About our Cork Yoga Mats
Eco Cork Yoga Mat Collection
At the heart of Yoga one is working towards mindfulness, balance & connection between mind, body and spirit. It is the natural progression of practicing these concepts that they extend beyond your yoga practice and into every aspect of your life and day-to-day choices.
Looking at our relationship and connection to our environment in regards to our yoga practice asks us to reflect on our product choices and their environmental impact.
Are you looking for a yoga mat that reflects your values in sustainability and eco-friendly living? Our Eco Cork Yoga Mat Collection is made using some of the most ecologically responsible materials and features a product lifespan that will put your eco-conscious mind to rest with it’s thoughtful design. It is composed primarily of cork and natural rubber, two ingredients sourced from plants that are planted, harvested and processed with the environment in mind. These materials are significantly more Earth-friendly in every sense than most other yoga mats on the market and we will delve into some of the differences of why that is.
Synthetic Materials Often Deemed Eco-Friendly
Navigating the world of “green-washed” terminology for products can be a tricky one. Green-washing means the use of buzzwords like eco-friendly and sustainable materials tagged onto materials that are far from it. It can be easy to tag on terms like this to describe materials that the average person is likely not familiar with. Acronyms like PVC or TPE are pretty abstract in most folks' minds. Even upon researching these mostly plastic compounds it can be confusing sussing out the slightly different chemical compositions that make them more or less harmful to our bodies and environments than the last one.
Our cork yoga mats are composed of much more ecologically conscious materials that will, at the end of the yoga mat’s product lifespan, biodegrade. Meaning that its components are able to be broken down by bacteria and other living organisms to become fully recycled by the Earth. These mats are made of cork and natural rubber, featuring non-toxic ink for the designs. The cork and natural rubber used in these mats support sustainable agriculture and ecosystems alike.
Cork for the most part is harvested from Quercus suber, commonly referred to as the Cork Oak. This species of oak is native to Southwest Europe and North Africa, where it has evolved the adaptation of growing a very thick layer of bark to protect itself from exposure to the sun, little rainfall and the potential for bushfires. There is also the Chinese Cork Oak (Quercus variabilis) which is another cork tree native to a large portion of Easten Asia and is the species used in these mat. Cork Oak species typically grow in mixed forests with other oaks, pine species and, depending on the region, olive trees. These mixed forests alongside high quality pasture lands and rotation crops are considered some of the most valuable habitats in Europe. This mixing of tree species and land types makes for regions of high plant and animal biodiversity, meaning there are many species who call these ecosystems home or stop along their migration. The trees themselves provide structure in habitats, hold rich soil in place and also reduce greenhouse gases by uptaking copious amounts of carbon dioxide or CO2.
Cork Oak trees are left to grow for the first 25-30 years of their life, accumulating that thick cork wood goodness. Once the bark reaches a certain thickness, it is harvested by stripping away layers in the late spring or early summer while the tree is quite active, so as to avoid damaging the underlying tissue. After harvesting, trees are marked with a date and left to regenerate for another 9-12 years before being harvested again. Cork Oak trees live anywhere from 100 to 300 years, meaning this cycle can be repeated many times within a tree’s life. This renewable resource is very sustainable in its production and harvesting methods as well as creates many well paying jobs within the communities that rely on these forests. A study in 2005 by Luis Gil et al., found that cork trees that have been harvested actually absorb 3-5 times more CO2 than trees that have not been harvested. When tended to with their ecosystems in mind, cork trees have many positive impacts on their environments as well as the communities that steward them.
As for the processing of cork products, after the bark has been harvested it is stacked (usually outdoors) for a period of time ranging anywhere from a few weeks to several months to allow it to cure. A process in which the fresh air, sun and rain elicit changes in the bark that improve the quality of the cork. This process helps to flatten the bark pieces out and results in a loss of about 20% of the original moisture content. After the outdoor curing process the planks are treated with heat and water to remove dirt and other materials like tannins (compounds in plants and bark that contain a bitter taste and are noticeable in products like wine or if you leave your tea bag in your mug for an extended period of time). This cleaning makes the cork softer and more flexible for working with. After bath time, the planks are then scraped on their outer layer to remove the poor quality cork. The planks are then cured in the dark under controlled humidity for another few weeks before being trimmed and ready to be made into their final form. In the processing of cork there is virtually no waste, as every part is used in some way, shape or form either in making other cork materials, using tannins for curing leather, or using the hard wax from the tree to make waxes, paints and soaps.
Natural Rubber can be collected from over 200 species of plants that contain the runny, milky white liquid called latex. However, the most productive of these plants are the Pará Rubber Trees (Hevea brasiliensis). This species is native to South America and is cultivated in regions with heavy rainfall like South and Southeast Asia as well as West Africa. Pará Rubber Trees are planted in line with the contours of the land they are grown in and have cover crops planted near them to hold onto rainwater as well as fix (recycle) nutrients for the trees into the soil. The trees are left to grow for the first 5-6 years of their lives before they are tapped for harvest. Similar in concept to tapping a maple tree, Pará Rubber Trees are horizontally sliced downwards and set up with a catcher for dripping latex. The trees are tapped about once every couple of days and given a period to rest after heavy tapping. If well maintained, a tree can live up to 20-30 years in a plantation. Once a tree does not produce latex it is then harvested and a new tree planted in its place.
After the latex is collected, the rubber can then be retrieved through a process of separation in materials by coagulation brought on by formic acid. This is similar to the process of milk curdling, by which it separates and begins to form a solid. In this case the solid is the rubber within the latex. The solid state rubber is very crumb-like at this point. These rubber crumbs are then washed, dried between rolls and compacted into blocks where they are ready to be formed into an object. Other processing methods include flattening the rubber crumbs into thin sheets and then drying them over a smoky wood fire. The smoke imparts an amber colour into the rubber as well as contains naturally occurring fungicides that protect the natural rubber from mold growth. Natural rubber is a renewable and sustainable resource that also has the capacity to biodegrade at the end of its product lifespan making it an environmentally friendly material to work with from the plantation to disposal.
The Eco Cork Yoga Mat was designed with you and the planet in mind, utilizing the most sustainable and non-toxic materials available from our Earth to give you a yoga mat option that you can feel good about. All the materials used to make our mats are planted, harvested and processed with sustainable principles and practices. If you are looking for a new mat or to replace a deteriorating one, the Eco Cork Yoga Mats are an ideal choice that is gentle on you and the planet.