Cork grows on trees in Mediterranean climates like Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France. Cork trees grow with zero inputs: no pesticides, no irrigation, and no pruning required!.
In Portugal, which is the number one country for cork production, cork harvesting is highly regulated by the government. Trees are not harvested until 25 years of age, and then only every 9 years (by law). After a harvest, trees remain living, and usually stick around for another 170 years or more. Trees are harvested by stripping the outer layer of skin by trained workers who are paid a good living wage. It does not harm the tree in any way, and thats why Cork is so green and does not harm the environment unlike the wood industry, where the tree is being chopped down.
Cork is then taken to factories where it is drawn, boiled, and turned into cork stoppers or various other products. The amazing thing about these factories is that up to 90% of the energy used in processing cork is made from burning cork dust, a byproduct of production. Of the cork that is pulled off the tree, absolutely none of it goes to waste. And for those who might think there are not enough cork trees to go around, there are. Contrary to the belief of some, demand for cork does not exceed available cork tree reserves in the Mediterranean area.