Given the current popularity and commercialization of yoga I have been starting to wonder about our collective carbon or ecological ‘footprint’. With entire stores now dedicated to yoga related paraphernalia, at some point we need to question the impact of the production all of our mats, props and gear and the sustainability of the current ‘yoga market’.
Are so called ‘eco-friendly’ yoga mats really ‘good’ for the environment? I’m regularly asked to recommend a ‘good’ yoga mat which has led me to question “what counts as ‘good’?” The answer could be different for each of us: Is a good mat a sticky mat or one with a non-slip grip? Is ’good’ brand-based? Does it matter what the mat is made out of? Are eco-friendly mats better than others?
Reading reviews by other yogis on eco-friendly yoga mats offer evaluations based on performance, durability, cost and even smell. But if you are serious about ensuring that your mat is as good for the environment as it is for your Ardho Mukha Savasana, then you will be just as interested in the sustainability of the raw materials, the clean manufacturing process, and recyclability of the mat.
So how do you recognize a true eco-friendly mat?
• They are made from natural materials such as sustainable tree rubber or jute.
• They do not include synthetic toxins such as PVC, PER or TPE.
• They are fully biodegradable.
• They are highly durable and last longer, meaning we need less of them, less manufacturing and use of resources etc.
• Often they have no color and therefore avoid toxins inherent in most dying procedures.
• They are wrapped for purchase in eco-friendly materials (showing that the producer is committed to sustainability all the way along their supply chain).
• They come with instructions on safe recycling and other uses at the end of their natural life.
• The labeling might even include suggestions for how to re-use the old mat you are replacing with socially responsible solutions like donating it to a yoga group for disadvantaged people!
I’m not going to recommend any particular brand or type of mat here for two reasons:
1. I didn’t write this post for commercial purposes.
2. I want to encourage you to engage with this issue and think for yourselves. Make your choices on purpose because you know they matter!
We all know that yoga is about more than strength and flexibility; there is a deeper meaning that calls us back to our mats rather than prompting us to get on a treadmill. We derive that meaning from developing awareness of our bodies, from our breath, the Yoga Sutras, and other sacred texts. One of the first things many of us come to appreciate in our practice is ahimsa, non-violence. For the sake of the planet and all beings who share it, next time you go to purchase a yoga mat or any other yoga merchandise, and before you walk to the counter to pay or click ‘buy now’ online, please consider whether your purchase is deeply and fully instilled with ahimsa. Can you say this is true of your last yoga purchase? What are some commitments you can make towards changing your purchasing habits?
This is Part 2 of our series on yoga and climate change. Read Part 1 here.