During 2020 lockdown I tripled the number of hours I usually spend practicing yoga, so I spent a lot of time on my yoga mat and breathing on it constantly.
The contact we have with our mat is very intense and frequent, so it is worth understanding what material it is made of.
HOW IS YOUR YOGA MAT MADE?
I've been asking myself questions that I've never thought about:
What material is this mat made of?
Will it really be healthy for me and the environment?
How will I dispose of it at the end of its life cycle?
I started to document myself taking into account all possible sources (consumer associations, petrochemical companies, manufacturers of yoga mats, environmental associations ..) and it has emerged an unfortunately disconcerting reality: yoga accessories for the most part are not friendly to the environment or our health.
In 2020 the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) yoga mat was still the most sold in the world. The reason is that it's super cheap, on average longer lasting (it has to be, it's not biodegradable), with a very low cost of production.
WHY YOU SHOULD NOT BUY A PVC YOGA MAT
There are two reasons: sustainability and health.
PVC is a petroleum-based material, a plastic that is toxic to human health and the environment.
PVC has been named by Greenpeace as the world's most polluting poison plastic. PVC is harmful throughout its life cycle, from production to use to disposal. To make mats soft and flexible, manufacturers add plasticizers like phthalates. As we unknowingly go about completing one of our favorite asanas, we are inhaling substances that are very harmful to our health. And to think you had started practicing yoga to feel better!
Nearly half of all yoga mats in the world are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cannot even be recycled, so the material can contaminate the air and soil when it ends up in a landfill or incinerator.
PVC is also used for other yoga practice accessories, yoga blocks, yoga wheels. you have to be careful with these items as well.
PVC YOGA MATS AND GREENWASHING
Many yoga mats labeled as eco-friendly can be subject to greenwashing, an example being the "non-toxic PVC" or "ECO-PVC" labeling.
For example, some yoga mats that manufacturers sell as "phthalate-free," biodegradable and produced in an "environmentally friendly" way are made of PER or "environmental polymer resin."
However, PER is still PVC, only it replaces phthalates with other plasticizers. While the absence of phthalates seems to make PER less toxic, but we don't know the safety of the other plasticizers used to replace them and the base chemical (vinyl chloride) used to make PVC or PER is still carcinogenic.
HOW TO CHOOSE AN ECO-FRIENDLY YOGA MAT
In the process of buying a mat, it is good to follow some simple rules:
- Understand right away what material the yoga mat is made of, and if it's not clear, ask as many questions as possible of the manufacturer. If the communication is immediate and transparent the answer to this question should arrive immediately.
- A high performance yoga mat has 3 important characteristics: grip, non-slip, cushioning. Try to understand how these characteristics were obtained.
- Evaluate all phases of the mat's life cycle: how was it produced? How is it disposed of?
- Quality comes at a price. Be wary of mats that cost too little, because it often coincides with poor quality materials, harmful to health and the environment.
- Warning: Even the most famous brands produce PVC mats or not eco-friendly! A brand is not a guarantee of sustainability
Train yourself to recognize greenwashing, here are the most common techniques used for false sustainable advertising :
- Fake certifications (made-up or irrelevant certifications),
- Omissions, vagueness, lack of evidence (lack of explanation and data on ecological characteristics, vague terms...)
- Simply false statements (e.g. ecological PVC)
- Focus on a positive aspect while leaving a non-ecological characteristic in the shade (e.g. cork mats with a PVC or TPE base)
- Don't make impulse purchases, take the time to understand what you are buying
People who do yoga have a natural sensitivity to the wonder of nature, so it's important to practice zero impact yoga.
We cannot take care of ourselves at the expense of the environment.
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