TPE and Sustainable Yoga Mats
I have narrowed down my list to two options in truly sustainable yoga mats:
When I wrote my post on sustainable yoga mats, I was missing information about TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer), the most common material used in non-natural yoga mats these days. It replaced the ultra-bad PVC and is considered better for you, but in my opinion, it’s still not the answer and cannot be considered a sustainable material.
I mentioned that I was consulting with a bio-chemist friend (and Ashtanga yoga practitioner) and here is what he had to say about TPE:
“TPEs are versatile compounds that can take the place of rubbers or PVC in manufacturing. They are generally much more stable and safer than PVC. It looks like their use in the medical industry is exploding for this reason. Here’s a description of one TPE and its medical applications, and another use [in] orthodontic infant pacifiers. TPEs can also be sterilized using a number of methods, [and] some of these might degrade PVC into toxic mush. They are also used extensively in toys. [I] don’t see big red flags regarding toxicity amongst the six TPE variants, which is a positive sign, [and] Greenpeace doesn’t include it in its toxic pyramid of plastics.
“[However,] most traditional TPEs are petroleum-derived. A recent major shift is the development of TPEs that are not fossil-based, using instead renewable biomass (corn, vegetable oil) and synthetics (e.g. polyester). These are slowly replacing the fossil-based materials.”
Based on the derivation of TPE from petroleum, I don’t support TPE as a sustainable alternative to PVC. A better alternative, probably, but I am more interested in an all-natural and sustainable mat.
Which brings me to the fact that I still have not purchased a new mat, despite the aforementioned “thwaaapppp” sound it makes when I move it, and also despite its new yoga-mat dandruff problem – I leave little grey plastic bits all around my mat and if I’m not careful when I pick it up to move over for my restorative poses, I drop a nice little flurry onto the floor. Ick.
I have, however narrowed down my choices a bit in hearing back from some of the companies I covered in my previous post. Bolder wrote me back and their president, Eric Orton, clarified that their mats are, “…made out of a PVC, but with phthalates, [and] heavy metals removed, like decaf coffee, and no latex. [Our] mats are printed in Denver, with a Nasdar non toxic ink.” Orton didn’t answer my question of where the mats were made, and he had me (in a no-thanks sort of way) at PVC.
Staci Granley at Barefoot Yoga Company in Seattle provided information on a few of her mats and clarified that their, “Original Eco Yoga Mat [is] made in the United Kingdom [and is a] completely biodegradable [mat] made from sustainable/plant based materials [of] natural rubber and jute fibers.” She also gave me information on their Jute and PER Mat. PER stands for Polymer Environmental Resin, which set off a few bells in my head. I did some searching and found that, according to Simran Sethi and Sarah Smarsh on Intent.com, “PER mats are still made of PVC but are not softened with pthalates.” They implores us, “Please do not buy the hype that they will decompose easily.” Okay. I don’t buy it. Granley also gave me info on a mat of theirs made in Germany, but didn’t tell me what it’s made out of. Again, not buying it.
Granley did clarify that Prana makes not only the TPE mat I mentioned in my other post, but two all-natural rubber mats, the Prana Revolution Natural Mat, and the Prana Neo Natural Mat. Prana does not say where these are made.
Granley next talks about Barefoot Yoga’s Jade Harmony mat, and although it is listed on their site as being natural, Granley lists it in her text to me as synthetic rubber, made in the USA. This mat is not to be confused with the mat by Jade the company, who produces an all-natural, FSC certified, made in the USA rubber mat that makes it into my two choices for sustainable mats.
She ads that Barefoot Yoga’s Sticky and Ultra mats are 100% PVC and that their only sustainably-sourced mat is the Original Eco Mat; that their company recycles materials used in operation such as cardboard, paper and packaging materials and are “working toward making all of our products we sell in some way environmentally friendly.”
I think this is a great goal and lest I sound like an ad for Barefoot, I will wait to purchase from them until their manufacturing materials and processes and their environmental stewardship is on par with Rawganique, Prana or Jade.
Having said that, there are two more options to consider. Dwell Smart offers 100% organic cotton rugs made with pre-consumer content recycled from the textile industry, and dyed with 100% organic dies used to water the mango trees and vegetables around the facilities. These rugs are made with fair labor in India. And Gaiam offers a “hemp rug woven from 100% organic fibers” that is also made in India.
I am still torn (but not as much as my poor-old, probably-PVC mat) between buying from someone else and making my own. Then again, I’m not likely to take up weaving this week, so off I go to finally buy my new mat.