Are Yoga Mats Bad For The Environment?

Are Yoga Mats Bad For The Environment?

Published On: December 10th, 2021
Are yoga mats bad for the environment?

Yoga is becoming one of the most popular forms of physical activity around the globe. Millions of people practice yoga nowadays, which inevitably means more yoga mats are being produced. You can walk into almost any department store and find rows of yoga mats on display.

Make no mistake—we support anyone trying to start their own yoga journeys. But what most people don’t realize is that yes – typical yoga mats CAN be bad for the environment. This is certainly not true of every yoga mat, but mainly the cheap ones that you find in the department stores.

If you’re new to yoga, chances are, you got the cheapest yoga mat you could find, and we don’t blame you. Newbies aren’t the only ones guilty of purchasing non-eco-friendly yoga mats. Even seasoned yogis don’t realize that their yoga mats are bad for the environment (and their health).

That’s why we’re here to help you identify what makes a yoga mat non-eco-friendly so you can steer clear next time you buy a mat. We’ll even take some time to provide you with more environmentally-friendly alternatives. This way, you can focus on your yoga practice without having to worry about harming the environment or your health. Let’s get started!

What Makes A Yoga Mat Bad For The Environment?

To the untrained eye, most yoga mats look the same. And ultimately, they serve the same purpose. But you’ll soon find out that not all yoga mats are created equal.  That’s because not all yoga mats are made from the same materials. From natural rubber to PVC, cork, and more.

The unfortunate reality is that there are more non-eco-friendly yoga mats on the market than environmentally friendly ones. They also tend to be the cheapest ones available. This is why so many people end up buying these harmful mats.

You might think it’s reasonable to purchase them now, but once you know what’s inside these cheap yoga mats, you’ll think twice about buying them in the future. Here are some of the reasons we encourage you to avoid these harmful products:

Toxic Chemicals

When you first unbox your yoga mat, you might notice that it has a certain smell. This is known as the “new yoga mat smell”. When it comes to non-toxic yoga mats, the scent usually disappears after a day or two. But maybe you notice the yoga mat smell lingering after a few uses. This is one of the telltale signs that your yoga mat isn’t eco-friendly, and is derived from toxic chemicals.

Yoga mats made from synthetic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are known for having this new yoga mat smell. That’s because these PVC yoga mats are actually full of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, and harmful chemicals known as phthalates 1.

All of these toxins are released into the air during the manufacturing process, further adding to greenhouse gas emissions. And whenever you use a PVC mat during your yoga sessions, the heat and sweat also aid in emitting more gases. And it doesn’t end there. Once the PVC mat ends up in a landfill or incinerator, they still end up emitting toxic substances into the soil or air.

As of today, there is still no safe way to manufacture, use, or dispose of PVC yoga mats and PVC products in general. That’s why eco-conscious people are vehemently against using PVC. It isn’t just bad for the environment, though. PVC is also linked to a plethora of health problems too.

Phthalates are hormone disruptors commonly associated with cancer, fertility problems, obesity, asthma, neuro-developmental issues in newborns, and other birth defects. The worst part is, these phthalates can enter your body through simple skin contact or inhalation. Just think about what is happening while you’re taking in deep breaths during your session – you’re also inhaling chemicals in the process.

If you’d like to learn more about the different toxic yoga mats, we’ve created a more in-depth guide.

Non-Biodegradable Materials

Cheap yoga mats tend to be made from non-biodegradable synthetic materials such as plastics and rubbers. PVC yoga mats, for example, are made from polyvinyl chloride, which is a plastic polymer. It is one of the most common yoga mat materials on the market but is also the most harmful for the environment and our health.

Another example of a non-biodegradable yoga mat material is NBR or nitrile butadiene rubber. NBR yoga mats are also known as synthetic rubber yoga mats. Unlike PVC mats, NBR mats are non-toxic and contain no phthalates, but they still take decades to degrade and make up over 8% of landfills.

There are some claims that nitrile butadiene rubber is eco-friendly because they are trying to find more sustainable ways to gather the material. But it still doesn’t change the fact that large amounts of NBR are still being discarded into landfills. They’re actually one of the largest contributors to landfill buildup.

Are All Yoga Mats Bad For The Environment?

Fortunately, not all yoga mats are bad for the environment. Many yoga mats are PVC-free, non-toxic, and eco-friendly—you just need to know what to look for. Eco-friendly yoga mats aren’t as widely manufactured as PVC yoga mats, so they’re a bit harder to find.

Unlike PVC and NBR yoga mats that can easily be found in department stores… eco-friendly mats are mostly found online. They also cost quite a bit more than those cheap, nasty yoga mats you’ll find at Walmart or Dicks Sporting Goods.

Some yogis complain that eco-friendly yoga mats are overpriced – but we disagree. When it comes to your well-being and the sustainability of our society, you can’t assign a price tag. Trust us when we say that you get what you pay for in yoga mats – by spending more, you end up with a more durable mat made from sustainable, nontoxic materials. Well worth the extra money in our books!

What Makes A Yoga Mat Eco Friendly?

Before you go buying a yoga mat from any brand advertising itself to be non-toxic, you need to know just what exactly makes a yoga mat eco-friendly.

“Eco-friendly” has become a huge buzzword in many brands’ marketing efforts, and there will be brands who will try to mislead people on purpose to gain more profits. To avoid wasting your money, here’s what you need to look for in an environmentally friendly yoga mat:

Made From Non-Toxic Materials

First and foremost, true eco-friendly mats contain no toxic chemicals or heavy metals. They should be 100% PVC-free. Yoga mats made from natural materials are obviously non-toxic. But did you know that there is also a synthetic material that meets these criteria?

A TPE or thermal plastic elastomer is a synthetic material made from a mixture of plastics and natural rubber. You’re probably thinking, aren’t PVCs also made from plastics and rubbers? Unlike PVCs, TPEs contain no VOCs, toxic chemicals, or heavy metals. So while they’re being manufactured, no toxins are being released into the air.

Sustainably Sourced

Aside from being made from non-toxic materials, you also need to make sure that the materials are sustainably sourced. It’s easy to say that a material is non-toxic, but it isn’t always sustainable. To be sustainable means to gather materials without harming the environment in any manner.

Whether or not a yoga mat is sustainably sourced all depends on the brand. Maybe you’ve found a yoga mat brand that claims to use 100% non-toxic materials, but these materials are not sustainable. Take natural rubber, for example. Natural rubber is completely non-toxic and organic, but it isn’t always sustainably sourced. So while a mat with a natural rubber backing may not be toxic, it isn’t environmentally friendly.

Some companies tend to overharvest rubber trees to the point where they need to cut other trees down just to make more room to plant more rubber trees. Not to mention, rubber trees are very sensitive to plant diseases. Once one tree is infected the entire plantation can be affected too. This is one of the reasons why rubber trees are very labor-intensive plants to grow.

Cork, on the other hand, is an incredibly sustainable material. Plus, it’s completely non-toxic. The material is harvested from the bark of a cork oak tree without having to cut down the tree itself. Unlike rubber trees, cork trees are also very low maintenance. They require minimal resources to grow and are very resistant to pathogens.

Recyclable and Biodegradable

And of course, environmentally-friendly yoga mats must be recyclable and biodegradable. But what about TPE? Surprisingly, thermoplastic elastomers are also 100% recyclable and biodegradable. It still takes them about 3 to 5 years to degrade, but that is much faster than PVC or NBR yoga mats.

Final Word On Yoga Mats and The Environment

Whether or not a yoga mat is bad for the environment all depends on the material used to create it. You now know that yoga mats are made from a variety of different materials. If your yoga mat is made from PVC or NBR, then yes – it is bad for the environment. But if you choose non-toxic yoga mats and organic yoga mats, then they’re more likely to be eco-friendly.

However, when choosing a yoga mat, you shouldn’t just stop at being eco-friendly. If you really want the best yoga mat, you should also consider its other qualities, such as durability and anti-slip properties. Learn more about the different factors to consider when choosing a yoga mat in our blog.

Why Pureful Yoga’s Cork Yoga Mat Is A Great Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat Option

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly, durable, and anti-slip yoga mat—Pureful Yoga’s cork yoga mat is the best you’ll find online! These yoga mats are made from cork, which you now know is both sustainable and nontoxic. Here’s why so many people like you prefer our mats:

#1 It’s Sustainably Sourced

Each of our cork mats is sustainably sourced from the bark of a cork oak tree. The cork trees are completely unharmed during the harvesting process, and the bark regenerates completely, making it a perfectly renewable material.

#2 It’s Anti-Microbial

Aside from being a completely organic, recyclable, and biodegradable material, cork has some great natural anti-microbial properties. You won’t have to clean your yoga mat as often because it basically cleans itself!

#3 It’s Sticky

Stickiness in a yoga mat isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the term yogis use to refer to how strong a yoga mat’s grip is. If you’re the type to get hot and sweaty during a yoga session (as you should), particularly in hot yoga practice a cork yoga mat is a great option. It’s incredibly sticky, especially when it’s wet. That’s because cork releases a waxy substance called suberin that makes the mat even more non-slip in the presence of moisture.

#4 It’s Durable

Each Pureful Yoga cork mat was manufactured to last up to two years with regular use. Most yoga mats only last a year at most. But thanks to the cork’s closed-cell molecular structure, it becomes extra strong and durable when compared to other yoga mats.

There are just so many reasons to invest in a cork yoga mat aside from being better for the environment. These are a bit pricey compared to other yoga mats, but with all these benefits, you’re surely getting your money’s worth.

Ready to make the switch to an environmentally-friendly yoga mat? Grab your own Pureful Yoga cork mat today and avail of our free shipping.

Choose between our classic cork yoga mat or our alignment yoga mat. We even offer a cork yoga block and a cork yoga mat bag to match! All our products come with a 30-day return policy, so you can purchase your yoga essentials completely risk-free.