Natural Cork, the Only Green Alternative – Part Five

I want to make this short, sweet, and frankly to the point.  Let’s look at where cork comes from and how it is processed:

Now let’s look at where aluminum comes from and how it is processed:

Let’s now take a look at plastic, its origins, and how it is processed:

Glass – the original sand sculpture

Don’t get me wrong. I love the convenience that plastic and aluminum offer. I really like living a modern culture where plastic products – such as my printer – and aluminum products – such as my iMac and iPad – make my life much easier.

However, that doesn’t mean that I like the way that they eventually make it into my home.  The mining of bauxite is a destructive one, and the fact that cyanide is a byproduct of the aluminum refining process really bothers me.

Oil is necessary for our lifestyles; no matter how much of an environmentalist we may be, that’s just an inconvenient, uncomfortable fact. However, the oil extracting process is also destructive, and I feel that in order for us to maintain a certain level of lifestyle, a necessary evil.  There are people with far more creativity and knowledge than I who are working on alternatives.  Once again, I have to say that in spite of that and as long as everything is kept as clean as possible under the circumstances, these are issues I can live with while experts are looking for ways to improve the environmental situation. There’s no doubt that past practices in creating plastic have caused some horrifically serious problems, and happily, those creative and knowledgeable people are working on those issues. Some of those problems were due to ignorance, some due to corruption, and the scientific community has stepped up in order to address these difficulties.

As as aside, it’s important to note that in a medical/pharmaceutical environment, glass and stainless are reusable. Plastic is not.

Cork is 100% natural. The trees are shorn (like sheep) every nine to twelve years, and the shearing actually prolongs the life of the tree.  The “shearers” train for years before they are allowed to wield the axe that will remove the bark from the tree.  Without removing the bark, the cork tree’s life is about 75 years. The periodic shedding of the cork means that the tree can live upwards to 250 years. It is one of the most sustainable forestry practices on earth. There is no clear cutting; the trees are not felled. This is completely contrary to the way we think about forestry practices and is more than a little mind-boggling to know that some of the cork trees that have been harvested regularly are older than this country.

The cork trees continue to grow in some of the most godforsaken weather on earth, yet they protect a biodiversity that is second only to the Amazon forests and the Indonesian jungles. The presence of the cork forest prevents the desertification of millions of acres of otherwise arid land.  The cork forest sucks up CO2 which is generated in part by the plastic and aluminum refining processes.  “Endocrine disrupter” is not a phrase you’ll see in relationship to cork. And there’s no such thing as a “cork spill.”

So. Which ones would you rather have protecting your precious bottles of wine?

Important to note:

Japan is working diligently on a process to turn plastic back into oil in as environmentally friendly a process as possible.

Australians are turning glass back into sand.

Just sayin’.

 


Up next: You, Me, and Bibliography – Part Last!

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