To practice yoga, you only need the desire to do so, a little space for yourself, and, to make the most out of the experience and prevent injuries, a yoga mat. As millions in the US and around the world are taking up this ancient practice to improve their spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing, it should be no wonder there are now dozens of mat companies offering an array of mat options for every budget, yoga discipline, body type, and aesthetic sensibility.
However, while you might think an industry so in tune with nature and wellbeing will also be mindful of its impact on the environment, this is not always the case. According to a review by ConsumersAdvocate.org, half of all mats produced for yoga practice (mostly the cheaper ones, according to the article) are made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a synthetic material known for being highly toxic, carcinogenic, and non-biodegradable. This means that, for an environmentally minded yogi, there are very few budget-friendly (costing less than $70) mat options in the market.
And then there’s “greenwashing”, a marketing practice where a company —through unsubstantiated claims and/or ambiguous and sometimes outright-false vocabulary— misleads the public into thinking their products are eco-friendly when in fact they may be anything but. Unfortunately, this practice is very common in industries such as electric power, oil and gas, food, textiles, and even yoga mats.
In fact, ConsumersAdvocate.org uncovered what could presumably be greenwashing practices by two of the companies reviewed on their yoga mats article. While both companies claimed their products were “PVC free”, “biodegradable”, and “good for the environment” because they were supposedly made from a material called Polymer Environmental Resin (“PER”), the truth contradicted their claims: after these “PER” mats were tested for toxicity at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the results showed they were made from a substance dubbed by the lab as “PVC with additives.”
But there’s good news. The above-mentioned review also featured eight truly eco-friendly yoga mat options made from materials such as recycled wetsuits (neoprene), natural rubber and cork, cotton, TPE, and jute. These eco-friendly options are aesthetically pleasing, easy to clean, durable, sturdy, safe, and comfortable, with prices ranging from $39 all the way to $140. If you want to get into the ancient practice of yoga while also being mindful of the planet’s wellbeing, these options are the way to go.
So, to answer the question posed in the title to this blog post: YES, there are several eco-friendly mat options out there. Want to check them out? Read this in-depth review and choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. In the meantime, namaste!