Ditching the plastic leaves you open to a variety of eco-friendly options, which are way more individual and natural. Not only do they feel good, they also avoid collecting all that nasty sweat, like plastic mats do.
But how do you find the right yoga mat for you? We’ve reviewed some of the options below.
Hemp Yoga Mats
Hemp is a very strong fibre, rather like canvas. It’s taken from a very easily grown plant that can be cultivated for a variety of purposes. The actual material itself uses the stem of the hemp plant, which is then made into a material through the process of ‘renting’ or spinning the fiber out into something that can be woven. Because of its diversity and biodegradability, it’s considered very eco friendly.
However, hemp isn't a nitrogen fixer, meaning it doesn’t add to the naturally rich nitrogen needed by most soils to survive. This is good news for those growing the plant, because it can survive in poor soil, but nitrogen usually needs to be added to hemp fields to keep the soil healthy. That said, it’s a very comfortable material, which can be easily washed, making it great for yogis who want to get sweaty on their mats the natural way!
Cork Yoga Mats
Cork is great for yoga mats, as it is very grippable, and can be easily wiped down after a yoga session. Cork uses the bark of quercus sumber or cork oak, which can be harvested and stripped from the tree without killing them. It’s also super eco-friendly, as no tree has to suffer being chopped down to make these mats!
Depending on how the cork is treated, it should provide a flexible, crack-free material which you can easily roll up and store away. It has a smooth texture and allows for more displacement, because, once treated, it becomes naturally buoyant as well as tactile and strong. Cork is also easy to clean with a single wipe.
Cotton Yoga Mats
Cotton has lots of the same benefits as hemp, although it is softer and naturally less strong as a material. Unfortunately, since it’s sought after in the fashion industry, there’s less regulation around how it’s grown. Which means a lot of cotton farms use pesticides and toxins around the plants, to kill off bugs. Cotton also uses a lot of water to grow, so it’s not a particularly conservative plant in terms of resources!
However, natural cotton is biodegradable and fairly eco-friendly. Like hemp, it can be washed, although more carefully, to avoid shrinkage (which means definitely no washing machines!) It also provides a nice level of comfort for those seeking a softer material. It’s just much harder to determine the ecofriendliness of a cotton mat, all things considered!
Jute Yoga Mats
Jute is a coarse, bast fibre, rather like rope in texture. The spaces between the jute strands are larger, which gives it a rougher, sturdier texture. Jute is multi-purposeful, making it perfect for things like shopping bags. It’s also completely biodegradable and reusable, and so it’s a great eco-alternative to existing options - you can even turn it into garden mulch afterwards! To add to it’s already impressive resume, jute is very low energy, which means it's easy to harvest, and takes up very little land for cultivation.
When considering jute, it really comes down to preference - whether you prefer softer fabrics or want something a little tougher under your spine when you stretch.
Rubber Yoga Mats
Natural rubbers are increasing in popularity over plastics and other materials, because of their thick absorbency, adjusting for the full weight of the body when it comes in contact with the mat. Natural latex rubber is tapped from trees, with over 200 varieties providing this abundant resource. Reasonably waterproof and easy to clean, these are a natural polymer, incredibly recyclable and reasonably biodegradable.
As with jute, it really comes down to preference - these mats are more spongy than their fibrous counterparts, equally distributing the body’s weight. Some people however may be less keen on rubber’s natural softness - and that’s ok, because there are plenty of eco-alternatives out there.
We hope this list of eco-friendly yoga mats helps you when choosing a mat. Unfortunately there’s no cut and dry answer for the ‘eco-friendliest’ - that depends on lots of variables, such as the carbon footprint of the company sourcing the material, what pesticides they use, how far they travel to collect the material, etc, etc.
However, those at Eartha (who wrote this handy guide) are working to bring you awesome, sustainable mats, using natural cork with a rubber underlining. We also subscribe to a lot of cool initiatives to offset our carbon, so we’re pretty sustainable all around. If you want to have a look at what those options are, click here to see our range.