How Do We Make Our Cork Insoles Carbon Negative?

How Do We Make Our Cork Insoles Carbon Negative?

Primal Soles are a statement. An ode to responsibility. A promise to support you. To only take from nature what we need. But when you make a statement like that, you have to back it up. So today, we’d like to take you through the journey of a Primal Sole. From the cork oak forests in Portugal, all the way to your front door. And back again. 

Firstly, why do we use cork? After all, there are plenty of materials to make insoles from. Well, there’s a good reason for that. There might be cheaper materials out there. But there are none that are more sustainable. We believe that the earth we walk on should never suffer under our steps. And the following properties of cork are the reason Primal Soles heal both your feet and the planet.

Why Do We Use Cork?

Endless supply

The cork oak tree is unlike any other tree. It builds up a thick bark over the course of 10 years. That bark is what Primal Soles and other cork products are made of. Unlike the process of harvesting resources from other trees, harvesting cork is harmless. It doesn’t hurt the tree, and the cork grows back. Because we don’t cut the tree. We only remove the bark through a process called “uncorking”. It’s a bit different from uncorking a bottle of wine, but just as enjoyable.

Since we don’t harm the tree, we have a practically limitless supply of cork. 10 years might sound like a lot. But the cork oak forests combined are 750,000 hectares big. That’s a lot of insoles. So even if everyone in the world starts walking on Primal Soles, the cork would still outperform us. Other materials exhaust nature. And that goes against our principles. So the plentiful supply of cork is one reason we use it for your cork insoles.

Man removing bark from cork oak tree


CO2 sequestering

It doesn’t stop there. Uncorking isn’t harmful. But did you know that it’s actually beneficial? Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This process is called CO2 sequestration. Most of this happens when the tree is still growing and building its bark. After a tree has a fully developed bark, it removes much less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

When we remove the bark from cork oak trees, we restart this process. New bark = more CO2 removed from the environment. And since most of our customers return, we’re also eliminating the CO2 output of the synthetic insoles we outperform. That’s why we are the only EU certified carbon negative insole company in the world.

Global distribution

Finally, one of the big contributors to CO2 output of insoles is transportation of raw materials to the factory. But cork oak forests are close to the factories where the products are made. So the raw materials don’t have to travel halfway around the world. More than 50% of cork oak trees are right here in Europe. And Primal Soles are made only 317 km from the forest where we harvest the cork. So even though Primal Soles will take you far, they’re manufactured close to home.

If you know all of this, choosing cork is a no-brainer. And that’s without diving into the health benefits cork insoles provide. Whether you have low arches, or high arches. Flat feet or Morton’s Neuroma. Primal Soles has got you covered. And when we say cork is the most sustainable solution for your health and for the planet, this is why.

 A bird eye view of a cork oak forest


How Do We Make Primal Soles?

So how are your Primal Soles made? Well, each Primal Sole originally begins its life in the cork oak forests of Portugal. And it takes 4 steps from there to go from the bark of a cork oak tree, to the product that helps millions of people walk on clouds.A close-up of the bark of a cork oak tree from the side

Growing the cork in the Herdade de Rio Frio forest

One of the forests your Primal Sole might come from is the Herdade de Rio Frio forest. It was once considered as a potential location for Lisbon’s international airport. Luckily, the project never took off. And neither did the planes. Instead, our supplier Amorim Cork bought the 2,600 hectare forest. Here the cork oak trees grow in the Mediterranean sun. They are maintained by local farmers and can grow to around 15 meters on average. Each one of them is covered in cork for use in many products. And some of those products are Primal Soles.

Processing it in the Amorim Florestal factory

But not all cork is created equal. And not every product needs cork of the highest quality. In the Amorim Florestal factory, the raw cork is graded and sorted. Lower quality cork with more imperfections are used for products that don’t require perfect cork. And of course, the higher quality cork is collected for use in products like Primal Soles. Only the best for your feet.

Turning the cork into sheets with Amorim Cork Composites

Before we can use the raw cork, it needs to be pressed into sheets. The cork gets ground up in a large machine and is then pressed into flat sheets that we use to cut out the Primal Soles. But what we’re about to tell you about this process might surprise you.

Primal Soles makes recycling insoles a piece of cake. When your Primal Soles need to be replaced, you can send the old one back to us for free. And it is in this part of the process that the insoles that our customers send back are used. They are thoroughly cleaned, ground up and pressed into separate sheets. The fresh cork is used for the top of the insole that touches your foot. The recycled part is used for the bottom of the insole. Because even though the recycled cork is of the same quality as the fresh one, we want you to walk on cork that comes straight from the tree.

Molding the sheets into the world’s most sustainable insole

The cork is now almost ready to start its new life as a pair of Primal Soles. The shape of your Primal Sole is based on 1000+ customers’ feedback. Based on this feedback, we created a mold, to give our users a snug fit. And we regularly collect feedback to further perfect our product. Our newest line, for example, is based on multiple rounds of customer feedback.

Using these custom molds, we cut out the shape of the insole from the sheets of cork. We do the same for the bottom part of the insole. The two parts are joined, and we print a funky design on each one. And from then on, the new Primal Soles are packaged and sent to you. 

We use carbon-neutral shipping methods for all our orders. Together with our customers, we have negated over 1000 kg of shipping emissions. Being part of Shopify Planet makes this possible.

So even though your Primal Sole makes a long journey, it cleans up as it goes. By the time it reaches your house, it has removed more CO2 than it has produced. And when you finally put them into your shoes, your journey begins. Because we believe that life is meant for exploration. And as you explore, you’ll experience how it is to walk with the support of nature’s best. Cork.

Sunshine coming through cork oak tree


So now you know how we make cork insoles that help you walk freely. We make cork insoles because cork is plentiful, sustainable, and globally distributed. And we demonstrate our commitment to a greener future with the Carbon Negative Carbon Balance Seal, Shopify Planet and 1% For The Planet.

We make the only 100% recyclable cork insoles in the market in accordance with EU regulations. The entire production process is carbon negative. And we have a program in place that makes recycling them effortless for you. Because over time and after lots of exploring, your insoles will wear out. But we’ll always be there, at the end of the path, to give your feet the support they deserve.


So, why not try Primal Soles? We make insoles for flat feet and insoles for high arches. Or try our brand-new line, with a design based entirely off the feedback of thousands of users— Primal Clouds. Because they feel like walking on clouds.

Let nature support you. And support nature back.

Sanjay Ghosh is a sustainability copywriter, and he never walks anywhere without a pair of Primal Soles. With a focus on sustainable topics, he helps make the world a bit greener one blog at a time. Find out more on his website.

circular cork insoles producing cork insoles

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