Every yogi knows the value of a high-quality yoga mat. Here are our recommendations for eco-friendly, non-toxic yoga mats that will take your practice to the next level!
Yoga isn’t just about becoming more flexible, strong, or fit. It also has a strong spiritual component. Yoga helps us focus on the present, reflect on ourselves, and meditate on our place in the universe.
It’s ironic then, that the very thing most people roll out to begin their practice – a brightly colored yoga mat – can harm the environment and their health.
To help you understand why traditional yoga mats are not sustainable, and what kind of yoga mat you should be looking for going forward, we’ve put together this guide to finding the perfect eco-friendly mat for your practice.
Jump straight into our recommendations in the table below, or scroll down to read more about the various materials yoga mats are made of, and why you should make the switch to an environmentally-friendly yoga mat!
This article may contain compensated/affiliate links. See our full disclosure here.
Comparison of Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats
|Manduka eKo Yoga Mat||Natural Rubber||71 x 24||Check Here|
|Tiggar Yoga Mat||Natural Rubber||72 x 24||Check Price|
|OKO Living Yoga Mat||Organic Cotton||72 x 25||Check Price|
|Scoria Botanicals Mat||Cork & Natural Rubber||74 x 24||Check Price|
|Hautest Health Yoga Mat||Cork & Natural Rubber||72 x 24||Check Here|
|Repose Yoga Mat||Cork & Natural Rubber||72 x 24||Check Here|
|Body by Yoga Mat||Cork & Natural Rubber||80 x 26||Check Here|
|Snakuga Yoga Mat||Cork & Natural Rubber||72 x 26||Check Here|
|Suga Yoga Mat||Recycled Wetsuits||72 x 25||Check Price|
|Live Well Yoga Mat||Organic Cotton||78 x 27||Check Price|
|Stag Sambu Mat||Sambu Grass||72 x 24||Check Price|
|JadeYoga Yoga Mat||Organic Cotton||72 x 27||Check Price|
What are typical yoga mats made of?
Yoga mats were designed to be sticky and cushiony, preventing slipping and adding a level of comfort.
In order to achieve this, companies turned to synthetic materials. Some of these synthetics claim to be environmentally friendly but beware of greenwashing – when it comes to how much less harmful they are, there are a lot of unknowns.
Let’s look at some of the more common yoga mat materials below. And why they’re not the best choice for a sustainable yoga mat.
PVC Yoga Mats
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a synthetic resin used to make everything from packaging to pipes. PVC yoga mats are made from PVC resin and anti-tearing fiber made into an open-cell (moisture absorbing) or closed-cell (moisture repelling) foam. The resulting mats have a desirable sticky quality.
PVC mats are hands down the worst for the environment. PVC requires a lot of water and petrochemicals to manufacture. Areas around factories are exposed to vinyl chloride, associated with increased cancer risks according to the National Institute of Health.
PVC contains phthalates, linked to both health and environmental impacts, in addition to other toxic additives.
It goes almost without saying that PVC is not biodegradable and nearly impossible to recycle. On top of this, disposing of it is hazardous. If it ends up in a landfill, it leeches toxic chemicals into the land. PVCs have even been banned from landfills in many European countries.
If burned, PVC generates a particularly hazardous gas due to its high concentration of chlorine. Far from being eco-friendly yoga mats, these are sadly still the cheapest and most prevalent.
TPE Yoga Mats
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are synthetic materials that are a mix of plastic and synthetic rubber. TPE is used to make closed-cell yoga mats, which are more hygienic and easier to clean.
TPE yoga mats were created as part of the quest for a more environmentally-friendly yoga mat, and they are branded as a safe choice. While they don’t contain phthalates, making them a better choice than some other materials, they still do contain plastic.
Since TPE has not been as widely studied as PVC, there are reasons to remain sceptical that TPE mats are completely non-toxic yoga mats.
TPE is technically recyclable, but this doesn’t mean it’s easy to find a facility or company that will do this. TPE is also technically biodegradable, but being part plastic, it is not going to break down as fast as something organic.
If you’re looking for a truly zero waste yoga mat, you’ll need to look further.
PER Yoga Mats
Polymer Environmental Resin (PER) is another synthetic polymer. It’s plasticized in a way that makes it more biodegradable and less harmful to the environment. However, this still doesn’t mean that it will biodegrade quickly or completely harmlessly.
PER is touted as an eco yoga mat material, but there’s not a lot of research to back this up. Since this material is not yet as widely used and studied, it’s difficult to completely know its impact. For many, the simple fact that it is a kind of plastic is reason enough to avoid it.
Non-toxic Yoga Mat Materials
If you think you need a synthetic mat in order to practice yoga properly, think again. The practice of yoga is thought to be thousands of years old, so certainly there must be alternatives.
While some of these could have existed long ago, most utilize new technology to give their natural mats modern advantages.
Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
Natural tree rubber yoga mats are sourced from rubber trees, which produce a milky-white sap that is harvested and then processed. Since rubber tapping does not require a tree to be cut down, it’s a sustainable practice, and rubber mats are made without any plasticizers or additives, making them biodegradable yoga mats.
In terms of performance, rubber offers grip, durability, cushioning, and both open-cell and closed-cell options, making for a great all-natural yoga mat.
On the downside, natural rubber has a smell that puts some people off. It will fade over time, however, and cleaning it with a 50/50 water-vinegar solution reportedly speeds up this process.
Rubber mats can also take a while to break in, and they are heavy, which is something to keep in mind if you plan on carrying it around, or traveling with it.
Best Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
Made from 100% natural tree rubber, the Manduka eKo Mat is a sustainable, biodegradable option. Soft and non-slip, it’s my go-to for both yoga and pilates, as I love the comfort and stability this mat provides.
Maduka also operates on a “zero waste” basis, using all scrap to create new products.
If you want to take your mat traveling often, have a look at the Manduka eKo Lite mat instead. While not very cushioning, it still provides an excellent non-slip surface and is foldable and lightweight.
A great budget option, the Tiggar Yoga Mat is also made from 100% natural tree rubber. At 4mm thick, it offers slightly less padding than the Manduka offering, but that may be a benefit depending on your preferences.
The Tiggar yoga mat comes in a variety of color options and has a lovely non-slip surface – especially good if you love hot yoga.
Cork Yoga Mats
Best known as the material of bottle stoppers, cork also makes a great eco yoga mat. Natural cork comes from the cork oak, which is grown in countries along the Mediterranean. Because only the outer layer of bark is stripped, cork is a very sustainable material that’s biodegradable too.
Cork contains a natural waxy substance that makes it water and rot-resistant. In a yoga mat, this provides a nice grip. Cork is also lightweight, so it’s perfect for people on the go.
Cork mats often have a cork surface and a natural rubber base, making them both comfortable and durable.
Cork mats require more care than synthetic yoga mats, and some have reported mats cracking when rolled up for long periods. Cork mats are also less cushiony and make a better fit for people who like a firm mat.
They are more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but if you’re looking for a less smelly, chemical-free yoga mat, this might be the material for you. It’s especially good if you like to practice hot yoga due to the odor-free nature and water resistance.
Best Cork Yoga Mats
Sustainable yoga mat brand Scoria offers a range of cork yoga mats in fun prints (printed in non-toxic dyes).
The cork is sustainably harvested and backed with natural tree rubber. This is affixed with an eco-adhesive as opposed to glue.
The mats are antimicrobial, provide plenty of grip, and each mat purchased provides 10 meals to those in need through their partner charity, Feeding Children Everywhere.
One of the best sustainable yoga mats for anyone who doesn’t want to compromise on comfort, this luxury yoga mat by Body by Yoga is both extra long and extra thick.
Made of premium Portuguese cork, and natural rubber, this premium mat is ideal for hot yoga, or anyone who sweats a lot during their practice too!
Natural Textile Yoga Mats
Before synthetic mats, there were mats made of natural textiles. These days you can find zero waste yoga mats made from fibers like cotton, hemp, jute, and grasses. Hemp and jute are more sustainable materials to grow than cotton but less soft.
Sambu mats, made from a tropical grass grown in India that’s known for its cooling and air-filtering properties, may be an enticing choice for those looking for especially non-toxic yoga mats.
Natural textile options are biodegradable. Just make sure the materials are sustainably harvested or organically grown.
Natural textiles absorb sweat and provide some grip, but there’s a greater possibility of slipping. Fibers like jute and dharba also can be coarse against the skin, and these mats don’t provide the same level of cushioning as cork or rubber.
Best Natural Yoga Mats
Mixed Yoga Mats
Many companies blend natural materials to create the best natural yoga mat possible. Cork mats with a rubber backing are especially common, and coarser fibers like jute will and hemp are mixed with other materials for a better overall texture.
While prices vary, it’s possible to find a relatively affordable eco yoga mat in this category. Read the descriptions carefully, however, as many natural materials will also be mixed with TPE or PER.
The best eco-friendly yoga mat for you will depend on what kind of yoga you practice, your budget, and which factors you value the most. Luckily, the eco-conscious yoga community has created a demand for a variety of natural options, so as long as you stay away from three-lettered synthetics, you’re sure to find one that’s both sustainable and the perfect fit.
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