When I originally set out to write this article, I was going to compile a whole list of ecofriendly yoga mats. However, I quickly found out that many yoga mats, including ones marketed as ‘eco-friendly’, contain plastics of some sort. In my humble opinion, plastic does not equal eco-friendly. So for the sake of this article, I am going to concentrate on plastic-free environmentally friendly yoga mats, with one exception.
I hope you’re not gearing up for a long article because *spoiler alert* there are not that many plastic-free yoga mats.
A Brief History of the Yoga mat
The first mass produced yoga mats were made from PVC (a.k.a. vinyl, a.k.a. plastic, a.k.a. the enemy). They are generally cheaper and provide a good grip or ‘stickiness’ for the user.
PVC does not break down and landfills and is generally unrecyclable.
Luckily, there are now more environmentally friendly yoga mats to choose from, that aren’t made from plastic.
Jute Yoga Mat
For those of you wondering, ‘What the jute is jute?’ Here is a quick rundown:
Jute is a long, soft vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, long threads. It is produced mainly in Bangledesh.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides. Fabrics made of jute fibers are carbon-dioxide neutral and naturally decomposable.
Jute can be grown in 4–6 months with a huge amount of cellulose being produced from the jute hurd (inner woody core of the jute stem) that can meet most of the wood needs of the world. Jute is the major crop among others that is able to protect deforestation by industrialisation.
Thus, jute is the most environment-friendly fiber starting from the seed to expired fiber, as the expired fibers can be recycled more than once. Jute fiber is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly.
Jute yoga mats are more environmentally friendly than traditional PVC mats, but just make sure to double check the label and see if there is any plastic lurking around the corner.
The most environmentally friendly brand of jute yoga mats I have come across is ECO yoga mat by barefoot yoga
- Composed exclusively of all-natural rubber and jute fiber
- There are no chemical additives used
- Its rubber underside grips the floor while the jute fabric/rubber mix on top offers superb traction, even in heavy sweat
- highly durable, tactile, and pleasantly natural surface to practice on
A couple things to keep in mind when using a jute yoga mat is there is a breaking in period where the mat may shed some fibres and a small clean up may be necessary.
Like all great things in life, nothing lasts forever and these yoga mats are no exception. Expect some rubber flaking and fiber shedding when your well-used jute yoga mat is at the end of its life. A telltale sign it’s time for a new one!
*Note: Many ‘jute’ yoga mats are mixed with some type of plastic polymer such as polymer environmental resin (PER) or PVC. Do your best to avoid these.
Cork yoga mat
Cork is a great sustainable resource. Cork trees are not cut down to be harvested. Instead, the bark is harvested by hand every 9 years (they can live up to 300 years!) and regenerate cork in between harvests.
Cork yoga mats commonly have a rubber backing so it does not slip while being used for room temperature or hot yoga.
Look for cork mats that have a recycled rubber bottom like Yoloha.
- Exceptional non-slip properties, especially when wet
- Ready to go right out of the box, no break in period
- Firm top and soft foam bottom increases comfort and stability
- Body-kind with no PVC’s or harsh chemicals used
- No harsh smells
- Premium recycled cork and rubber surface sourced locally
- Easy to keep clean
- Engineered to always lay flat and stay put
- The perfect weight at just 4 lbs
- Manufactured responsibly in the USA
What I also love about this company is they are family owned and their products are handmade. Each mat is carefully inspected by hand to ensure the highest quality and the day you receive your mat it rolls out perfectly flat for your first practice.
Natural Rubber Yoga Mat
Natural rubber is produced from rubber trees. The life period of rubber trees in plantations is around 32 years, up to 7 years of immature phase and about 25 years of productive phase.
An awesome brand of natural rubber yoga mat is Jade Yoga Mats.
- Made in a sustainable manner with natural rubber tapped from rubber trees, a renewable resource
- Jade mats contain no PVC, EVA or other synthetic rubber
- Made in the United States in compliance with all US environmental, labor and consumer protection laws
- Through partnership with Trees for the Future, JADE PLANTS A TREE FOR EVERY MAT SOLD, with over ONE MILLION trees planted so far.
Jade Yoga gives back to the environment with every single yoga mat purchased. Now, that is a mat I can get behind, or rather on, in this case!
It’s important to note that natural rubber can be degraded by bacteria, so keep your yoga mat clean!
Recycled Material Yoga Mat
Man, I love it when creative entrepreneurs create a product that is unique and awesome for the environment.
The geniuses at SugaMats did just that. They created a yoga mat from old wetsuits. Effectively keeping the wetsuits and yoga mats out of landfills.
- Made from recycled wetsuits
- Built to specific tolerances of density, tackiness (both wet and dry), elasticity, durability, and liquid permeability and retention
- Easy to clean: just hose it down or you can use a homemade cleaner of water-diluted vinegar, with a little lavender & tea-tree oil
- hang dry in the shade
- SugaMat C2G (Cradle to Grave) Program option:
- If your mat ever wears out, just send it back and they will send you a brand new one at their expense
- No questions asked
SugaMats also has drop-off facilities in California and British Columbia for wetsuits and used yoga mats. If you do not live in one of those places, you can ship your yoga mat back to them and they will give you a discount code for your next purchase.
Honestly, I love this idea of repeated recycling. Supporting a company this forward thinking is worth it in my books.
Alright, so there you have it, a short list of plastic-free environmentally friendly yoga mats (minus SugaMat but they are too awesome not to include in this list).
Has this list inspired you to try a plastic-free yoga mat? What kind of yoga mat do you use? Let me know in the comments below.
Cheers, and have an awesome day!