Many will agree that yoga mats are an essential piece of equipment for any workout. Whether you are practicing yoga, Pilates, HIIT or strength training, a yoga mat provides you with a comfortable surface to work out on. What many people do not know, however, is that most yoga mats currently in stores, in your gym and in your own gym bag are actually not so great for the planet or for yourself. This is why it’s crucial to do your research before buying a new yoga mat.
Most yoga mats currently on the market are made from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), an oil based product. Vinyl Chloride, the main ingredient in PVC, has been studied and proven to be a carcinogenic substance. On top of that, PVC yoga mats are full of toxic chemicals including phthalates, lead and cadmium, which you could be breathing in during your workout.
Moreover, PVC is almost impossible to recycle. Annually, more than 7 billion pounds of PVC are thrown away in the United States. Only 18 million pounds of that, about one quarter of 1 percent, is actually recycled. Additionally, chlorine production for PVC uses almost as much energy as the annual output of eight medium-sized nuclear power plants each year.
Eco Friendly Yoga Mats
After reading the above, I’m sure you’re curious to hear about eco friendly yoga mat alternatives. There are many alternatives on the market: natural rubber, TPE and cotton. Let’s explore these alternatives:
Natural Rubber is one of the most widely used “eco friendly” alternatives for a PVC yoga mat. Notice we put eco friendly in inverted comma’s, because there’s a catch.. Natural rubber is often marketed as eco-friendly because it is harvested from rubber trees which are a natural resource that can grow back. However, growing demand for natural rubber had lead to rapid expansion of large-scale natural rubber monocultures in southeast Asia over the past three decades which has resulted in natural forests, rich in wildlife, being converted to make way for rubber trees, impacting the habitat of threatened wildlife such as Asian Elephants. Therefore using this natural resource, unless sustainably sourced, it not doing much good for our planet.
Organic cotton can also be a good choice as a PVC alternative for yoga mats. It is a renewable resource that is biodegradable and does not contain harmful chemicals. Make sure to check that the cotton is actually organic, and is either certified by the Organic cotton certified OCS (Organic Content Standard) or GOTS (Global Organic Cotton Standard)
We would only recommend an organic cotton yoga mat if you were to use it just for low intensity exercises such as yoga for two reasons:
- They provide significantly less padding than most yoga mats do, they’re essentially a rug.
- As they are a fabric, which they will absorb moisture such as sweat, and thus bacteria quite easily. They are machine washable, which is great, but will shrink a few inches in the process.
Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) is the eco friendly alternative for PVC yoga mats that we can get behind. TPE is a synthetic rubber that has a high potential for recyclability and requires less energy to manufacture than other materials with similar properties. TPE has great properties which we believe contribute to the ease of use and comfortability of these yoga mats:
- Non slip
- Water resistant
- Easy to clean
- Non toxic
The recyclability of TPE is a main sustainable benefit over other PVC alternatives such as natural rubber, a material that is difficult to harvest or recycle in an environmentally sound way.
Terra Active eco yoga mats are made from TPE, and are free from toxic substances, latex free and PVC free. We believe TPE is the perfect marriage between eco-friendly, non toxicity and not compromising ease and comfortability of use.
Check out our colorful eco yoga mats here.