5 Reasons Why Cork Yoga Mats are Eco-Friendly
Cork is a natural product derived from the renewable bark of cork oak - more specifically Quercus Suber L.- , which mother nature has planted primarily in Southern Europe: Portugal, Spain, Italy and France.
However, Portuguese cork is considered the highest quality, and is as synonymous with Portuguese culture as sardines and surfing!
In fact, the use of cork in Portugal dates back to the times of the Navigators, being used on the ships that the Portuguese used in their travels to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Cork is therefore considered one of the oldest materials to be continuously used by mankind. It's honeycomb-like composition makes cork ideal for a wide range of uses, from ships to yoga mats!
But this unique natural resource is not only prized for it's versatility, but for it's unparalleled sustainability.
Here are 5 reasons cork yoga mats are eco-friendly:
1. Cork forests contribute to biodiversity
Cork forests rank among the top biodiversity hotspots in the Mediterranean and Europe.
Did you know that they are home to 135 plant species, 24 species of reptiles, 160 species of birds and 37 species of mammals?
Sadly, many of these species are already endangered. Take the Iberian lynx (pictured above) for example; one of the major causes for the near extinction of this beautiful animal is the destruction of its habitat.
Or the famous Black Iberian Black, who graze in these forests and whose diet consists exclusively of acorns, a bi-product of the Cork Oak.
The cork trees not only provide a structural home for these animals, but the physical properties of the trees help to protect their biodiverse ecosystems at large.
Cork trees help to conserve soil by providing protection against wind and increasing the infiltration of rainwater, contributing for a healthy and stable environment. Furthermore, their bark is fire retardant, keeping their forests safe from wildfires to protect their ecosystems from wildfires, which are a highly pervasive threat in Portugal.
Supporting the cork industry actually helps to support this unique ecosystem. According to an analysis performed by the World Wildlife Foundation:
"One major threat comes from the increasing risk of decline in the global cork market, due to the growing use of cork stopper substitutes, which threatens to reduce the market value of cork, and thus the incentive to preserve and manage cork oak forests."
In other words, by choosing cork over synthetic materials, we can actually contribute to the maintenance and preservation of these forests and all the lifeforms who call them home.
2. Cork can be sourced locally in Portugal
Portugal is home to the largest cork oak forest area in the world, making it the world's leading exporter of cork.
These cork forests (called “montados” in Portuguese) are located in the Alentejo region, located roughly an hour south of the capital of Lisbon. According corklife.pt:
"The total area of cork oak forest worldwide is estimated at 2.1 million hectares. Portugal has an area of 736000ha (34%). Although Portugal has an area that corresponds to 34% of the total, it produces more than half of the world's cork."
Unlike other natural materials that are used to make yoga mats (like Latex Rubber, which primarily grows is South East Asia or South America, and whose production is very poorly regulated) - the proximity of the cork allows us to keep 100% of our supply chain inside Portugal.
This means that the environmental impact of transporting the raw material is incredibly low. In fact, the cork only has to make a short drive from it's roots to our production facility. To see how our yoga mats are made from start to finish, check out this article!
3. Cork trees do not need to be cut to be harvested
Source: 100percent Cork
Cork is a fully renewable source.
That's because the tree is never cut down to harvest cork. In fact, due to it's protected status as the National Tree of Portugal, it's actually illegal to cut down a cork tree in Portugal.
Instead, only the outer layer of bark is removed from the tree.
This extraction is done by hand by highly specialized professionals, always between May and August, when the tree is in a more active phase of growth, and it is easier to strip it without hurting the trunk.
The bark must be cut at a precise depth in order to safely separate it from the cambium, a membrane of cells beneath the bark. As the cuts are made, the cork is ripped away in wide sheets, revealing the stunning red tree beneath. Check out this video on how it's done!
This necessary technique makes this the highest paid agricultural work in the world.
Once the tree has been harvested, it will start to rebuild its bark. In fact, the cork oak is still the only tree whose bark can regenerate after stripping.
This "stripping" process can be performed 9 years. Each tree can only be stripped starting 25 years after its birth, and can continue to produce harvestable cork for about 200 years.
Nerdy fact 🤓 : The oldest and most productive cork oak tree in the world is in Portugal, planted in 1783!
4. Harvesting Cork Helps Absorb C02
Cork forests are estimated to annually absorb 4.8 million tons of CO2, one of the main gasses causing the greenhouse effect and consequent climate changes.
This incredible tree has the particular ability to retain carbon, therefore a barkless tree retains almost 5 times more carbon than non-harvested trees.
In this way, the use of this natural material contributes to the preservation of a unique habitat worldwide.
After all, by using this material we are additionally contributing to the environment!
5. Cork is Biodegradable & Recyclable
As need to preserve nature and act in an ecologically balanced and responsible way has become increasingly urgent, this might be the most important point of all.
First, Cork has virtually no waste, as every last bit of the bark can be used. Cork scraps can be ground down and formed into agglomerated cork products, such as our Cork Yoga Blocks.
The thicker the grain of agglomerated cork, the higher the quality. But even the finest cork powder can be used as fuel for a factory.
Cork can also be recycled and repurposed in a wide number of ways. This material has multiple applications, from coatings to insulation, including sports surfaces, tennis balls, shoes, and aircraft components.
However, if you do decide to dispose of a used cork product, you can rest assured knowing that cork is 100% biodegradable. This natural material can decompose completely, and without producing any toxic residues in the process.
Shop Eco-Friendly Cork Yoga Mats
Still practicing on a plastic or rubber yoga mat? We hope this article gives you an opportunity to reconsider.
Shopping consciously and sustainably is not only important for our world as a whole, but also for our individual yogic journeys. After all, our yoga mats are the physical foundation that we practice on; they should be contributing to our harmony with the universe, not working against it.
Choosing an eco-friendly mat allows us to create a practice rooted in compassion - and with literal roots in cork trees!
Connect with nature each time you step onto the mat: Shop Cork Yoga Cork Mats now!