There are very few low impact, low maintenance raw materials in this world.
Plants like wood and cotton will regenerate by themselves to a point, but it can take years of proper nourishment and appropriate weather conditions to create a thriving plant, not to mention tons of water and vigorous pest control. So, while it’s undoubtedly true that planting trees and tending to organic cotton are good, necessary things for the health of the fashion industry and the planet, it’s even better to seek out ecologically sound alternatives that require fewer resources during their cultivation.
That’s why I’m really excited about The Fourth Gentlemen‘s line of bamboo and cork accessories.
Bamboo, classified as a grass, is a great replacement for wood because it regenerates quickly, which means far less human intervention and natural resources are needed to sustain it. In fact, it can grow at a rate of up to 4 feet every 24 hours and can regenerate to its full height in 6 months, versus 30 to 50 years for a tree. It doesn’t require large swaths of land to grow well, and continuous harvesting has been shown to improve, rather than degrade, the quality of the plant over time. Additionally, since bamboo stalks don’t have to be uprooted during harvesting, cultivating bamboo can help prevent erosion.
Similarly, cork can be harvested without uprooting the tree it comes from, providing a stable and protected forest for native plants and animals, an essential refuge in a world that is suffering from increasingly dire deforestation and habitat loss.
Found primarily in the Mediterranean Basin of Europe and Africa, Cork Oak Forests are carefully managed to ensure long term sustainability. The first harvest is taken only after the tree reaches maturity at 25 to 30 years of age and each subsequent harvest occurs every 9 to 13 years to ensure that the tree isn’t damaged from over-stripping. As a material, cork is both elastic and water tight, making it suitable for all sorts of heavy duty uses, from flooring to shoes to insulation to wine corks.
Accessories company, The Fourth Gentlemen, works exclusively with cork and bamboo because they believe that conscious consumer models should be true to their thoughtful premise through both the products they create and in their broader outlook, i.e. to be conscientious, you have to expand your intentional thinking to lots of different areas, not just your purchases.
To this end, The Fourth Gentlemen, in addition to using sustainable cork and bamboo in all of their products, plants 2 trees in deforested areas with each purchase, works with a well-regulated factory in China, and donates 10% of proceeds to the Himalayan Cataract Project to ensure that they can make the greatest impact, and hopefully encourage their customer base to live into their values in more abundant ways.
The Fourth Gentlemen sent me the Women’s Bamboo Watch (retail price: $90) to review, and I’m really happy with it. I’m not one for bulky bracelets because they get in the way of writing blog posts and doing other computer work, but the soft, lightweight cork strap makes this easy to wear. The bamboo face is also understatedly beautiful and, though it doesn’t have numbers, I haven’t lost track of time yet while wearing it. The other important thing to mention is that this watch fits! I have very small (like child-small) wrists, but this watch has 7 notches on it, which is quite generous. The watch comes packaged in a little box, as shown in the site images, so it’s ready to go as a gift, as well.
I’m glad to own a watch made out of sustainable materials, not just because I anticipate that it will help me keep time for years to come, but because it ensures that, in a small way, the world is left better off than before. And that gives me some measure of hope.