The yoga industry is growing at a rapid pace. In 2005, consumers spent $2.5 billion in yoga classes, yoga apparel and accessories, according to Yoga Journal. Last year, the figure exploded to $7.5 billion, a growth of 300%. Many companies are capitalizing on this increasing popularity by producing a variety of yoga mats, specifically eco-friendly yoga mats. Why environmentally friendly mats? According to a Green Seal study, “Four out of five people say they are still buying green products and services today–which sometimes cost more–even in the midst of a US recession.” It’s no surprise then that the green industry is worth an astounding hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
As consumers we need to be wary of green claims companies are making about their products. We should question the materials used, how they are produced, and if they engage in a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice. Let’s explore some of the best eco-friendly yoga mats out there, but first let’s talk about PVC.
The Harmful Effects of Polyvinyl Chloride
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a type of material used in many of the cheap and “sticky” yoga mats. PVC has been connected with several types of cancer. Not only that, polyvinyl chloride is also non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, so once it has been used it will end up being thrown in a landfill. Even the emissions caused from making PVC has contributed to air pollution. Another harmful consequence of the use and production of PVC is the emergence of dioxin, which has been connected to reproductive disorders and damage to the immune system.
PVC isn’t just in yoga mats, it’s in a lot of the products that we use: shower curtains, kid’s toys, packaging, furnishings, and clothing.
Practicing Yoga Should Be Good For the Body and the Environment
With its toxic materials that have a negative impact on our health and its non-biodegradable material that takes up space in our landfills, it is critical that we opt for a safer and greener alternative to the common PVC yoga mat. What are the alternatives to PVC-laden yoga mats? There are several kinds of mats which allow you to practice yoga in an eco-friendly manner.
Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
Natural rubber yoga mats are earth-friendly because they are made with biodegradable and renewable resource, the rubber tree. Natural yoga mats are made from either open-cell or closed-cell natural rubber. What’s the difference between the two? Because of its properties, the open-cell natural rubber is softer and absorbs moisture easily, which makes for a grippy and cushy yoga session. Closed-cell natural rubber is more durable and it keeps moisture and bacteria from seeping into the mat.
One thing to note about natural rubber is that it contains a natural rubber latex, which can cause allergic reactions in some people. In addition, a couple of common complaints from people who’ve used these natural rubber mats are the heaviness and their distinct rubber smell, similar to a car tire. So if you don’t travel much with your yoga mat and you’re not sensitive to the rubber smell, then this is a good option.
Manduka’s eKO Mat is a great choice if you’re looking for a natural rubber yoga mat that is 99.9% latex-free. It features the use of proprietary natural closed-cell rubber which is softened without the use of toxic foaming agents and plasticizers. It retains the perfect balance of cushion and grip, allowing yogis to enjoy their yoga sessions that much more. The retail value of the eKO Mat is around $70. At present, Manduka has developed a similar yoga mat to the eKO Mat, that is lighter and travel-friendly, called the eKO Lite Mat and costs around $42.
Other natural rubber mats to consider: Prana’s Natural Yoga Mat – it is made of natural open-cell rubber and contains no hazardous materials, which is laminated for a durable, eco-friendly construction. It features a unique cotton scrim which works to limit stretching in three directions. It retails for $68.00. Or Jade’s Yoga Harmony Mat for around $60.
Cork Yoga Mats
If you’re looking for a yoga mat that is hypo-allergenic and anti-bacterial then cork mats are the ideal choice. Cork yoga mats are made from the outer barks of cork trees. There are, however, environmental concerns about the depletion of cork supply in the world, so question the companies’ material source and manufacturing practices.
The inherent make-up of cork makes a cork yoga mat a healthier option because it is naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The cork yoga mat gives off warmth because of its natural insulation properties and is easy to clean because of its moisture repellent properties. Lastly, a cork yoga mat allows for a comfortable yoga session because of its cushioning and absorption qualities.
Organic Plant Fibre Yoga Mats
There are other mats which are also eco-friendly that are made with plant fiber such as jute, grass, and cotton. Because these mats are made from plant fibres, they are bio-degradable and renewable. Look for yoga mats that are produced from 100% organic plant fibres if you desire maximum eco-friendliness.
Yoga Mats made with TPE
On the other hand, you can also try synthetic yoga mats made with TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers) which is a biodegradable material composed of carbon and hydrogen. One suggestion is the Earth Elements Yoga Mat from Barefoot Yoga Company (around $40).
As you can see, there is a lot to choose from, and the cost of being eco-friendly can be quite expensive. However, isn’t it comforting to know that while doing your asanas, you’re also promoting and sustaining the environment? An eco-friendly yogi means that you are being true to the ideals of yoga and and that you’re supporting responsible and sustainable business practices.