Yoga, pilates, meditation, barre, whatever exercise you choose to do, more often than not the use of a yoga mat will be required. You may have your own or use one at the studio or you may be in the market to buy one. Either way, you should have your overall health as one of your first priorities. After all, that’s why you’re exercising, right?
Yoga mats are a relatively durable item that should not need to be replaced very often. Most of them are made from polyvinyl chloride or PVC, which is a certain type of plastic that is inexpensive, flexible, durable, easy to clean and non-skid. However, whilst PVC may be a handy, cheap and convenient choice for yoga mats, they can cause serious issues with your health and even greater issues with the environment.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, PVC can cause damage to the reproductive system, liver, central nervous system and the respiratory system if you are exposed to it too much. When creating the PVC material, two known carcinogens are also produced – dioxins and PCBs. And to add insult to injury, toxic metals are used to make the mats durable and phthalates are incorporated into the PVC to make them sticky. Bad news people.
At the same time, PVC mats are a massive burden on the environment. Since PVC is a type of plastic, they are virtually impossible to recycle so in a hundred years from now, you can guarantee that your PVC yoga mat will still be sitting in landfill in exactly the same place it was dumped. And it will continue to sit there for another 1000+ years after that leaking its toxins into the earth.
But! Don’t despair and decide to pull the pin on exercise altogether (the yoga mat excuse won’t fly). There are some great yoga mat alternatives to PVC on the market that are using renewable and recycled materials to create mats that do exactly the same thing as PVC mats, without the potential side effects. Jute, rubber or hemp mats don’t leak any toxic chemicals and will eventually break down and recycle. Amazing companies like Süga are making them from 100% recycled wetsuits and you’ll find companies like Mukha using natural rubber from Brazillian rubber trees.
If you’re thinking of replacing your PVC mat with a safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative, try thinking of some creative ways to repurpose your old mat around the house instead of just throwing it into landfill. You could use it as a non-skid grip under rugs, a placemat for your pets water bowls or even as a cushion for your knees if you’re an avid gardener. Your only restriction is your imagination.
If you’re in the market for a new yoga mat, please consider trying some of these environmentally friendly alternatives.
Mukha mats are made from Brazillian rubber, which is skilfully tapped from just below the bark of the Rubber tree. At the end of their lifespan, Mukha mats are 100% biodegradable.
Yoga mats made entirely from recycled wetsuits.
Another range of mats made from the rubber tree and with every mat sold, Jade Yoga plants a tree. Win, win.
Made from non-Amazon-harvested natural tree rubber.