No Trees were Cut Down in the making of these Wooden Products!
My cap, reusable beverage cup, wallet, watch, face mask along with a number of my other personal items are made from wood. The source is cork, a species of oak indigenous to the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean region. It is one of the few trees that can be harvested without having to cut it down.
A few days ago I received a face mask made from cork. Thanks so much Sónia Almeida Santos for this lovely reusable nature-friendly gift which I will always treasure. I met Sonia last September in Mozambique where she is the national organiser for Africa Code Week and where I went to teach coding to staff/student mentors from Maputo’s main university and to school teachers.
I have been fortunate to have visited the world’s main cork forests located in Portugal. They are spectacular and are truly a unique renewable natural resource. Local farmers carefully cut off the bark with small axes ensuring that the trees are not damaged. Once the bark is taken off, numbers in big print are painted onto the trunks signifying the specific year of harvest. These trees are then left alone for another nine to twelve years.
With no logging involved and no mechanisation, these primeval woodlands support a rich diverse ancient fauna that is of European and global significance, including the endangered Iberian lynx, the Spanish imperial eagle and the Bonelli's eagle. Some of the trees can be over 200 years old.They are also an important stopover for migratory birds travelling between northern Europe and Africa as these intrepid avian travellers use them for a bit of rest and recuperation before continuing on their epic journeys.
Only a few decades ago, cork was the only material used to cap wine bottles. Unfortunately the switch to plastic stoppers and screw tops represents a serious threat to the future of the cork oak forests, their rural communities and their biodiversity. The local farmers who practice mixed farming of cereal cultivation, livestock grazing and tree harvesting would be forced to convert the woodlands to other uses in order to survive. In fact the truth is that these ancient habitats and the sustainable industry that they support should be a template to the world on how human societies and the rest of nature can be mutually beneficial.
Thankfully the Portuguese have made great strides in recent years in diversifying the range of products made from cork and tens of thousands of people work in the industry.
So we as individuals can play our part in supporting the forests and their inhabitants. Buy when possible only wine with cork stoppers as well as purchasing all the other fantastic new products that are now available. Many of these items are now on sale in Galway.
P.S. Some more info on the Cork face masks- According to one reliable source, 'cork' does not absorb dust and prevents the appearance of mites and, therefore, contributes to protection against allergies.