Definition: Cork is the outer bark of an oak tree, Quercus suber, which is grown primarily in the Mediterranean region.

Definition: Cork is the outer bark of an oak tree, Quercus suber, which is grown primarily in the Mediterranean region.

Application: Installing cork flooring is an environmentally responsible alternative to wood for a number of reasons.

Cork is durable, strong, and requires little maintenance. Despite having to be shipped from the Mediterranean and the associated energy and environmental costs, cork is considered resource-efficient because it limits pressure on forest products and the environmental services they provide.

It also is preferable because it lasts so long, and avoids the need to replace less durable products. Cork is environmentally responsible because the bark is carefully harvested to preserve the tree and to ensure its productivity year after year.

In addition to being environmentally responsible and resource efficient, cork also helps maintain a healthier living environment. Cork is naturally moisture, mold, and rot-resistant. It even absorbs sound.

These aspects promote good indoor air quality by limiting the number of items in a house that can harbor molds and other forms or fungal growth.

Benefits: Use of the product demonstrates environmental stewardship.

Challenges: Cork can cost more than conventional flooring. Care is required during installation to capture moisture and to provide adequate cure time. Any adhesives used should be low-VOC (volatile organic compound).

Information provided by Earth Advantage, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization that specializes in green building. Info: www.earthadvantage.com