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Cork, A Model of Sustainability

Tribe West Cork Blog Image Southwestern Solana Playmat

Tribe West x Portuguese Cork

When it came to designing our Tribe West mats, the mission was always to provide socially-conscious families with a quality (and stylish) product. Based on the numerous features of Portuguese cork, it turned out to be a natural fit.

The Tribe West cork playmat collection features a Portuguese cork top combined with an extra cushioned base of 100% natural rubber for an soft option that’s kind to elbows and knees and friendly to the environment.  The cork is bound to the rubber playmat using heat, rather than harmful adhesives. We use cork that is natural, eco-friendly, toxin-free and sustainably-sourced.

Tribe West Cork Play Mats Cork Harvest Sustainable 1

Our cork can be found on the outer bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber), and is gathered from the very Portuguese oak trees that supply 70 percent of wine corks globally. It is carefully harvested (by hand) once every 9 years in late spring and summer, and is quickly replaced by new layers of cork, making it exceptionally sustainable. The process is designed to prevent damage to the trees, so it’s not unusual to have a 200 year-old tree still producing cork bark.

Portuguese cork production is a “triple bottom line” industry that achieves environmental, social, and economic benefits. Here are just a few outstanding facts from the Portuguese Cork Association APCOR:

  • 49% of the world's cork production is in Portugal, and most of the cork in the world comes from a delicate, bio-diverse ecosystem in southern Portugal called the Montado. Here lives, not only the largest number of cork oak on the Earth but also a wild collection of flora, fauna and endangered species.

  • Cork Oak forests absorb over 14 million tons of CO2 annually, helping to offset harmful carbon emissions and solidifying cork as one of the most environmentally friendly materials in the world.

Form and function

But, in order to be useful for our mats, cork not only had to be sustainable, but also safe and functional. Could cork stand up to a baby on a mission or 1,000 vinyasas?  

The Portuguese have been utilizing cork for three-hundred years, and for good reason. Portuguese cork is non-toxic, antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, stain resistant, slip-resistant, anti-static, and flame retardant. Talk about a wonder-material!  It’s also great for your home because it’s a thermal and acoustic insulator, holding heat and minimizing sound.

Cork is able to last a long time because it is impermeable to liquids and practically impermeable to gases, thanks to the composition of cork cells. It is the resistance to moisture allows it to grow old without deteriorating.

The Future of Cork

Contrary to popular belief, cork is not disappearing and cork forests have actually grown 3% in the last 10 years. However, it will take continued consumer support to combat the shift to synthetic materials. Cork is primarily supported by the wine industry and the move to synthetic stoppers has drawn international attention. Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales comments that (…) a seemingly simple decision taken by several wine producers to use synthetic closures instead of natural cork stoppers has a long-term impact. Understanding the reason why someone wants to find a synthetic and ugly cap in the neck of a bottle is something that is beyond me. However, this practice is causing serious changes in the cork oak forests in Portugal and Spain.”

Tribe West Cork Play Mats Harvest Sustainability 2

As consumers we are challenged to vote with our dollar, making eco-friendly a movement rather than a trend. Since cork is 100% recyclable and biodegradable, it is on the forefront of the environmentally-conscious movement. Furthermore, the industry takes steps to utilize every piece of cork and its byproducts in the manufacturing process, separating it from all other materials on the market.

All parents want to create a safe and healthy environment for their family. Choosing cork is a positive step when compared to foam play mat alternatives.

All Tribe West products are thoughtfully made with materials that offer organic benefits, eliminating harmful toxins and limiting cost to our environment. These are small steps that we are taking to ensure the footprint of our large play mats are something our tribe and yours can be proud of.

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