As a product design studio, Wiid Design is constantly exploring different ways to work with unique and sustainable materials. And cork – the bark of the cork oak tree – is just such a substance. With a large variety of applications and available grades, it’s one of the most sustainable materials in the world.
Wiid Design started experimenting with cork more than 11 years ago. Though it took us a lot of time and work to understand its various properties and grades, we soon realised cork’s fantastic manufacturing capabilities – and we grew more and more certain that cork was to become one of our studio’s core materials and focus.
The Cork Oak Forest
The cork oak tree reaches maturity at 25 years. From then on, it can be harvested for its bark (by specialised professionals) in cycles of nine years. The cork oak is the only tree whose bark regenerates, acquiring a smoother texture following each harvest. Over the course of its lifetime, which on average lasts 200 years, it may be stripped around 17 times.
Cork oak forests are found mainly in the Mediterranean region, particularly Portugal. Crucially, these forests act as powerful agents against climate change, as every year they absorb up to 14-million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In its lifetime, each cork oak tree becomes a massive storehouse of CO2, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of climate change. Even better, during the natural regeneration process that follows harvesting, the tree’s ability to absorb CO2 increases up to five times. The more it is harvested, the more it protects the environment.
The cork oak forest is also a biodiversity hotspot, providing a home to over 200 animal species and 135 plant species, some of them endangered.
By playing a crucial role in the world’s ecological balance, fighting climate change and desertification, and sustaining biodiversity, the cork oak forest is a living ambassador of sustainability and a driving force of sustainable development.