What is Cork Leather? : A Vegan, Sustainable Alternative to Leather

We are all looking for ways to make our lives more eco-friendly and sustainable. A simple but effective way to do that is to look at the products we buy and use in our daily lives. Keeping tabs on your purchases might sound a little dreary, but here’s a very simple way you can start: Examine the products you’re buying and question what it is made of. Is the raw material that makes this product natural or synthetic? Will this bio-degrade? Are any animals hurt to make my product? Are chemicals used widely?

Once you start looking, we think you’ll find that there are tons of greener alternatives for all your needs. To begin with, if you are looking for a sustainable item to make an intrinsic part of your own life or if you’re looking for a green gift for a friend, wallets made with cork could be your answer! Wallets are typically made with leather, but the fact is that the production of leather goods comes at a great cost, one which we should not overlook. Leather production necessitates cruelty to animals. Additionally, leather tanning is very harmful for the environment as it makes use of various toxic chemicals that are often carcinogenic – harmful for the users but even more so for the workers of the industry. The chemical preservatives that are used on finished leather products make them very difficult to biodegrade, so they pollute our precious Earth in the long run. Between the animal cruelty, chemical pollution, and unethical labor practices, I think the point we're trying to make is clear – leather is best avoided. 

Well, there's a natural solution for you that is sure to take you a step ahead in your sustainability journey. It's Cork Leather Fabric!

In this post, we will be talking about the most accessible and sustainable alternative to leather. Yes, the humble cork you see as stoppers on your wine bottles is now a fabric, and it's the perfect solution to your leather dilemma.

What is cork leather?

Cork leather is a 100% natural fabric made from the bark of the cork oak tree – a plant-based equivalent of leather that will accommodate all your needs, but will wreak none of the damage that leather does. Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong! 

It is only recently that the world has started to see the value of cork as a textile. Extremely durable, ethically sourced and vegan, cork gives you all the qualities people rely on leather for, and more. 

With an average lifespan of 300 years, it takes an oak tree 25 years to produce its first harvest of cork. After that, with great care and precision, the cork bark is detached from the tree. The best part is that harvesting cork does not harm cork oak! On the contrary, this helps to kick-start a regeneration process which actually extends its life span. Cork is the only type of tree bark that benefits from its extraction. Pretty cool, huh? By using cork leather products, you're contributing to one of the most ethical and sustainable forestry processes out there. What's more: Cork trees absorb carbon dioxide, produce a lot of oxygen, and deeply enrich the soil they grow on. 

Here are the top 7 reasons why cork is set to be the torchbearer of sustainable fashion from now on:

1. Acts as a carbon sequestrator: 

It takes 9 years for an average cork tree to regrow its bark. During the recovery process, it absorbs 3-5 times more carbon dioxide than usual, making it a natural carbon reservoir. Cork forests sequester 14.7 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare, thus helping to reverse global warming during most of its lifetime.

2. Ethically sourced:

Cork comes at no cost to the cork oak it is sourced from. It is plant-based and produces no waste during the entire process, starting from extraction to production. Because of its chemical free production process, the workers producing your cork leather are completely safe and healthy. 

3. Great for the environment:

Cork is highly recyclable, and can be ground and molded into new material. Plus, chemicals and additives are not required for processing cork leather, thus there's no toxic materials polluting percolating into the environment. 

4. Water-proof, Unique and Durable:

No two pieces of cork fabric look the same. With distinct patterns, it gives you a personalized touch and looks. Its fire and water repellent qualities ace the durability test, making it last for a lifetime, or a few. (Fun Fact: NASA uses cork leather to protect rockets from high temperatures, especially around areas where the engine needs cooling!)

5. A treat to touch:

Cork leather has this unique, soft feel that will instantly make you fall in love with it and ditch traditional leather. You'll know when you touch it. It is flexible, thin, and can be molded to give shape to a variety of fashion accessories like cork leather wallets, handbags and even shoes. Manufacturers find it easy to dye cork fabric or print samples creating various designs to meet aesthetic needs.

6. Fungus resistant and hypoallergenic:

Animal leather contains toxins lethal to humans, such as mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils and dyes, some of them cyanide-based. Conversely, cork has antifungal properties, doesn't absorb dust, therefore making it safe to use for people prone to allergies and asthma.

7. Always good as new:

You will develop a bond to last a lifetime with your cork wallet for its ease of use and maintenance. It is scratch proof and you can clean it with soap and water. It's that easy. 

All things considered, switching to cork leather seems like a no-brainer, wouldn’t you say? From the very beginning, we have used cork fabric to make our wallets. We have recently launched our latest bifold wallets named after the Kakapo parrots in tan and green. Check them out here: Kakapo Cork Wallets


You can also check out some other unique options below:

Kiwi Zip Cork Wallet in Tan and Wine Red
Dodo Cork Slim Wallet and Card Case in Tan and Wine Red

    Buy or gift one now and get a 10% discount on checkout. If you would like to do more than choose sustainable, we plant 5 trees for every purchase you make with Clan Earth and have planted more than 3325 trees already in a year! It's our fight against climate change.

    Cork leather is here to stay for the good and it's your time now to spread the word about this new unique fabric and how functional and sustainable it is!

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