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Remember when taking care of the planet was someone else's responsibility? Well, times have changed and unless you've been living under a rock you know that we all need to do our bit to look after the world we live in.
But what do we mean by eco-friendly and how does it relate to an exercise mat?
Eco is short for ecology which is a branch of biology science. It studies the relationship between living things and their surroundings and provides information about how we can best utilize the Earth's resources in a way that doesn't cause harm to the environment.
For anything to be considered eco friendly it needs to be safe for humans as well as our habitat. It must contain zero toxins, be produced in a manner that doesn't emit harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, made from sustainable resources that won't run out, and be recyclable and/or able to decompose naturally at the end of its' life.
Even today, most mats don't pass the "going green" test. Many are made from Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a form of single-use plastic known for containing hazardous chemicals. These poisons are dangerous to humans at all stages of a product's cycle, from manufacture, to use and even at disposal.
There have been some positive developments in the recent manufacturing processes of PVC whereby much of the bad stuff is now being left out. However as the product itself is still not biodegradable it can't yet be labelled ecosystem friendly.
There are 5 materials regularly used in yoga mat construction which are certified 100% non-toxic, bio-degradable and sustainably made. These are, Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), Jute Fiber, Natural Rubber, Cork and Organic Cotton.
My top pick in each category meets all the criteria needed to be considered healthy for the planet as well as receiving consistently high consumer ratings for its overall performance.
I would be confident purchasing any one of these for my home practice knowing that they are a quality item that meets the required environmental standards and is safe for human use.
Here are my best selections.
Size : 72 inches x 26 inches x 6mm
Weight: 2.2 Pounds
The Heathyoga Eco Friendly Non Slip Yoga Mat is not only the top selling TPE style but also the most affordable out of all my recommended options.
TPE is a polymer compound material that contains no latex, PVC or heavy metals. It performs well during fitness workouts because it resists tearing, stretches well and provides good cushioning. Products made from this are recyclable and biodegradable. It's good to know that unlike PVC, TPE can be re-purposed instead of adding to our ever increasing landfill problems.
Size is longer and wider than a standard mat but still sufficiently lightweight that it can be carried with ease. Thickness is a very comfortable 6mm providing excellent cushioning for all asanas. It has a textured surface to prevent slipping and helpful alignment lines to keep you centered.
This is a budget priced, all purpose option that should suit most yogis.
Brand: Ajna Wellbeing
Size: 72 inches x 24 inches x 5mm
Weight: 4.4 Pounds
The Ajna Organic Yoga Mat is the most popular in the natural jute category.
This brand was established by two Australian sisters who made it their mission to create products that are sustainably healthy and of exceptional quality. Not only is the material organic and free from harmful chemicals, the company states that for every sale, a tree is planted as part of an on-going reforestation project. I also love that their packaging is 100% recyclable.
The natural fibers repel sweat and odors and provide a textured surface for grip. Length is longer than standard, which means you are less likely to find your feet spilling over the edge in plank pose. It also comes with a cotton carry strap that attaches easily and is super handy for transport. At 4.4 pounds it is heavier than the TPE one however the extra weight means it rolls out perfectly flat every time.
This is another excellent choice for home yoga. If you sweat a lot you may need to put a towel on top to reduce slipping.
Size: 72 inches x 26 inches x 5mm
Weight: 2.8 Pounds
The IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat with carry strap is the highest rated rubber type sold on Amazon and ideal for hot yoga.
Made from a combination of polyurethane and sustainably harvested tree rubber this combination is 100% eco friendly and compostable. There are no hazardous materials used, it's latex free and there are no unhealthy chemicals to breathe in.
This one is extra large and provides excellent traction even when wet. In fact, it gets grippier the more you sweat. The underneath side has a textured surface which sticks well to hard floors and the top layer is smooth yet water absorbing.
Available in a choice of 5 colors, it would suit experienced yogis who enjoy fast paced intensive practices such as Bikram and Power Yoga.
Brand: Body By Yoga
Size: 80 inches x 26 inches x 6.5mm
Weight: 9 Pounds
The Luxury Cork Yoga Mat is the longest, thickest and heaviest design in this list.
A corked top layer combined with a non-slip natural rubber bottom layer provides stability and enables a perfectly flat surface with no curled up ends. The cork is sustainably sourced from Portugal and Spain and the rubber from trees in Vietnam. It is toxin and odor free as well as being moisture resistant.
This cork is 6 times thicker than you normally find in this category, hence the extra weight. As a result you probably won't be taking it too far from home. The advantage is that you get plenty of support and comfort for sensitive joints. The printed guide lines also assist practitioners with correct positioning.
Even though this one costs more, the durability and unique earthy feel that cork provides under foot, make this a popular choice with buyers. Men in particular rate it highly due to the generous dimensions and dense construction.
Size: 72 inches x 25 inches x 5mm
Weight: 4 Pounds
Every Yogasana Cotton Yoga Mat is handmade in India and comes with an impressive 15 year warranty.
A generous size that will outlast competitors and can be used outdoors for extended periods. Workout on grass or take it to the beach if you want to, without affecting performance. When new, the cotton weave is quite stiff and the surface texture is rough however both will soften the more you use it and especially after every wash.
Hands and feet won't slide on this one but if you practice on hard floors you might need some rug grippers to keep it secured.
Between yoga sessions this wouldn't look out of place left unrolled in the living room or as a hall runner. Pick the best match for your home decor with one of the 7 color options available.
Yogasana take environmental responsibility very seriously. Not only do they produce a high quality eco friendly product that will last for many years, a portion of sale proceeds is donated to underprivileged schools in India, where the goods are made. Just another compelling reason to buy one of their unique, hand crafted cotton yoga mats.