular pattern cause the material to be impermeable and also contains the fatty component called Suberin, which further enhances the resistance. Whew! The nurse in me is sold! Anti-allergy is all important for me!
  • Lightweight – 50% of the volume is air! Great for purses (don’t hurt your precious back anymore), earrings, everything.
  •  Stain-resistant, easy-to-clean – due to the tight honeycomb pattern of the cells, cork does not allow substances inside the fibers; impermeable to gases and liquids; also anti-static
  • Durable- hmmm…NASA… I am sold! Cork is surprisingly durable. This material will not scratch or tear easily.
  •  Hypoallergenic/anti-allergy – Cork is both anti-microbial and anti-fungal, which prevents it from spreading mold, mildew, termites and other nasty infestations. Cork is excellent for people with allergies or asthma since it won’t absorb whatever is in the surrounding air like dust or toxins and will prevent the contents of the bag from these toxins as well.
  •  Fire retardant -This is a natural property of cork and has a very slow process of combustion. It is fire retardant at very high temperatures, but if cork were to catch on fire, it does not produce flames or emit any toxic gases. Actually, cork forests act as a protective force against wildfires/forest fires.
  • Shock absorption – Once again, because of the unique cellular structure, cork has incredible compressibility. It can withstand about 15% of its original size or 14,000 pounds per square inch and has resiliency. This makes it practically indestructible and has the nickname “elastic memory”!
  •  Luxurious, soft feel - Once through the initial harvesting process, cork becomes a very soft, luxurious material. Cork bags often get even softer over time and wear. Wait till you feel the softness and quality of these purses, handbags, wallets, etc. You will never go back to "real" leather and will feel great about helping the environment and animals in so many ways!
  • Sound insulator - contains gas between its cells besides having the Suberin. This gas has a low conductivity of sound and vibration, thus decreases the degree of noise and movement.
  •  Each piece is unique - Cork is completely unique, meaning you won’t ever find two pieces that are identical. The material has its own unique ‘fingerprint’ that makes it unlike all the copycat handbags in the world. Cork leather can make clothes, shoes, and accessories look beautiful and high-quality, creating one-of-a-kind items that do not harm yourself or the environment. Could it get any better than that? 
  • Thermal insulator-Cork has gas contained within its cellular structure. This honeycomb structure allows cork to withstand a wide range of temperatures, allowing it to be a perfect product to be used for insulation – even for the space shuttle! (more later)
  •  Non-toxic –The entire process of harvesting through the end product does not provide any toxic or poisonous pollution. Cork is typically processed by boiling, thus not a big production process. Harvesting does not damage the trees and is completely renewable. And workers are not harmed during any process because there are no heavy metals or compounds.
  •  Forests prevent desertification/reduces greenhouse effects -The roots of cork trees are capable of storing a large amount of rainwater, which prevents soil erosion, which eventually leads to desertification. Cork trees take an important role in regulation of the hydrological cycle. They contribute to the air we breathe, and absorb carbon dioxide. Without the cork oat trees, that carbon dioxide would be released into the air and contribute to climate change.

Continuing the story of NASA and Mercedes and the use of CORK

(Logan would have loved this! Read about Logan in Hi! I'm Beth. Here is my Story.)

For example in cars, what better than use from such a prestigious company as Mercedes. Inside the Mercedes F700 prototype, cork fabric – high-quality, which ended up being better than high-quality leather is used and applied as upholstery and the door, ceiling, gearbox, hand brake, steering wheel and dashboards are all lined with cork. They have also used cork for the interior components of their buses, in high speed trains and in airplanes as seats and other areas. Cork is also being studied in other capacities of the motor vehicle industry. Cork has a part in the building of bridges, motorways, railways, dams and airports due to its sustainability and durability. Research is being done on the use in pollution control and power generation. Olympians are aware of the benefits of cork by using cork in some of  their supplies including the Olympic kayaks and other sports like hockey, golf, baseball, racket ball, surfboards, etc by maximizing their performance. Testing is also being done on bullet-proof equipment due to its shock resistant properties.

Another exciting fact about cork, is the use in Hollywood. Thanks to its lightness, cork granules are used in special effects scenes to simulate explosions. Have you seen Total Recall, Mission Impossible, or Ghost Busters? Cork debris was also used in shows to recreate a volcanic explosion such as in Dante’s Peak. Interesting, right?

Cork is not just making its stand on Earth either. For decades, NASA has chosen cork due to the fact it is an excellent thermal insulator and a more environmentally-friendly material. Cork is heavier than foam and provides even stronger protection against high predicted heat loads, like the engines and rocket boosters, to protect the spacecraft from the spread of flames with temperatures over one thousand degrees centigrade.  

With all the advancements, the use of cork is enhancing all types of manufacturing including engineering, architecture, construction, health and beauty, home accessories, and fashion. There is much more to come – stay tuned!

Thanks for listening!

Love, Beth Wold