COP26, Cork Yoga Mats and Sustainability

Quercus suber, commonly called the cork oak

With COP26 taking place in Glasgow last year, the urgent need for action to fight the climate crisis was brought to the centre of the world’s attention once again. The outcomes have sparked much debate, with many feeling the targets set will not be enough to beat the crisis.

However, whilst the big decisions may be out of our own hands, every choice we make as individuals will continue to have an impact. So, if you’re feeling deflated don’t give up just yet. There’s still plenty you can do to support the planet and help win the war on climate change, starting with your yoga mat.

Choose sustainability, choose cork

When it comes to choosing a yoga mat, cork is hands-down the most sustainable choice. Not only is it recognised by WWF and Rainforest Alliance as one of the most sustainable resources, but it also has one of the most eco-friendly manufacturing processes on the planet.

So, what gives cork its green credentials? Well, there’s a number of reasons and we’re going to discuss them in more detail throughout this article. 

A renewable resource

Cork forests cover approximately 2.1 million hectares within the Mediterranean, including Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Algeria. The cork itself is harvested by shaving the bark from the tree and once the bark is removed, it starts to grow back.

Now, this process certainly doesn’t happen overnight as before the first harvest can occur, the tree must reach full maturity which takes 15-20 years. Then once the bark has been harvested, it takes approximately 9-10 years to grow back fully.

However, provided the forests are well managed, cork can be harvested in this way for decades and decades making it a great renewable resource.

A carbon-negative production process

Like all living trees, cork trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to reduce global warming. However, harvesting cork actually increases CO2 absorption, as the process of regrowing bark requires the tree to take in more CO2.

It’s estimated that Mediterranean cork forests act as a carbon sink for approximately 14 million tons of CO2.

As we mentioned before, cork is harvested by simply shaving the bark from the tree, meaning no trees are cut down in the process. Therefore, no CO2 is released when harvesting the cork.

All of these factors combined result in a carbon-negative manufacturing process for the majority of cork products, which means that CO2 produced at other parts of the manufacturing process are outweighed by the amount of CO2 absorbed by the cork forests, producing a negative carbon footprint overall. 

Habitat for wildlife

Cork forests are home to a diverse range of wildlife, providing a rich natural habitat for no less than 24 species of reptiles and 37 mammal species, ranging from weasels, hares, wolves, deer, wild boar, and even some endangered species such as the Iberian lynx.

Over 160 bird species also live among the forests, including kestrels, little owls, vultures and Spanish imperial eagles. Out of 51 important Areas for Birds in Continental Portugal identified by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), 11 are areas containing more than 1000 hectares of cork forest. 

100 % Recyclable

Cork is surprisingly strong and durable, therefore our cork yoga mats are built to last. However, once your yoga mat does reach the end of its life it can be fully recycled and used for other purposes. That’s because unlike many of today’s plastic and PVC alternatives, our mats do not contain any synthetic materials or single-use plastics. In addition to cork, our mats also have a recycled tree rubber bottom which is 100% natural and recyclable.

Fair wages for farmers

Cork harvesting is recognised globally as one of the highest paying jobs within the labouring sector, which means cork farmers and harvesters receive a fair wage for their resources. This is something that is greatly important to CorkYogis, which is why we only ever support Fairtrade and ensure our farmers working conditions meet our high standards.

Zero waste

Waste is a huge issue in many manufacturing processes, with excess resources and by-products often ending up discarded in landfills. Cork production is different as no part of the bark goes unused. The bark from cork trees has many different uses; from wine stoppers, flooring, building insulation, flooring, craft materials, sports equipment and more. Even the dust particles can be used in various cork products, resulting in absolute zero waste.

Additional advantages of cork yoga mats

In addition to the green credentials mentioned above, cork also has a few other unique properties which make it a great choice for your yoga mat.

Excellent grip

Finding a yoga mat with a good grip can be a challenge, especially once you start working up a sweat. However, cork is unique thanks to its natural gripping properties that actually increases as you sweat. So instead of focusing on trying not to slip over, you can finally turn your full concentration back to your practice.

Antibacterial properties

You may not think of your yoga mat as being particularly dirty. However, studies have found the average yoga mat is in fact a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, containing more germs than a toilet seat.

Cork, however, contains natural antibacterial properties making cork yoga mats a far safer, hygienic choice. And given the current climate with Covid-19 cases still soaring in the UK, having a mat with an anti-bacterial surface is certainly a win.

The perfect eco-friendly gift…

If you know a fellow yogi who cares about sustainability as much as we do, why not gift them with one of our eco-friendly cork yoga mats? Or if you fancy one too, then why not treat yourself? We also have a range of eco-friendly yoga accessories, including blocks, travel bags and more. 

For every CorkYogi product purchased we’ll also donate 10% of our profits to our charity partner Destiny Refelction, a Kolkata based charity that supports survivors of sex slavery and human trafficking.