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Beyond Leather: Why Cork Fabric is the Vegan Leather of the Future

Beyond Leather: Why Cork Fabric is the Vegan Leather of the Future

I don’t know about you, but with all that’s unfolded so far in 2020, all I want to do is give the whole world a great big hug. Maybe that’s because I know how much I need a hug these days. Unfortunately, I’m not even supposed to be hugging on my own neighbor right now, let alone the entire planet. With social distancing and obvious human limitations to consider, I can only do so much.  I’m one person doing my darndest to make a difference in a hurting world.  Holistic Habitat is proud to be a part of that difference. (A mission with a company, as we like to say.) You’re here because you’re a part of that difference, too.


While we might not all agree on our politics or the best approach to navigate a global pandemic, I think we can agree on a few things: we love our planet, we love our people, and we love our animals. With that common ground in mind,  I know a wonderful way to give Mother Earth a hug, and I think you’re going to love it: cork fabric.

You Asked for Vegan Alternatives - We Delivered

cork headboard cushions queen

When Rachael and I set out to bring back our much-lovedleather headboard cushions, we wanted nothing but the best. We found a local ethical manufacturer, and we’re thrilled with both the quality and the look of these stunning cushions. Gorgeous though they may be, many of you reached out asking for a vegan alternative to our exclusive headboard cushions. We love you for that.  Thanks to you and your passion for ethical sustainability, we discovered our new favorite material.  ICYMI, ourvegan cork headboard cushions have taken vegan leather to the next level!


You guys, cork fabric is literally revolutionizing the world of vegan leather.  If you’re skeptical, hang with me and allow me to explain. While I love the look and feel of genuine leather as much as the next non-vegan person, I can’t ignore the enormous benefits of cork products. I’m going to tell you alllll about those benefits, but first... let’s take a look at how cork is made.

Where Does Cork Come From?


If you’ve never wondered about the source of cork (like most of us, I’m sure), let me tell you a little about it. Unlike money, cork actually does grow on trees. Cork products are made from the bark of the Cork Oak tree (which sounds super destructive, but the opposite is actually true). Once a Cork Oak is about 25 years old, the bark is ready to be harvested. And every 9-12 years,  cork can be harvested again for the life of the tree because the bark naturally renews itself!  How’s that for sustainability?!? 


Once the cork bark is harvested, it’s boiled, flattened, and shaped. Thin sheets of rolled cork are shaved off and sewn onto a cotton backing to produce cork fabric. At this point, the fabric can be naturally dyed or left in its beautiful natural state. There’s no need to be exposed to the dyes and chemicals involved in tanning and coloring real leather. (Win for us, win for the planet.)


So, how is stripping cork trees doing the environment any good? Check it out...

Why Cork Fabric is Great for the Environment


There aren’t many forms of manufacturing today that can claim to be of benefit to Mother Earth. But get this. Cork Oak forests (known as “montados” in their native home surrounding the Mediterranean Sea) play such an essential role in our global ecosystem, they are protected by law.  The Cork Oaks in Portugal alone help to offset over 10 million TONS of carbon each year.  Multiply that by the number of Cork Oak forests in the world, and this amounts to a massive carbon footprint reduction!


Here are some other noteworthy eco-friendly facts about cork that you should know:

  • Cork is completely renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable.
  • Recycling cork does not produce any toxic by-products.
  • Harvesting cork doesn’t require cutting down a single tree.
  • Removing cork bark regenerates and extends the life of the tree.
  • Harvested cork trees absorb 3-5 times more carbon dioxide than non-harvested trees.

Is that cool, or what? The more we choose cork leather over genuine leather or other synthetic leathers, the more we send our love to the environment AND the animals who share it with us.

Why the Animal Kingdom Votes for Cork Fabric

Cork Oak forests are not only amazing for the environment, but they also provide a safe harbor for the animals who call “montados” their home. Cork trees are actually pyrophytic, meaning they have adapted to tolerate fire. This is pretty incredible news for the endangered species who enjoy protection within the cork oak woodlands! (Our cork headboard cushions are also fire resistant.)


Now, without posting lots of traumatizing PETA videos here, I think we can all imagine how horrific the production of genuine leather has become in our modern age.  No longer are we solely creating leather products from animals who were farmed to become a food source.  Now we have unethical leather manufacturers killing animals just to use their hides for our shoes, handbags, furniture, upholstery, and more. The very thought makes me sick. If you want to know more, I recommend you go straight toPETA.org (at your own emotional risk). 

Why is Cork Fabric the BEST Vegan Leather?


Until recently, the term “vegan leather” seemed to denote a cheap replica of a superior genuine leather product. Synthetic leather alternatives are still viewed as genuine leather wanna-be’s by those who haven’t yet learned the truth.  And the truth is, plant-based leather is not the pleather that so many of us have turned our noses up at.  Plastic leather is just that--fake leather made from plastic-based materials such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PU (polyurethane). I don’t think we need to dig very deep here to know that this can’t be good for the environment.


Cork fabric is vegan and then some.  Our cork headboard cushions are stain-resistant, water-resistant, scratch-proof, hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, lightweight, and incredibly soft!  The thickness of the cork fabric is very similar to the leather most of us are used to. It has that same leather-like flexibility, worn-in unique character, and gorgeous texture without the high cost to our animals and environment.


What makes cork fabric even better is that it is so  low maintenance!  A dishcloth, water, and a couple of (optional) drops of soap are all you need to give it a good cleaning. Cork’s naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties make it an excellent choice for anyone trying to keep their home environment as clean as possible.


Where vegan leather is concerned, cork fabric is undoubtedly the winner. Not only does it look good, but it almost helps us feel good because we’re making such a positive impact both on the planet and in our own lives. Let’s spread the word about cork and continue voting for ethical, sustainable products with our pocketbooks.  We’re each making a difference one purchasing decision at a time!

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