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May 30 2014

What a Cork-er of an Idea in Portugal!

When you think of cork, what springs to mind?  For me, it was wine bottles and tiles.  However, a recent trip to Portugal has changed that.  If I told you this bag was made of cork, would you believe me?  I’m not sure I would have, but it is.  That’s the great thing about travelling, you discover little gems, just like this.  So, it is the focus for this week’s Foto Friday.

There are quite a few cork oak trees in and around Sintra, which is where I spent my time while on a trip on behalf of Traveldudes for Active Lisbon Coast.  Believe it or not, I gained most my knowledge on this subject while on a ziplining course in the grounds of the Moorish Castle and during a tour of the grounds of Monserrate, high above Sintra.

Most of the production of cork comes from a certain type of oak tree, of which they are many in Portugal.  While Portugal isn’t the sole harvester of these trees, this small country accounts for around half of the world’s cork harvest.  That’s incredible!  I had no idea.

These trees are great for a number of reasons: They absorb moisture, which means they have their own natural protection against fire.  It has a natural insulating ability, which is why it was the traditional method for insulating houses in the area in bygone years.  After a quick search on the Internet, it seems that cork insulation might be making a comeback in the Western world.

I also think it could give leather a run for its money.  As a vegetarian, I don’t buy leather products.  That means, I miss out on all those lovely shoes and handbags.  However, cork could change all that.  Having seen handbags, purses, and even… wait for it… shoes (yes, shoes) made from cork in a shop in Mafra, I think it could be a serious contender.  The material is really soft.  It has a velvety feel without a strong odour, which is good.   In addition, harvesting it doesn’t require machinery and it isn’t harmful or detrimental to the tree as it is harvested by skilled people.  In general, the cork layer is removed every 9 years or so and, by that time, the layer is pretty thick.  It’s sustainable because it grows back, so the process can begin again.  These particular oak trees live for about 200 years, so one tree can produce a few harvests in its lifetime.


Here are the places I have mentioned:

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Would you consider using a cork handbag or purse?


As I mentioned earlier on, I was on a press trip on behalf of Traveldudes for Active Lisbon Coast and Camara de Sintra.  I would like to thank them for organising such a fabulous trip because I learned so much.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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