At HowCork, we are always working hard to be as sustainable and ethical as possible. We believe that style is more than just about beauty on the surface. What counts for us is everything behind the curtain. For example, when buying new items, we ask ourselves many questions. What materials are used, where is the production, by whom is it produced, and in what working conditions? What is the full life cycle of the product? What happens when it is disposed of, is it recyclable or biodegradable?
These are all questions that inspired our journey with cork. So we wanted to take a second to share with you some of what makes us a green, ethical business, and how we strive to keep our footprint as small as it can be, and always continue to improve.
1. Natural, Renewable Plant Product
Cork is simply the bark of the Cork Oak, a vital part of the Mediterranean ecosystem, and it is removed without harming the tree. It is then boiled in water and rolled into sheets to be used in countless applications. Cork is completely natural and vegan, and all of our products have been certified to be vegan by PETA. It is a renewable raw material, as the bark grows back in 9 years, and its harvest and use makes a positive impact on the environment. Cork is durable and develops character over time, has a long life span, and is a material that can be recycled over and over. Skip the animal leather with toxic tanning chemicals, and skip the petroleum-based synthetic so-called "vegan" leather.
2. Benefits Local Communities in Portugal
Cork is an integral part of Portuguese culture. Cork grows in the south of Portugal, specifically in Algarve and Alentejo. Cork plays a huge role in Portugal's vibrant, creative artisanal production and natural lifestyle. As we mentioned, cork oaks are an important part of the forests throughout the entire Mediterranean. This is because cork oaks act as a watershed and store water underground, provide shelter for many animal species, and absorb thousands of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. When cork is harvested, the tree begins to regenerate, and its capacity to produce oxygen and absorb CO2 is even greater.
The companies that we source our cork products from are all small businesses, owned and operated by people who love what they do, and who employ local people in the community. Our producers are true artisans, with a vision for the future that respects the environment and lives in tune with nature. They create their own unique designs, and turn their ideas into reality. At Corkor, one person will make one bag or wallet from start to finish, rather than an "assembly line" style method where one person only does one thing over and over again. This way, as explained by the owners of Corkor, an employee can feel the true gratification of having created something with his or her own hands from scratch. This also contributes to the uniqueness of every product. We were told that the cork artisans can usually tell who has made what. That's true passion for what you do!
3. Recycled Material for Packaging
We do our best to not overlook the details every step of the way. For this reason, we decided to use cardboard boxes, 100% recycled (and biodegradable) dye-free kraft paper for wrapping gifts and adding cushion to our boxes, and 100% recycled crinkle paper for filling material. You won't find any styrofoam here!
We also created our business cards and promotional materials with an eco-friendly printing company, and we were able to print our cards on recycled paper using soy ink, which is much less toxic than conventional petroleum-based inks, due to containing less volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Our cards were also printed at the facility closest to us, in order to reduce the shipping distance and dramatically lower fossil fuel emissions.
4. Shipping Considerations
We do not currently have a brick and mortar store, so shipping is required for our products. But, we do our best to keep our shipping as green as possible. When we ship a product to a customer, we choose the smallest box possible that we can fit your items in, as reducing the size and volume of packaging takes up less space, weighs less, and uses less materials, which all contribute to a smaller carbon footprint.
We decided to use USPS for our deliveries not only because they generally offer the least expensive shipping rates, but also because mail delivery trucks are already out making their daily deliveries, instead of sending another truck from a private courier out on the road.
Along the same lines, we have arranged for the postal service to pick up our packages daily from us, rather than driving to the post office. This is an eco-friendly choice because delivery trucks, again, are already out on the road, and most of their routes are optimized to be fuel-efficient. They simply stop by our location when completing their route. The post office has even created a "Skip the Trip" savings calculator to show how much fuel is saved by using package pickups.
This year, instead of voting with your dollar for the same old system of exploitation and pollution in the textile and leather industries, choose sustainable fashion. Make this holiday special with natural, unique cork gifts that you can feel proud of.