Using Consumption To Preserve Our Planet

by Fredrik Stenvinkel

Using consumption to preserve nature? It may sound contradictory. Preservation is certainly not the first thing to come to my mind when thinking of new products. Yet, products made with cork contribute to the preservation of the forests and ecosystems in Portugal. Let me explain...

The vast cork forests of Portugal are teeming with life (second only to the Amazon rain forests in terms of biodiversity). The cork oaks are working as natural defenders from forest fires and as a protective barrier against fire and heat. This protection extends to the forest itself and the animals within it. In fact, the scientific name for this species of tree is pyrophytes – literally meaning “fire plants”.

With the introduction of plastic “corks” and the metal screw caps in the bottle industry, the demand for the natural cork has seen a decline. The reduction in demand has resulted in a tragic deforestation of the Portuguese cork forest, as industries look to other crops with higher economic returns. This is bad news for the great variety of life making up the vibrant ecosystems around the cork forests and the people living in the area. We all know trees store carbon, but this is the cork oak's super power. A harvested oak captures up to 5 times more CO2 while regenerating and this has accumulated in great effect. Here’s a “did you know?” for your next cocktail party: it is estimated that Portugal’s cork industry annually absorbs 4.8 million tonnes of CO2 -  equivalent to 5% of Portugal's total carbon dioxide emissions.  

What does the harvest look like?

Cork is gathered by removing the bark (always by hand to avoid any damage to the actual tree). Cork grows au natural and with zero input: no pesticides, no artificial application of water or pruning. It’s a labour of love and patience as it takes roughly 25 years for a cork oak to deliver its first harvest and it is mandatory by Portugal law to leave oaks while regenerating. This means that demand serves as a natural preserver for a huge area containing Portugal’s vast cork forests. With increased demand of natural cork, more trees are planted and the forests are protected

We are on a mission to create new commercial products using cork in order to restore the demand for this truly sustainable material. The concept of 15:21 is about combining Scandinavian simplicity with nature’s own aesthetics, practical functionality, and a production method that actually gives back to nature, instead of exploiting it.

Also, let’s not forget that cork is natural, recyclable, decomposes naturally and comes from a sustainable source without cutting one single tree. So, pop a cork and save our forests!


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