I started a regular home yoga practice around two years ago, right after deciding that working as an Android developer wasn’t for me and that I’d be way happier working on projects that actually matter to me instead of contributing to getting the CEO of a lucrative business even richer. Yep folks, that was the year I made lots of good decisions for myself!
Anyways, I got into yoga and it was love at first sight. As I was practising almost every day, it quickly made more sense to bring my practice at home instead of losing half a day commuting to a yoga studio and back.
The yoga mat
But then came the. Big. Question. Which yoga mat shall I buy that is the most eco-friendly while being durable at the same time? As for everything I buy, this yoga mat thing became my obsession for I’d say, a month. And I mean a full-time-month-long-thinking-and-reading process.
I believe I bought the most sustainable alternative that was available on the market at the time. My decision ended up not being led by the eco-friendliness of the materials, but by the fact that that specific yoga mat carried a lifetime guarantee. Buying a yoga mat ONCE and then being able to do as many downward dogs and other funky sounding poses, for nothing less than a lifetime sounded like a sensible thing to do.
Anyways, in two years’ time, thanks to a bunch of dedicated and imaginative people, we’ve now got more sustainable alternatives available than the one I went for (I’ll talk about it at the end of the post) and those brands are where I’d be looking to first if I had to buy a yoga mat today.
Brands in the super-eco-mat-competition
In terms of ethical and sustainable choices, it’s most of the time a question of priorities and sensibility to several issues. How durable should the material be? Is it alright if it’s made on the other side of the planet? Should I prioritise upcycled materials? Should it have a lifetime guarantee? The importance you give to each of these questions my dear, well, depends entirely on you.
- About the brand: created by Anna and Sophie, the brand’s goal is to reduce the amount of plastic waste on the planet and promote a more responsible consumption. They promote a circular economy through their yoga mats, by enabling their customers to return their used hejhej-mats once they reach the end of their lifespan, so that they can be disassembled and used to produce other yoga mats.
- Material: production off-cuts—each mat uses up 1 kg of production waste. Using resources that are already there instead of using limited natural resources? Yes, yes, yes!
- Made in Germany
Extra bits and bobs: we salute their initiative to donate 1€ to the social initiative EarthChild Project for each yoga mat sold.
As we’re sure you’re wondering too, Hej hej means hello in Swedish. You’re welcome.
Quick note: Yogamatata’s website is only in French at the moment.
- About the brand: Yogamatata is the realisation of a dream to make yoga essentials that are high-performance, aesthetically pleasing and nontoxic for the planet and the people manufacturing the products. We love their ultra-transparency: they share their struggles and their journey to being an entirely ethical company.
- Material: cork (from Portugal), natural rubber (from Vietnam) and water-based ink. Their packaging is made from seed paper (meaning you can plant it and it will attract bees, how awesomeee!).
- Made in Shenzen, China in a closely controlled and ethically audited factory.
Extra bits and bobs: for every mat purchased, they make a donation to an association which changes regularly. Yep guys, a lot of thought was given to every aspect of their business!
- Brand ethics: Jade Yoga plants a tree for every mat sold and that is pretty cool (they’ve planted one million trees so far!).
- Material: natural rubber tapped from rubber trees, which is a renewable resource. It contains no PVC, EVA or other synthetic rubber.
- Made in the United States
- About the brand: did you know that cork oak trees stripped of their bark absorb 3-5x more carbon dioxide and release more oxygen? You can read more about the multiple environmental benefits of using cork here. The Urbivore is all about holistic living. Want to know the definition of an Urbivore? It’s a mindful eater, a thought leader, a practising yogi and a happy Buddhist.
- Material: cork oak tree bark (from Portugal) — it naturally inhibits bacteria, mould & fungal growth and natural tree rubber.
- Made in Canada
- About the brand: Manduka is one of those brands that makes you feel good about the world as they use recycled materials such as plastic water bottles in their clothing and accessories.
- Material: Made from biodegradable natural tree rubber, manufactured with zero waste and with no harmful plasticizers. The top layer is made of natural sealed-cell surface that will keep out moisture and sweat from seeping into the mat and breeding bacteria.
- Made in Germany
- Lifetime guarantee: All of Gaiam yoga mats come with a lifetime guarantee, and that is something I highly value!
- Material: made from eco-friendly natural rubber, this mat also features an internal stabilizing core that prevents bunching and stretching, with firm cushioned support for increased stability.
- Made in Taiwan
- Brand ethics: Liforme is truly dedicated to improving your yoga practice while not harming the environment. They donate 5% of every Purple Earth mat sold to support environmental conservation. Oh and, make sure to check out their really cool and interactive page about the history of the yoga mat!
- Material: made from sustainable rubber, the top layer and base layers are glued using a heat-bonding process that eliminates the need for toxic glues. Their mats come in recyclable cardboard, are PVC free and biodegradable in 1–5 years in normal landfill conditions.
- Made in China
Image: Adam Whiting
- About the brand: the world’s first yoga mat made entirely from recycled wetsuits. They’ve so far diverted 32 tons of neoprene (that’s 12,574 wetsuits!) from landfills. They have also implemented a program which allows their customers to return their used mats for them to recycle.
- Material: are you not reading or what? Recycled wetsuitssss!
- Made in the United States
Here’s the one I personally went for. Again, I bought it years ago, and many of the above options were not available at the time. Depending on which side of the globe you live on, this one might still potentially be the best option.
- Lifetime guarantee: Manduka offers a lifetime guarantee on their two PRO range mats: I picked the lite one as it is lighter (duhhh!) and thus easier to carry around. I recently bought a second-hand PRO one for my mum so I got to try both and they are on point! Manduka is committed to making products that last longer, which is something I am sure you value as much as I do.
- Support and comfort: the PRO range offers a high density (meaning more comfort and stability for those beautiful joints of yours by absorbing shocks effectively) and plenty of grip. In fact, as mentioned on their website, they are built to be worn in, never wearing out. Every time you get on your mat, it gets to know you best: you’ll come to a point where your mat has a front and a back side, with two very adhesive spots where your hands are usually in your downward dog, for example.
The PRO collection also has a closed-cell surface, basically meaning it won’t rot because of your sweat being absorbed by it (how preeeetty does that sound!).
- Material: high-quality PVC, manufactured emissions-free and free from toxic chemicals, dyes and phthalates, which disrupt hormone balance.
- Made in Germany
It is now possible to send our old yoga mats back when we buy a new one so that the previous one can get recycled!
I don’t use any in my practice, but if you do I’d suggest trying to use a pillow you already have. If you don’t have any that has a shape that fits your needs, I think it’s the kind of item where you can express your creativity and go for a beautiful handmade one from an Etsy boutique for example.
reCork takes natural wine corks out of the waste stream and creates super cool products from them! Among those products, you’ll find a.. yoga block (made from no fewer than 198 recycled natural wine corks)! They’ve recycled over 75 million corks so far.
Available in the United States and Canada at the moment.
The best strap is the one you already have. Got an old belt or an old t-shirt? That should do the trick! If you don’t have that, Manduka makes 100% recycled spun polyester straps, which isn’t bad either!
Sometimes even the best yoga mats can’t handle yours having the time of your life on your yoga mat in the middle of summer. Manduka makes yoga towels called yogitoes and, guess what? They are made of 8 discarded plastic bottles, woven into 50% recycled poly yarn content and require 2/3 less energy to produce.
Because this guide wouldn’t be a complete guide if I left you guys practising yoga naked (not that it wouldn’t be a nice option)—the Ethical Fashion Guide is a good place to find gorgeous ethically made yoga clothing.
Easy-Breezy yoga mat cleaner recipe
Here’s the recipe that keeps my yoga mat clean and not smelling like feet:
- 3 cups water (distilled if possible)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 20 drops tea tree essential oil
- 10 drops Lavender essential oil
Mix it all together and put it in a spray bottle. And you’re done!
Enjoy your yoga session, zero waste style!
Cover image credit — Hejhej.
Morgane is a London-based writer passionate about sustainable living, ethical fashion and social justice.