Updated: Dec 12, 2019

There are thousands of yoga mat options out there, and the one you choose will depend on your practice and preference. There is, however, one aspect we should all consider when purchasing a yoga mat, and that is eco-friendliness. We can’t deny that increasing global temperatures, influenced by greenhouse gas emissions, waste production, and pollution, have a direct impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. 

Our yoga practice is a conduit for harmony, both within ourselves as well as with the world around us. So, why not opt for eco-friendly yoga mats that are recyclable and made from PVC-free materials? These yoga mats take less time to decompose and won’t contaminate our water sources with microplastics. But, the question is, how can you make sure the mat you’re buying is actually PVC-free?

A consumer review website recently published a study of several different popular yoga mat brands. They tested each brand to ensure they were as eco-conscious as they were functional. As part of their methodology, the review site sent samples of each yoga mat they tested to the Ecology Center, a nonprofit that researches toxic chemicals in everyday products. The results, as they claimed, were surprising. Several of the yoga mats that sellers claimed to be “biodegradable, recyclable, and non-toxic,” were in fact made from PVC.

According to the same source, they sent 10 “eco-friendly” yoga mat samples to the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with a GAIAM-brand PVC mat for comparison. While 8 of the 10 mats were made from the advertised eco-friendly products, two of them were not: the Aurorae Synergy 2-in-1 and the Ajna Jute mat.  Both products claimed to be made of a material called Polymer Environmental Resin or PER, coined as “a biodegradable alternative” to PVC mats. However, when the Ecology Center tested Ajna and Aurorae mats it was revealed they were both made from PVC.

After speaking to scientists and researchers about these materials, the reviewers concluded there’s no major difference between PVC and PER.  Additionally, the PVC GAIAM mat only differed from the Ajna and Aurorae mat because it honestly labeled the use of PVC while other mats claimed to be “biodegradable” and “eco-friendly.” They conclude by reflecting on the practice of “greenwashing,” a marketing strategy used to promote regular products as environmentally-friendly alternatives.

While PVC or PER mats don’t pose a danger to human health, they do have a greater impact on the environment and the Earth’s ecosystems. If we can reduce waste and become informed consumers, we can make purchasing decisions that are environmentally-conscious and beneficial to us all. Before buying a new yoga mat, or anything else for that matter, consider the impact your purchase can have on the world’s ecosystems at large. Dig a little deeper to make sure your choices are in line with your lifestyle and practice – and consider going with eco-friendly options.