Eco-Yoga Matters

There is rarely a day goes by where climate change and the environment are not in the news. Having worked on clean energy and environmental policies over the past 12 years, I cannot remember a time where the environment has so frequency been headline news.

One of the areas that has often interested me has been the challenge over how individual actions can make a difference in tackling global environmental issues. The counter to that is the impact collective action by groups of individuals can have in making change happen, and more quickly. A case in point being the impact the BBC’s Blue Planet II had in raising awareness on the amount of plastic waste in the marine environment. The ‘David Attenborough effect’ meant that public interest in this issue increased, with governments, businesses and consumers globally being increasingly pressurised to act.

Image Credit: BBC

Products made from plastic, ranging from shopping bags to soft drink bottles, stirrers and straws have become the front line in reducing our dependence on disposable plastics and encouraging the use of sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives.

It’s not just the everyday product where we need to take action. As a yoga teacher, I need to hold myself to account for the impact I have on the environment. In the context of plastic use, the cornerstone of my practice is my yoga mat and those that I provide for my students. When I bought my Yogamatters Eco Everyday mat, I considered a number of factors. Price of course came into it, but as important was the mat’s durability, grip, comfort, ease of cleaning and its environmental credentials. I was particularly impressed that the mat was made from sustainably harvested natural tree rubber and recycled materials. It was also recyclable & biodegradable, free from toxic chemicals and dyes.

I know all too well that when starting out as a yoga teacher, the cost of supplying equipment including yoga mats for students can be a significant outlay. I was fortunate as I was generously donated second-hand yoga mats from a local gym. I am, however, unsure of their environmental credentials so am exploring alternatives. There are so many mats to choose from, the choice is bewildering even for a seasoned yogi like me.

How can I ensure that the mats I buy meet the needs of my students while also being good for the environment?

Jade Yoga
Image Credit: Jade Yoga

I am a big fan and long-term subscriber to Do Yoga With Me’s online platform. It’s been the staple of my early morning practice for a few years now. It’s not only a fantastic resource for high quality teachers, classes and challenges, it also champions eco-friendly yoga equipment, including yoga mats. Its blog on the best eco-friendly yoga mats is well worth checking out, particularly as it includes discount codes for some of the best mats. Do Yoga With Me is also leading the Plastic Free Yoga Revolution, where it is encouraging others to join its movement, stating that 50% of mats sold globally are made from PVC.

plastic free revolution
Image Credit: Do Yoga With Me

New consumer research has also just been published by Consumers Advocate which shows very interesting results. In particular related to claims from global brands on the sustainability of their mats and whether they stand up to rigorous impartial testing . I am often dubious of consumer research, who funds the projects, and whether this skews the results. However, Consumers Advocate is transparent about both the way it makes money, and the 200+ hours of research spent to provide insights and recommendations. I am also impressed by its commitments to its Puerto Rican community and sustainability.

Image Credit: Consumers Advocate

Not only does the research assess each mat’s eco-friendliness, it also assesses functionality, value and design.  They excluded PVC mats from their research given how damaging they are to the environment from manufacture to disposal. Instead they focused on natural materials and some synthetic materials described as eco-friendly alternatives to PVC and marketed as being biodegradable, recyclable, and non-toxic. They also include helpful tips on the most suitable type of mat for each style of yoga. Recommended mat types are also included for common inuries and when pregnant.

So, although the options are bewildering for seasoned and new yogis alike, there are invaluable resources out there (and not just Amazon review pages!). These will enable me (and hopefully you) to make an informed choice on which yoga mat to buy – not just based on price, functionality, or design, but as importantly its environmental credentials.

Credit for Title Image: Consumers Advocate