Save a tree, go with cork flooring
With global warming becoming a serious concern overshadowing our future it’s time to seriously consider seeking a better way to build and furnish our living spaces. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo style and beauty to achieve this. There are quality flooring materials on that market that does warm, comfortable and resilient without horrifically damaging impact on the earth. One product that tops the list is, Cork. Soft like suede, it has the insulating qualities and resiliency of carpet; the easy-to-clean surface of wood or tile; plus luxuriant appeal from its earthy colors and rich visual texture. But cork’s number one quality, that makes it one of the best flooring options the world over, is that it is one of the few, truly environmentally friendly resources.
Vast forests of Quercus suber, the one oak species that produces cork, grow in the Mediterranean region, primarily in Portugal, where it is protected. Cork is derived from the outer bark of the cork oak and is a 100% natural plant tissue, comprised of a honeycomb-like cellular structure that contains a gas identical to air and coated primarily with a waxy substance called suberin. The material is acquired by stripping most of the outer bark from the cork oak tree. No tree is cut down during this process as the each is capable of self regeneration. In terms of a forest of trees, you’ve got an ongoing cycle that does not need to be replenished for decades. Each of these magnificent oaks can live for up to two centuries.
Newly planted trees will not be stripped until its 25th year, where after reproduction cork may be extracted every 9-12 years. The stripping process happens in the spring or summer because this time of year is when the oak is growing and the inner bark’s newly developing cells are easier to break. Healthy and whole, the trees is left alone to allow a new layer of bark to grow. During its lifetime a single tree can put out a harvest 8 to 15 times. Therefore these forests are sustainable and highly prized, and are often passed down through generations of families.
But a cork forest does more than shed its outer bark for our use. It contributes to the preservation of the environment thru soil conservation, regulation of the water cycle, reduction of carbon emissions and preservation of the biodiversity. In the Mediterranean region, where there are long periods with little rainfall, cork forests play an important role in regulating water and soil conservation, providing protection against wind erosion, and increasing the rate at which rain water infiltrates and replenishes the groundwater.
But cork doesn’t stop there in being a green product. Just like the harvesting process, the refining and manufacturing process of cork material is geared to be earth friendly. Products used, such as water-based adhesives to coloring, are chosen for their low environmental impact. Why, because manufacturers of cork products, especially flooring, do so to maintain the ‘green’ certificate cork carries.
Now that you have an understanding of how cork is such an environmentally friendly material, doesn’t it makes sense to add it to your home. Build with a product that is good to the earth. Give a little back the world that sustains us and make your home a greener space. Cork it and watch the years go by.