It doesn’t rain often in Arizona but I always have an umbrella in my car because I’m more likely to use an umbrella on a sunny day than on a rainy day. Over the past few months, though, I ended up using my umbrella more often to keep us dry than to keep sunburns at bay. This summer monsoon season I had a new umbrella to try out, a sustainably sourced cork umbrella from Pelcor.

Cork is a renewable resource, although not rapidly renewable like bamboo. Once a cork oak tree is planted, it takes about 20 – 25 years for the bark to become harvestable. After the first harvest, though, it only takes about nine years for regeneration. Removing the bark from the cork oak does not hinder the tree’s growth and each cork oak has a life expectancy of about 250 – 350 years.

I originally received my Pelcor umbrella sample in June before my family set out on a Yellowstone National Park road trip, but due to high winds, I wasn’t able to test it out. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first read about the umbrella. My brain couldn’t resolve how wood, in this case cork, would be flexible enough to use as an umbrella and also water-resistant enough to keep us dry. To my surprise, it works just like a normal umbrella. 

According to Pelcor, the umbrella is “Characterized by an elusive scent of dry wood and a smooth texture, Pelcor® cork skin is extremely light, waterproof, flexible, resistant, insulating and environmentally friendly. As in nature, no two Pelcor pieces are exactly alike – subtle chromatic variations make each an utterly unique article.”

When I opened the umbrella, I didn’t have to deal with the strong smell of plastic and even though it is made out of cork, it was smooth and pliable just like a regular umbrella. My 9 year-old daughter was amazed that we had a ‘wood’ umbrella and she kept running her hands across the smooth finish. The umbrella looks like cork but it doesn’t feel like cork. 

Since my daughter was impressed by the umbrella, I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “It’s really cool. I like how it is kind of eco and it is good for hot and dry weather in Arizona.” It certainly helps keep us cool while walking to and from the bus stop on hot days like today.

The only downside is that the umbrella is expensive. The Pelcor tall umbrella retails for $160; but it is more than just a tool, it is also a fashion accessory. For comparison, a Burberry umbrella runs about $210, but it isn’t made out of a renewable source, which gives Pelcor the edge in my opinion.

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