How to Choose the Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat


How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

An eco-friendly yoga mat can help you connect to yourself and your environment. But what makes a yoga mat eco-friendly and how can you choose the best one for your practice?

Eco-friendly yoga mats are made of natural materials from sustainable and renewable sources. These materials are biodegradable or recyclable. The manufacturing process and disposal of an eco-friendly yoga mat shouldn’t release toxic chemicals into the environment.

Our yoga practice can have a great impact on the environment. In this article, we’ll see how the manufacturing and disposal of a yoga mat determine its eco-friendliness. By the end, you will know how to choose the most eco-friendly yoga mat. 

So, why should you get an eco-friendly yoga mat?


Why Choose an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat?

You may not know it, but while you are practising yoga, you might be intoxicating yourself and contributing to the pollution of the environment. 

Yoga is a spiritual practice. It connects you with yourself and your environment. So it makes sense to do yoga using a yoga mat made of materials that don’t harm your health or the planet.

While you might pay more for an eco-friendly yoga mat, it will give you a whole new experience. Imagine yourself practising yoga on a comfortable yoga mat knowing that your choice made the world just that much cleaner.

When you look around, you’ll see that there is a whole variety of environmentally friendly yoga mats. All of them will have “eco” in their title and will be made of similar materials. So why do some of them cost two or three times more expensive than others?

To answer this question, we’ve spent weeks looking into the difference between the so-called “eco-friendly” yoga mats. Turns out that there’s a lot more to creating an environmentally friendly yoga mat than just the title.


What is an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat?

A lot of companies claim that their yoga mats are eco-friendly. But what exactly does it mean?

We’ve discovered that the eco-friendliness of a yoga mat is not black and white. It’s more like a gradient with some yoga mats more eco-friendly than others.

The eco-friendliness of a yoga mat depends on its material, manufacturing and disposal options.

An eco-friendly yoga mat is made of natural materials from sustainable and renewable sources. These materials are biodegradable or recyclable. The manufacturing process and disposal of an eco-friendly yoga mat doesn’t release toxic chemicals into the environment.

The reason for getting an eco-friendly yoga mat is to avoid intoxicating your body and polluting the environment with materials like PVC. Most companies will tell you the material of a yoga mat, but some will only tell you the things their mats DO NOT contain.

The manufacturing process and the disposal options of a yoga mat are as important. But this information is harder to find, and most sellers don’t include all the relevant details.

So we’ve contacted the yoga mat companies to find out all the information and put together a list of the most eco-friendly yoga mats on the market today. You can see them here:
Top 6 eco-friendly yoga mats in US
Top 7 eco-friendly yoga mats in UK

When we talk about eco-friendliness and sustainability of a yoga mat, we have to consider all stages of a yoga mat life-cycle.

To consider the eco-friendliness of a yoga mat in its entirety, let’s look at a life-cycle of a yoga mat.


The Life-Cycle of a Yoga Mat

The 3 stages of a yoga mat life-cycle are:

  1. Manufacturing a yoga mat
  2. Using a yoga mat
  3. Disposing or repurposing a yoga mat

1. Manufacturing of a yoga mat

  • Raw materials of an eco-friendly yoga mat are organically produced from sustainable sources.
  • The manufacturing process doesn’t release toxic chemicals to the environment.
  • The manufacturer follows ethical practices for their workforce. 

A manufacturer will tell you if their products are organic and provide their certification. Some companies go a step further and include eco-friendly packaging.

2. Using a yoga mat

The way you use your yoga mat and look after will determine its lifespan. The right yoga mat tailored for your practice will last longer. Whereas choosing the wrong mat for what you need will wear out sooner.

For example, a natural rubber yoga mat will degrade quicker under the sun or by salted seawater.

Here’s an article on how to choose the best yoga mat for your practice.

The lifespan of a yoga mat depends on these factors:

  • the material
  • the type of yoga you do
  • the place where you practice
  • how often you use it
  • how well you look after it.

3. The end of life of a yoga mat

A good quality eco-friendly yoga mat that’s fit for your practice will last a few years. However, at some point, it will begin to wear off.

So, what can you do with your old yoga mat? 

You can find another use for your yoga mat or find a facility in your area that recycles yoga mats so it can become a new item.

When your yoga mat begins to break or flake, you have 3 options:

  • Up-cycle/repurpose your yoga mat
  • Recycle your yoga mat
  • Throw it away

Up-cycle/repurpose your yoga mat

Once a yoga mat is no longer suitable for your yoga practice, you can use it for something else. Your yoga mat can become a bathroom mat, a front/back door rug mat or a garden kneeling support.

If you have any great ideas on different ways to use a yoga mat, let us know in the comments below.

Recycle your yoga mat

This is only possible if your yoga mat is made of recyclable material and there’s a recycling facility in your area that deals with this material.

Not all countries or facilities recycle yoga mat materials. Some manufacturers offer to recycle their own brand of yoga mats.

Throw your yoga mat away

The way you’ll dispose of your yoga mat depends on the following: 

  • Is this yoga mat material biodegradable?
  • Does this yoga mat material release toxic chemicals as it degrades?
  • Is this yoga mat material recyclable? 

When you throw it in a bin, your yoga mat will end up in a landfill or burnt in an incineration plant.

In a landfill, all materials degrade eventually. But some release toxic chemicals as they do. An eco-friendly yoga mat degrades without releasing toxic chemicals.

Some manufacturers will know the exact time it takes their yoga mat to degrade. For example, according to Liforme, their yoga mats take 1-5 years to degrade.

At the end of their life, yoga mats can also be incinerated. This can be done in plants with special filters to prevent toxic fumes from getting into the atmosphere.

Whatever you decide to do with your yoga mat. If the material starts flaking, keep it away from pets and babies that may ingest it.

Since the eco-friendliness of a yoga mat largely depends on the materials and the manufacturing process, let’s look at them in more detail…

What are Yoga Mats Made of?

Yoga mats are made from synthetic or natural materials. Some synthetic materials are more toxic than others, with PVC being the most toxic of all. Some eco-synthetic options are now available, but natural materials are the most eco-friendly.

So what are your options for yoga mat materials?

Synthetic Yoga Mat Materials

Synthetic yoga mats are not eco-friendly. They are derived from different types of polymers or plastics that release toxins during their production.

Plastics are made from petroleum, which has a huge negative impact on the environment. Depending on the type of plastic, yoga mat materials can take up to 500 years to degrade.

There are many yoga mats on the market made of synthetic materials such as PVC, TPE, NBR, EVA and PER, which are toxic for the environment.

Among the synthetic yoga mats, PVC is the most toxic for your health and the environment.

A word on PVC

One of the most common yoga mat materials is PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), a plastic toxic for our health and the environment. 

When you look into yoga mat materials, PVC is one of the first things will come across. Why?

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) is one of the most common yoga mat materials. It’s a plastic that’s toxic for your health and the environment. 

PVC has been found to cause cancer, disrupt the endocrine system, impair the foetus development, and suppress the immune system. (Source)

PVC is composed of organochlorides. These chemicals create toxic by-products dangerous for animals and plants.

Organochloride compounds accumulate in fatty tissues, reaching all levels of the food chain. These chemicals concentrate in breast milk and can harm babies. They can also cross the placental barrier and damage the foetus (Source).

Eco-PVC and Eco-TPE Yoga Mat Materials

Some yoga mat materials are more toxic than others. Even the eco-TPE and eco-PVC yoga mats are synthetic plastics derived from petroleum. Eco-PVC and Eco-TPE have certain additives.

These additives change the composition of the material, speed up the degradation process, and stop the release of harmful toxins to the environment. (Source)

With Eco-PVC, you still have harmful PVC production.

For TPE, eco-toxicological data has not been established specifically for this product. Information provided is based on the knowledge of the ingredients and the eco-toxicology of similar products. The material is not biodegradable. The material is not considered toxic at the level of water solubility. However, small particles may have physical effects on aquatic and terrestrial organisms. (Source)

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the assessment of a TPE yoga mat, TPE was classified as hazardous based on its individual components. These components can be toxic or irritant. (Source)

Natural Yoga Mat Materials

A truly eco-friendly yoga mat is made of natural materials from sustainable and renewable sources that can also be organic.

6 natural yoga mat materials:

  • Cotton
  • Jute
  • Hemp
  • Natural rubber
  • Cork
  • Wool

To learn more about yoga mat materials read this article.

What are Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat Materials?

There is a wide variety of eco-friendly yoga mats on the market today. So you can be eco-conscious without compromising the quality of your practice.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can choose a yoga mat from organic and sustainable sources.

There are 7 types of eco-friendly materials commonly used to make yoga mats. Eco-PVC and eco-TPE are synthetic and aren’t completely eco-friendly and other 5 are natural materials.

  1. Cotton
  2. Natural rubber
  3. Cork/Natural rubber
  4. Jute/Natural rubber
  5. Wool

1. Cotton

In India, cotton is the traditional material for yoga mats. It is usually handwoven.

Cotton is a crop that requires a lot of water, fertilizers and herbicides. Organic cotton is grown in an environmentally friendly way, so choosing an organic cotton yoga mat is a much better option.

The cotton yoga mat has a better grip when it gets wet. You can use a cotton yoga mat for high-intensity yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power yoga and Hot yoga. A natural and organic cotton yoga mat can help you with more subtle practices like Yin yoga, Kundalini yoga and Iyengar yoga.

A cotton yoga mat will last you a lifetime, and you can wash it as much as you need. So it’s perfect for your outdoor yoga sessions.

The disadvantage compared to other non-fabric yoga mats is the cushioning. It’s not as soft as a natural rubber yoga mat for example.

A cotton yoga mat can also be slippery on some polished surfaces. On the bright side, you can just something like a “grip it pad” (although it’s made of PVC).

2. Natural Rubber Yoga Mat

With many manufacturers of Natural Rubber Yoga Mats, there is a huge variety of colours, designs and styles.

Natural rubber is harvested from rubber trees in South America (Brazil) and South Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam). The production of natural rubber helps local communities in these countries.

Natural rubber yoga mats provide all the comforts of synthetic materials without the toxic chemicals released to the environment. They are washable, water-resistant, cushioning and durable. 

Natural rubber is good for many types of yoga. Although some companies state that their natural rubber yoga mats shouldn’t be used for Hot yoga.

Natural rubber yoga mats degrade quicker when exposed to sunlight and extreme temperatures. So you will have to replace your yoga mat every couple of years.

Natural rubber is biodegradable. So at the end of its life, you can safely throw it away.

3. Cork/Natural Rubber Yoga Mat

Cork is a natural material made from the cortex of the oak tree. It’s a renewable resource that doesn’t damage the trees during its harvesting.

Portugal and Spain are very popular producers of cork.

Most Cork yoga mats have one side made of cork and another from a different material (such as natural rubber) to make them non-slippery on the floor surface.

Cork and natural rubber are biodegradable.

Cork is antibacterial. A cork yoga mat will last a few years if you look after it, even if you practice every day. You can use it for any type of yoga, including Hot yoga.

4. Jute/Natural Rubber Yoga Mat

Jute is a natural fibre that can be woven into a fabric. It is 100% biodegradable and recyclable.

When Jute is used for a yoga mat, it’s blended with PER or natural rubber. PER (polymer-environmental resin) is a polymer resin derived from PVC, which we talked about before. PER will eventually degrade in the environment.

So, the downside of a Jute yoga mat is the manufacturing of PER, which isn’t eco-friendly. 

5. Wool Yoga Mat

Wool is a sustainable resource. Its production doesn’t harm sheep. Organic wool benefits small producers and has a low impact on the environment.

I would recommend using a wool yoga mat for calmer types of yoga such as Yin yoga, Kundalini yoga, Mantra yoga, Meditation and Relaxation.

Its downside is that wool can be coarse to the skin and may cause irritation to sensitive skin.

How Long Does It Take for an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat to Degrade?

After some time your yoga mat will wear out and break apart. How long it’ll take and how it’ll disintegrate depends on the yoga mat material. Natural materials like cork and natural rubber won’t last as long, but they are eco-friendly and non-toxic to your body. 

Natural fabrics like cotton and wool break down easily. Cotton will take between a week and 5 months to decompose. Wool, depending on the blend, can take between 1 to 5 years to decompose. Hemp, jute and cork are highly biodegradable and compostable. Jute can take 2-3 years to degrade under a thin layer of soil.

However, if the yoga mat is made of a combination of materials, the degradation process will be slower.

How Often Should You Change Your Yoga Mat?

The lifespan of a yoga mat depends on the type of material and how well the yoga mat is made. Synthetic materials tend to last longer while natural materials don’t last as long.

How long your eco-friendly yoga mat will last depends on the material, the frequency of use and how well you look after it. For example, natural rubber and cork yoga mats last around two years with everyday practice. 

The durability of a Natural rubber yoga mat decreases if exposed to sunlight and extreme temperatures. The durability of a cork yoga mat depends in part on the quality of the cork.

Cork from the outer cortex of the oak tree is of lower quality and tend to be cheaper. While cork from the middle cortex is of greater quality. A cork yoga mat will deteriorate after two years depending on how well you look after. 

There isn’t one answer to this question as it depends on several factors. We contacted the manufacturers and wrote a separate article explaining how often should you change your yoga mat.

How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat?

When choosing a yoga mat, you need to check the material, thickness, size and design. Read our guide on how to choose the right yoga mat. For an eco-friendly yoga mat consider organic and recyclable material from organic and sustainable sources.

To make it easy for you, we’ve put together a checklist for choosing an eco-friendly yoga mat.

Checklist for Choosing an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

Yoga mat material

  • Material: Sustainable? Renewable? Recyclable? Ethically produced? Organic Certifications?
  • Does the yoga mat production release toxic chemicals?

Yoga mat manufacturing

  • Does the company have a certificate of sustainability or organic production?
  • Is the production of the material non-toxic for the environment and the workers?
  • How does the company support ethical welfare of the people making the yoga mat?
  • Does the company contribute to local communities or charities?
  • Extra point: environmentally friendly packaging

Yoga mat use

  • Does it fit your purpose: size, thickness, material, weight, type of yoga, place of practice (studio, home, travel)?
  • How easy is it to look after it?
  • Can it be washed?

Yoga mat disposal

  • How long does a yoga mat last?
  • How do you know when it’s time to replace a yoga mat?
  • How does a yoga mat break apart? Does it flake, becomes thinner, frays, loses shape or cushioning?
  • Is there a recycling facility in your area for this material?
  • Does a company take back their own brand of yoga mats?
  • Can you think of how you can use the yoga mat when it begins to break, flake, fall apart?
  • How long does it take for the yoga mat to degrade?
  • Does a yoga mat release toxic chemicals during its degradation?

The Best and The Most Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats 2020

After extensive research into what makes a yoga mat eco-friendly we found that there’s very little relevant information online.

We’ve put together a checklist and contacted the sellers and manufacturers of the yoga mats to gather the necessary details.

Then, we used our findings and this information to select the best and the most eco-friendly yoga mats on the market today.

While some eco-friendly yoga mats are available in both UK and US, some are exclusive to only one country. But don’t worry, we’ve found great alternatives for each one.

The Most Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats | Top 8 | UK 2020

The Most Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats | Top 6 | USA 2020

Conclusion

There’s a great variety of yoga mats on the market today. While some yoga mats are eco-friendly, others are toxic to you and the environment.

The most eco-friendly yoga mats are made from natural materials, organically produced from sustainable sources. Among the eco-friendly yoga mats some are made from natural materials and others are synthetically produced.

In this article, we’ve seen that an eco-friendliness of a yoga mat depends on the material, manufacturing, using and disposal.

We’ve learned that the manufacturing and disposing of an eco-friendly yoga mat shouldn’t produce toxic chemicals to the environment or be detrimental to our health. 

If you are looking to buy an eco-friendly yoga mat check out our top picks for the UK and the US

Frequently Asked Question

Are Yoga Mats Toxic?

The toxicity of a yoga mat depends on its material. Yoga mats from synthetic material are toxic, while those from natural material are eco-friendly.
Learn more about yoga mat materials

What are Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats Made of?

The best eco-friendly yoga mats are produced from 5 natural materials:
• Cotton
• Wool
• Jute
• Natural rubber
• Cork
Learn more about natural eco-friendly yoga mat materials

What are the Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats?

The most eco-friendly yoga mats are made from natural materials organically produced from sustainable and renewable sources.

No toxic chemicals are produced during their manufacturing or disposal.

The Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats | Top 8 | UK 2020
The Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats | Top 6 | USA 2020

How Often Should You Change Your Yoga Mat?

An eco-friendly yoga mat will last you a few years. The lifespan of a yoga mat depends on:
• Material
• Frequency of use
• How well you look after it

For example, natural rubber and cork yoga mats last around two years with everyday practice.
Learn more

What to Do with Your Old Yoga Mat?

When your yoga mat begins to fray, break or tear, you have 3 options:
• Upcycle/repurpose your yoga mat
• Recycle your yoga mat
• Throw it away

How to Dispose of Your Old Yoga Mat?

The easiest way to dispose of an eco-friendly yoga mat is to throw it away. All yoga mats made from natural materials take a few years to biodegrade in a landfill. Unlike synthetic materials, natural yoga mats don’t release any toxins during the degradation.

The way you dispose of a yoga mat depends on the material that a yoga mat is made of.

Can You Recycle a Yoga Mat?

You can recycle your old yoga mat if it’s made from a recyclable material, and your local facilities deal with that material.

Some companies take back their own brand of yoga mats or they can take your old yoga mat if you buy a new one form them.

Are Yoga Mats Biodegradable?

All yoga mats are biodegradable. Synthetic yoga mat materials take hundreds of years to degrade and release toxic chemicals as they do.
Natural yoga mat materials degrade safely in a short period of a few years.
Learn more about how long it takes for an eco-friendly yoga mat to degrade

Maria Mendoza

Hi. I'm Maria. I am a yoga instructor. I've created this blog to share my knowledge and experience with people who are interested in yoga and those who want to make yoga a part of their life. Through my articles, you can learn how to begin Yoga and discover the meaning of Yoga. Learn about Asanas, Pranayamas, Mudras, Mantras and Bandhas. Start your Yoga practice today.

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