Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yoga Mat Flakes... Not the Cereal Kind

With the new spring-summer weather moving into the Northern Hemisphere (Autumn for those Aussie readers!) I have felt a renewed sense of "yogarific-ness" in my system. The later sunsets, the warmer weather all makes me want to drag my mat out somewhere, anywhere really, and practice. Unfortunately, the closest place for outdoors yoga is the Halifax Commons, which Andrew firmly informs me is too public for his non-exibitionist yogi self. That's ok, someday he will cave!! lol. (Andrew and I last summer at the commons!)

In any case, more yoga means looking at my mat more often. Last Friday I noticed a tiny speck of green on my pants during practice. 
No. No way! Not again! Yes- my "new" eco-rubber mat from LotusWear is flaking and wearing away after one year of use. As many of you know, I have had some terrible luck with yoga mats over the past few years, with my first two "eco" (TPE) Lulu mats flaking within months I thought my sticky, sturdy rubber mat would have avoided the whole issue. Although I have noticed the wear patterns, mostly where my hands "rest" during downward dog, I had been in 
denial until an actual piece of green rubber migrated to live on my pants last Friday. So, I just need to accept that I will eventually have to buy yet ANOTHER mat. Not very eco of moi. Sigh.

Well, what is an eco-warrior to do? I can't just throw out my old mats. With the millions of yoga practitioners out there being 
encouraged to buy many different types of mats that are engineered to fall apart within a few years, our landfills are being inundated with old, used PVC mats are releasing dioxin, hydrocholric acid and other toxins into the atmosphere. My mats are TPE (thermoplastic elastomers- which are still made with a type of plastic) and require intense heat and processing to break down (which they will break down into smaller versions of their synthetic selves... so not able to integrate with our Earth). In a landfill, buried in plastic bags and hidden from the sun and oxygen, they most certainly will not degrade at any appreciable rate and are not compatible with a regular compost bin or our municipal compost system. (Green: Lotus Wear flakes, Purple: Andrew's hand-me-down TPE lulu flaking mat. He especially likes the small purple decorations on his pants after every practice!)

What to do? Well my first step is to buy a better, longer lasting rubber mat that I won't have to replace for at least a decade. 

Here are some fun ideas for what I could do with our old yoga mats:

1. Send to a yoga mat recycling program like "Recycle Your Mat". This company accepts ALL yoga mats of any shape or type. According to their site, in 2008 more than 50% of the mats collected were upcycled into other products; which is better than recycling, as that process degrades the plastic with each cycle. 30% of mats were donated to local community programs!

2. Jade has a 3R program was well. Students can drop off their used and unwanted mats to participating studios who, with Jade's help will find local resources to reuse or donate the mats (this I find a bit iffy- how would Jade yoga know what programs are in Halifax NS?). In any case, all beyond repair will be recycled into Jade's new "encore" mat which will be made of recycled rubber (ouuu!).

3. Make Yoga Mat Flip Flops! This awesome suggestion is thanks to Ms. Moniker, who left it in the Urban Garden comments! This option looks like fun, especially getting together a group of friends and trying it out all at once! I guess I wonder about how long the hot glue gun would last... but then I'm pretty rough on my summer flip flops (or thongs in Australia and BC!). Thank you very much Ms. Moniker for your fantastic tip! :)
(picture- wiki-how website)

4. Use your mat as: Kitchen drawer liners, garden kneeling guards, baseball bases, grips to open jars... (all from Jade Yoga's 25 ways to reuse your mat)

5. Use your mat as a beach or park "towel". This one I did do while living in BC with TPE mat #1. It was a fantastic option.

6. Donate to a local women's transition shelter, homeless shelter or family center. Just because you are "done" with your mat doesn't mean that it's life as a yoga mat has ended. I especially like this option, as I feel I'm spreading the gift of yoga. With my first ever mat (along with two Lulu tops that were in perfect condition but didn't "grow" with the rest of me after my move) was donated to a women's transition house in Vernon BC.

7. Donate your mats to a local school or up and coming Yogi/ni teacher who may be struggling to get started on her/his teaching career. While a friend of mine was trying to figure out how to finance some mats for her new career, I went to BreathingSpace studio and found out that they were just going to toss a half dozen mats! They were a little dingy, but with a good clean easily made do for those new students that didn't have a mat.

8. Use your mats as your "Guerrilla Yoga" (or outside yoga- the first just sounds so... rebel! lol) mats. Since all current "eco" mats available today are susceptible to damage by the sun, using them for outside practice is not the best idea. Keeping your old mats as your fun, exhilirating, guerrilla yoga mats, continuing their existence by sharing your outside yogic adventures, will assure that your new eco-mat lasts longer. (Andrew's solution to the zipper on his lulu hand me down yoga mat bag breaking... I really like the rustic stick+elastic look).

This last option is what Andrew and I have decided to do as we both love practicing yoga outside. Although recycling is a tempting "easy way out" process, I truly prefer finding local upcycle or reuses of yoga mats. This reduces on carbon emissions needed to mail your mat via post, by-passes the amount of energy needed to break down and reformulate the mats into another product and my favourite- extends the gift of yoga into another's life.



  1. I received my bright orange mat as a gift about ten years ago. I've been lucky that it hasn't worn down AT ALL in that time. (Though, god only knows what it is made from!!! This was before the "greener" mats were widely available.) It was purchased from Gaiam, and though, as I said, I'm not sure what it's made from, and it'll probably never degrade :( at least I can potentially use it for another ten years.

    And your upcycling ideas are fantastic - so my mat may continue to live in usefulness forever! ;) Seriously, I love the ideas, especially the flip flops.

    P.S. I'm so jealous you can practice outdoors. It is still frigid here in Central Oregon - in the 50's (F) every day, cloudy, windy, and stormy. In about two weeks, it'll be 95 degrees for the rest of the summer! We have no spring here, darnit.

  2. My, but your yoga mat looks a lot like mine...though it's one of those made-firmly-out-of-bright-purple-toxic-waste ones, bought in 2001, used semi-regularly until sometime in 2002 or so, occasionally from 2002-2006, and quite heavily from 2007-now. That's certainly distressing news about the more eco-friendly models. I've been thinking about getting an eco-one which is also extra long and wide, and am told that the combination will likely be costly. But, then, I'm probably gonna keep using my beat-up old one until it falls completely apart, like I do with most things, which is probably still a ways off.... Maybe someone will have come up with one that's both environmentally responsible and durable by then....

    By the way, I sympathize with Andrew. There are free yoga classes offered in Rittenhouse Square in Philly during the summer, and, though free is usually for me, that's probably the most public spot in the entire city....

  3. My mat is not eco friendly. I had it before green was cool (I was the nerdy one in high going on about the environment!). My mat is 12 years old and shows little sign of wear and tear. It's by Wai Lana. It was probably cheap too because I got it for Christmas and I know my mom wouldn't spend a pretty penny on a yoga mat. I've looked at eco mats too, but like YogaforCynics, I won't buy a new one until the one I got falls apart.

  4. wow i feel famous! I'm glad you liked the tip; upcycling seems like a great idea too! I've only ever had 2 yoga mats- one I accidentally left at a bikram centre in 2002 never to be seen again and the one I've had since. It's terrible! Bright bright blue and cost me $10 from a discount store when I was living in a share house at uni and living on 2 minute noodles. It's actually proven to be quite durable, but then I never felt confident enough to practise outside and really put it to the test! I was thinking about getting an eco one- perhaps I should save this one for when I build up some confidence to head out into the great outdoors!

  5. I bought a Jade Harmony mat about 2 years ago and was so excited and spent a good bit. The first practice on it in the Virgin Islands (where I was sweating like crazy) made my skin burn like crazy. I learned that if my pores were open that the mat would really irritate me. I also smelled like my mat for hours (or until a shower :) I finally have it broken in, and the burning is no longer an issue, but it is starting to flake on me. You know when I've been on my mat, purple little balls everywhere. I have also begun to like the smell, I associate with yoga and bliss. I just wonder how good this mat is for me, great for the environment, but what about humans???
    Sorry, weird rant, but your post brought it out in me.
    I do love the ideas for over the hill mats! What I like to do with mine is force others to try yoga!

  6. i have a jade yoga mat and absolutely love it! i am starting to wear it down a bit. i see that as a good sign though. i can visibly see the time i'm spending on my yoga mat. i plan on wearing that sucker out :) after it is too far gone though i will keep it around the house for such purposes as you listed above, especially for a knee pad when i'm gardening. excellent post!!

  7. I have a Jade mat and I love, love, love it. When I started teaching many classes a week on hard floors I found I needed more cushion to make my joints happy. The Jade mat is cushy, doesn't bunch, and is sticky. Which is wonderful. But...I have been using it for a year and it is flaking. Boo. I'd love to invest in a Manduka mat, but I don't want to lug the thing around. So, for now, I'm just watching my Jade mat fall apart...

    As an aside, my first yoga mat was a Hugger Mugger Aromatherapy mat. I have had it for eight years now (around that) and it still smells good. It has signs of wear but it isn't shedding. I use this mat for my home practice or anytime I am practicing on a softer surface. It is super thin. I'm honestly amazed at all it has been through!

  8. YogaWitch: Well- I think that's the interesting thing about non-eco mats... they seem to last longer- like the Black Mat and why it gets an "eco" stamp. I can totally relate with the "no spring"- while we lived in BC, summers were way too hot to practice outside... only at dusk (no way I was getting up at dawn lol).

    YogaforCynics & Grace: I agree, I'm going to wait a while before purchasing another mat (andrew desperately needs one soon). I think that's the best way. Due to manduka's black mat durability, i'm sorely tempted to try their "ekomat"...

    Mandy: Oh my goodness- that totally happened to me! Even though it said on the mat: air for 48hrs before use, i thought, NAH... lol. I had a migraine after 15 minutes and my skin tingled... It still smells too but it's faded finally. I don't recommend rubber mats for anyone who has a smell sensitivity. And I agree, it makes me wonder- some natural things are not great for humans...

    Ms. Moniker- hehe, it was a fantastic tip! You should really try practicing yoga/meditation outside. it is a beautiful experience! You just need to find someplace flat and quiet :)

    Babs and Melita; it's great to hear good reviews of Jade's mat- Andrew's looking into theirs, i'm curious about their new recycled rubber mats that are soon to come out... I wonder if they will be looking into fixing this shedding issue?

    Thanks for all the wonderful comments! I'm glad it was useful and I love hearing what everyone else is finding works for them- helps with the decision making!

  9. I feel that I should clarify something here. Not only is my mat purple and flaky, it is also covered with sparkles. I think it's a great idea to use hand-me-down mats, and I like to think I am pretty comfortable with myself, but I think my next mat will be EITHER purple or sparkly, not both. (we are currently debating the origin of these sparkles, I'm sure you will be updated in later posts)

  10. I bet chopped up into strips, an old yoga mat would make pretty good "mulch" in between rows of veggies. I often hear of carpet or newspaper being used to prevent weeds from coming up between plants, but you could also reuse the strips for a few years and just cover them with bark mulch, or something prettier. Or not, if your mat was a nice color...


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