I’m looking to put in new flooring and want an eco-friendly option. What do you suggest?
Bamboo, sustainably harvested wood, and linoleum made from recycled content are all eco-friendly flooring options. Also available at most major home improvement stores, cork flooring is competitively priced with other kinds of sustainable flooring, and cork is a beautiful, eco-friendly material.
Cork products are made from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber). Much of the world’s cork comes from forests in Portugal, where the trees’ drought resistance allows them to flourish. Harvesters cut and strip the bark during early summer, a process that removes only the dead outer bark layers while leaving the living cambium intact. The cork trees continue to grow unharmed for about nine years before the bark gets harvested again.
Most of the Portuguese cork oak forests are owned by individual families who — when they’re not harvesting the oak trees’ bark — grow medicinal herbs, produce honey, gather pine nuts, graze cattle, and raise prized Black Spanish pigs on cork oak acorns in the forests.
Sustainable cork flooring is made by mixing an adhesive with “waste” cork granules from bottle-stopper production. It’s available in a range of finishes, from wood tones to tile look-alikes, and its natural propensity to repel water and provide acoustic insulation are bonus qualities. Keep your eyes peeled for other sustainable cork products as well, including wall insulation that’s growing in popularity in Europe because of its natural fire resistance and sound-proofing ability. If you’d like to learn about and support sustainable cork harvesting, go to Amorim Cork, and choose wine with stoppers made of real cork. Cheers!
(Top) Photo By Patrick Spencer: Cork is hand-harvested about every nine years in a way that allows the cork trees to continue to grow unharmed.
(Bottom) Photo By iStockphoto/katylh: Cork is hand-harvested to be made into a variety of products, including sustainable cork flooring and wine stoppers.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.