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eco friendly yoga mat: how to choose
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eco friendly yoga mat: how to choose

Published: 04-07-2022 - Last Edited: 14-07-2022

Woman practicing yoga on eco-friendly yoga mat non toxic pvc free sustainable

What is an eco-friendly yoga mat? What does it even mean to be eco, green, or sustainable? The number of consumer searches for yoga mats that are sustainable, non toxic, and eco-friendly increases yearly.

Still though, unfortunately, it’s common for less-scrupulous brands to announce that they are ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly,’ with nothing to back up their statements – but what do these terms even mean?

And how can you be sure that your yoga mat is sustainable and ethically made?

Since yogis have such a powerful connection with the Earth, it’s only natural that many yoga companies are in a growing movement of businesses that embrace responsible, ethical practices and do good for the planet. And there are no areas of the yoga industry where it is more critical to watch environmental impact than the production of yoga mats.

There are three main components to look for when judging a non toxic yoga mat on it’s green credentials.

What is the mat made from?

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

Most yoga mats, especially the cheap ones, are made from PVC – or Polyvinyl Chloride – a petroleum-based plastic and one of the most environmentally-destructive plastics.





Nearly every aspect of PVC mat production is terrible for the environment and your health. If there was such a thing as an anti eco-friendly yoga mat, PVC would be it.

In production, the manufacturing processes are destructive and cause high emissions. PVC mats take hundreds of years to decompose, and if you burn them, they emit phthalates, lead, cadmium, and dioxin into the atmosphere. And these are things we don’t want in the atmosphere.

While you can technically recycle PVC mats, it isn’t easy or common; most recycling centers won’t accept PVC yoga mats.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, PVC is toxic and damaging to your health. The World Health Organisation has even classified PVC as a carcinogen. Like cigarettes. Or car exhaust fumes. Kinda takes the edge off your zen.

As responsible yogis looking for an eco-friendly yoga mat, we should avoid PVC at all costs and ensure, at the very least, we select a natural, non-toxic yoga mat.

TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers)

The next best – or worst – options are yoga mats made with something called TPE – or thermoplastic elastomers (no wonder they abbreviate the name!). We need to start being careful here, as many manufacturers will call TPE mats’ eco-friendly’ or even refer to them as rubber. While they are undoubtedly better than PVC mats, calling TPE mats’ eco-friendly’ is a bit of a stretch.

Please excuse that pun because TPE mats are good mats – they are stretchy, durable, and provide good cushioning, sharing many of the same qualities as natural rubber. TPE mats are much cheaper than natural rubber mats – often less than half the price – and are free of many toxins found in PVC.

TPE mats are also biodegradable and recyclable. So, for this reason, if your budget won’t stretch to a natural rubber or fabric yoga mat, then a TPE mat can be an okay choice.

But a TPE mat is not a natural yoga mat. It’s a blend of synthetic materials. Better than PVC? Yes, undoubtedly. Can TPE mats justify being called eco-friendly mats? No.

Cotton

Better again, but equally as likely to be misleadingly manipulated into the ‘eco-friendly’ category are cotton yoga mats.

To generalize, non-organic cotton can be very bad for the environment. Organic cotton should be better.

Cotton covers approximately 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land; however, it uses up to 16% of the world’s chemical pesticides. These pesticides inevitably make their way into our air, soil, and water.

Organic doesn’t necessarily mean that the cotton has been grown without pesticides; it simply means that it might have been grown with organic pesticides. Often they can be as damaging as their conventional counterparts. However, you’ll be reasonably safe to assume that organic is generally better for the planet than non-organic.

In addition, cultivating cotton is incredibly water-intensive, taking up to 22,500 liters of water to produce just one kilo of cotton, according to the Water Footprint Network.

Rubber

Next, we start to get into the types of mats that can earn the right to be called eco-friendly yoga mats – but with some significant caveats. Let’s begin with rubber.

Natural rubber is completely biodegradable, the mats are incredibly durable, and they will outperform TPE in every area you choose to measure them in – but you’ll pay for it, with natural rubber mats often double the cost of a TPE mat.

It’s essential to see if the manufacturer states the rubber source, as deforestation of tropical rainforests can often occur to make land available for rubber plantations. In addition, in some areas of the planet, notably South-East Asia, the increase in rubber cultivation has been linked to social conflict and human rights abuses.

Hemp / Jute

Similarly expensive but increasingly likely to be non-toxic, natural, sustainable, and ethically produced are hemp or jute mats – with the latter known more commonly by its less formal name – burlap.

Hemp and jute are amongst the best choices for a sustainable, eco yoga mat – a jute yoga mat, for instance, requires much less water, pesticide, and fertilizer to produce than a cotton yoga mat and therefore is more likely to be truly eco-friendly.

Cork

And finally, a true eco-friendly material that’s becoming increasingly popular for yoga mats – and rightly so – is cork.

Cork rocks as a material for yoga mats. It’s sustainable (the ‘cork’ in yoga mats is the bark from the cork tree. The bark is stripped, it regrows, and the cycle continues. No trees are harmed in the process!). Cork trees are champions at sucking Co2 from the atmosphere, and for some added bonuses, cork is naturally anti-microbial, easy to roll, and gets grippier the sweatier you get.

Most cork mats are a combination of either TPE and cork or natural rubber and cork – so check that the cork mat you like is natural rubber (and bonus points if the manufacturer states the source of their rubber!).

And finally, don’t forget to check the type of ink used on your mat. Water-based, non-toxic inks or dyes are best.

How is the mat packaged?

The next factor to consider, which is a lot quicker and easier to check than some considerations on this list, is the packaging used for shipping.

This will involve a rapid assessment. Plastic = bad. Recycled plastic or non-plastic = good.

There is simply no need to ship a non toxic yoga mat in plastic. If your supplier doesn’t have transparency on their website about how they package your mat, reach out to them to find out.

Impact business models and best employment practices

Inspired by the B-Corp certification movement, many businesses now incorporate an impactful business model into their operations. This could be either diverting a portion of their revenue or profits to charities or implementing a direct impact model. An example of a direct impact model would be planting a tree or donating a meal to children in need for every non toxic yoga mat sold, as Scoria do – and this method has enabled them to donate more than 150,000 meals.

There is no right or wrong way – or even a way that is better – to implement this model. All forms are great, and it’s a powerful way for a company to align with a beneficiary they care about and create a positive impact in the world.

Another factor to keep an eye on is the employment practices within a company. It’s no good to make a pesticide-free, sustainable yoga mat and donate a portion of proceeds to charities if the company mistreats its employees or hasn’t checked out the working conditions in their supply chain.

Inhala Soulwear is an excellent example of a brand committed to paying fair, living wages and providing safe working conditions.

So, bearing these factors in mind, we’ve put together a list of yoga mats we love that are top quality and great for the planet.

Yogaline Eco Friendly Yoga Mat

eco friendly yoga mat non toxic  sustainable
Alignment eco friendly yoga mat by Yogaline

Yogaline scores highly for their Alignment yoga mat. Made from natural rubber, with an eco-PU top layer, this mat has excellent grip, provides firm cushioning, and its packaging is 100% plastic-free. It’s a larger mat – great for taller people – yet remains one of the lighter mats in our selection.

The alignment design is a unique feature that shows you where to put your hands and feet in different poses.

  • Materials: Natural Rubber and eco-PU
  • Length: 73″ (186cm)
  • Width: 27″ (68cm)
  • Thickness: 4mm
  • Weight: 5.5lbs (2.5kg)
  • Price: $110

Yoga Design Lab Eco Friendly Yoga Mat

yodadeign lab
Thar Combo yoga mat by Yoga Design Lab

We love the Thar Combo yoga mat by Yoga Design Lab. It comes in 3 different thicknesses, with the 1.5mm version ideal for travel yet still offering exceptional cushioning for its thickness and its eco-friendly credentials pass all the tests. The base layer is again 100% natural rubber – with extra care taken by Yoga Design Lab to ensure that their rubber is harvested from non-Amazonian sources. They use water-based inks, and the recycled top layer consists of 15 recycled plastic bottles.

  • Materials: Natural Rubber and recycled PET microfiber
  • Length: 70″ (178cm)
  • Width: 24″ (61cm)
  • Thickness & weight:
    • 5.5mm thick = 7.1 lb (3.2 kg)
    • 3.5mm thick = 4.9 lb (2.2 kg)
    • 1.5mm thick = 3.5 lb (1.6 kg)
  • Price: From $100

Jade Yoga Eco Friendly Yoga Mat

jade eco friendly yoga mat non toxic  sustainable
Harmony Yoga Mat by Jade Yoga

Jade Yoga is widely recognized as an industry leader, and rightly so because they guarantee that all their mats are free from PVC and other toxins and have incorporated a fantastic impact business model to create good.

For every mat sold, they plant a tree. Still, they don’t stop there – they provide fresh drinking water for every towel sold, preserve the rainforest for every block sold, provide a bar of soap to a person in need for every mat wash sold, and many other initiatives.

Crucially, their mats are of the highest quality, and their customers rave about their grip, supportiveness, and cushioning.

We love the Elite S mat, which provides everything you want in an eco-friendly mat, meeting all of the eco and working condition requirements, but without compromising on quality or price. Users love the grip, texture, and durability, and even with all those features, the Harmony mat can still be yours for less than $90.

  • Materials: Natural rubber
  • Length: varies between 68″ – 74″ (172cm – 188cm)
  • Width: 24″ (61cm)
  • Thickness: 4.75mm
  • Weight: 5 lb (2.27 kg)
  • Price: From $85-90

Manduka Eco Friendly Yoga Mat

manduka eco friendly yoga mat non toxic  sustainable
Manduka Eco Yoga Mat

Another industry leader, Manduka, has developed a zero-waste program where they will take back your old mats from any brand – even PVC mats – and recycle them into home insulation and running tracks, amongst other things.

In addition, they are one of the better manufacturers at promoting the transparency of their materials.

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One of their most popular products is the Eko yoga mat, and it’s easy to see why. Developed by yoga teachers over four years and the most durable natural rubber non toxic yoga mat on the market, the rubber is carefully harvested from non-Amazonian sources. It is free from any toxic dyes and foaming agents – but importantly for your practice, it offers exceptional grip, cushioning, and comfort.

The Eko Mat comes in 2 sizes:

Standard:

  • Materials: Natural rubber
  • Length: 71″ (180cm)
  • Width: 24″ (61cm)
  • Thickness: 5 mm
  • Weight: 7.0 lbs (3.2kg)
  • Price: $95

Long:

  • Materials: Natural rubber
  • Length: 79″ (200cm)
  • Width: 24″ (61cm)
  • Thickness: 5 mm
  • Weight: 8.0 lbs (3.6kg)
  • Price: $110

SCORIA Eco Friendly Yoga Mat

eco friendly yoga mat non toxic  sustainable

My Goodness, we love Scoria and everything that they do.

With the most stunning designs, recycled cardboard packaging, top-quality mats made from sustainable cork, and fantastic impact initiatives, Scoria has every sustainability angle covered and is a beautiful example of how a yoga mat company should operate.

While they have a gorgeous range of artist-designed mats, an honorable mention must go to their Essential cork mat – because they’ve managed to create a sustainably-harvested, top-of-the-range eco-friendly mat with the thinner version coming in at under $80.

Every purchase creates a positive impact, too, with a portion of proceeds donated to empower Indigenous youth through play-based education promoting healthy living and life skills.

The Essential Cork Mat comes in 2 thicknesses:

Commute:

  • Materials: Cork / Natural rubber
  • Length: 72″ (183cm)
  • Width: 24″ (61cm)
  • Thickness: 3.5 mm
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.5kg)
  • Price: $79

Thick:

Materials: Cork / Natural rubber

  • Length: 72″ (183cm)
  • Width: 24″ (61cm)
  • Thickness: 4.5 mm
  • Weight: 6.4 lbs (2.9kg)
  • Price: $89

Inhala Soulwear Eco Friendly Yoga Mat

eco friendly yoga mat non toxic  sustainable
Aya Visions Symmetry yoga mat by Inhala

Peruvian eco-brand Inhala (inhale in English) has developed the stunning Aya Visions Symmetry mat, designed in partnership with the Colectivo Shipibo Muralist women from the Peruvian Amazon. This non toxic yoga mat has some impressive eco-credentials.

Made from recycled natural rubber, each mat comes with an upcycled mat holder made from nylon waste, and all materials in the mat’s production are sourced responsibly.

The Aya Visions Mat comes in 2 sizes, with the travel size weighing an amazingly light 3.3 pounds:

Travel:

  • Materials: Recycled natural rubber
  • Length: 72″ (183cm)
  • Width: 27″ (68cm)
  • Thickness: 1.5 mm
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5kg)
  • Price: $98

Standard:

  • Materials: Recycled natural rubber
  • Length: 72″ (183cm)
  • Width: 27″ (68cm)
  • Thickness: 4 mm
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.5kg)
  • Price: $110

Eco Friendly Yoga MatSummary

Like many aspects of sustainability and eco-friendly shopping, you’re unlikely to find a sustainable yoga mat that is perfect in every respect.

If a mat were to meet every eco criteria, incorporate a fantastic impact initiative and pay its staff and suppliers top prices, it would be near-impossible for the non toxic yoga mat to compete on price. This, of course, is a crucial deciding factor for most of us. So it’s necessary for you as the consumer to pick your battles and decide which element of sustainability and positive impact matters most to you.

There are some great companies in the yoga industry doing amazing things in the fight to save the planet, and you’ll be contributing to some great causes by supporting these businesses.

As a consumer, it’s your responsibility to ask questions, educate yourself on the topics that matter most to you and be part of the change you want to see in the world.

Don’t think that lil’ ol’ you can’t make a difference with a single sustainable yoga mat purchase. Genuine, impactful, and systemic change doesn’t happen from the top down in society. It happens from the bottom up, which means that voting with your wallet is one of the most powerful actions you can take in our fight to save the planet.

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