Old yoga mats never die…

… They just fade away.

True for you? True for me. I still use my first mat (now over 12 years old), which starred in my very-first blog post. It’s been washed countless times, and it’s disintegrating in high-traffic spots. I now flip it over and use the reverse side.

It’s not my sole mat anymore. But why would I trash it? It’s a pebbly PVC mat with great traction and durability, but it’s not biodegradable. So I am trying to be eco-conscious by using it till it’s unusable.

Recently, my yoga classmate Cheryl got a new Manduka mat (the PROlite version). We all marveled at the mat’s slip-resistance, reputed longevity, and guilt-inducing price (US$68). It was a splurge for Cheryl, but, she pointed out, she’d been using her first (and only!) mat for over 10 years. I was impressed. No travel mat; no replacement waiting in the wings.

When those biodegradable non-PVC mats appeared, many probably chucked their old mats to be “environmental.” But was that wise?

In 2003, I interviewed Richard Heinberg about his first book The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Society. He’s now written four more, all on the concept of “peak oil,” the point at which earth’s petroleum supply tips toward scarcity. He foresaw tremendous economic, political, and social changes resulting from the end of “cheap oil,” everything from exorbitant air fares to global warfare to catastrophes like today’s ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Heinberg and I discussed hybrid vehicles, like Toyota’s Prius. He chuckled at the way folks were buying Priuses to be “green.” He recommended simply driving your old conventional car for as long as possible. “Whatever you reduce in carbon emissions from driving a Prius,” he said, “is dwarfed by the carbon released to produce that vehicle.”

I recalled Heinberg’s words when I saw the eco yoga mats. Manufacturing has inherent eco costs, regardless of whether the items are “green” or not! Buying this eco T-shirt or that eco water bottle is actually counterproductive. Often, the most eco-conscious act is simply to extend the lifespans of our existing “stuff.”

Images: Manduka; Wikipedia, Prius


  1. I agree 100%. but then as our brainwashed consumeristic selves, not buying is one of the trickiest thing of all.

    if your mat is completely shot (like mine is right now, with holes and everything!)Jade actually has a 25 ways to reuse your old yoga mat list on their site which is a great resource, and you can always send it to “recycleyourmat.com” where they collect and recycle yoga mats (AND you geta 20% discount off of manduka mats!)


    1. thank you for that resource! I’m actually more excited about the 25 ways to reuse your old mat than the 20% discount (although it is good if you really need to replace it, why not go green with something biodegradable?)


  2. Right on. I hate to see how “going green” has been twisted into a selling point when most times it’s better to just keep what you have.

    I went through the same debate before getting a new mat, but I had the same problem as EcoYogini: holes and blue sprinkles everywhere. My old one became a slip-proof mat for the trunk of my wife’s car. It works great!


  3. Guess they need to re-hash the old campaign:

    “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Reduce being the first and most important part!!

    I recently bought my “10-year” (I hope!) mat, a big, heavy, pricey rubber one. I kept my old light, “eco-pvc” (if you know what I mean) one for taking with me when I teach (or travel).

    In general though getting rid of used mats is easy for me because I just donate them to the practice space I teach at, where we are always in need of more mats for people who don’t bring their own.


  4. i love my somewhat beat up old mat

    i got it from kripalu when they were changing from their old mats to the new “eco” mats… of course tossing all of the old ones in the process. the one i got i saved from being cut up into rubber door jams. i wouldnt switch it for any mat in the world!


  5. I have used the Original Eco Mat for years and I think it’s the best, IMO. I took it on my 4 trips to India and India beats the hell out of everything. http://www.barefootyoga.com/Detail.bok?no=558

    it was literally decomposing before my eyes so I left my mat with my friend in Africa. people in Africa and India really know how to repurpose things, instead of throwing things out — you should see what is repaired on the street in India — so I did not feel bad about “throwing out” my mat.


  6. Oh, great post! You totally hit it right on the head! I hate that hypocrisy in the “green” movement. Being green doesn’t mean buying more crap cause it is labeled “eco” or “green”. Thanks for the post!


  7. Very good point! I actually backtracked and read that first blog entry you linked to in this entry; 1) I love your writing, and 2)can you really machine wash and dry yoga mats??

    Reading this blog always makes me want to do more yoga. I’m amazed by how much you know! 🙂


  8. You highlight some relevant points towards to the purpose of ‘going green’. People new to the concept feel instand gratification when they purchase items that say “eco-friendly, enviromentally safe, go-green, etc.’. But as we know, especially the people who have commented, going green is more of a lifestyle. We’ve already incoorporated this concept in most to all areas of our lives years (or long before for those currently learning and educating themselves) before it became ‘fashionable’ to do so (e.g. celebrities sporting hybrids because it’s the cool thing to do and gives them press, other prominent people in the community who want to publically and instantly flaunt their environmental concerns but don’t recycle, donate used/new items no longer wanted, shop previously worn clothing, destroy and renovate like there’s no tomorrow, repurpose more frequently, etc.). I’m not condoning having the ability buy new all the time but eco-consciousness is not a ‘fad’, it’s a necessity. Thank you for your post. Sharing perspectives is always a great thing and opens the eyes for good or otherwise to many who previously knew nothing regarding the information presented here. BTW, I agree 100%…*stepping down from soapbox*.


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