Yoga mats are made from durable, long-lasting materials. Even inexpensive, run-of-the-mill yoga mats can last for years before needing a replacement. But after years of regular practice, you may find yourself needing a new mat.
Recycling options for yoga mats vary according to its material. Some yoga mat manufacturers, like JadeYoga, use biodegradable materials that allow mats to decompose. However, the most commonly used material in yoga mats, Polyvinyl Chloride (or PVC), is non biodegradable and is known as ‘forever plastic'.
Many recycling centers don’t accept yoga mats, but there are still plenty of ways to breathe life back into your mats.
The first step is always to clean your mats. There are several ways to do this. Check your mat’s cleaning guidelines to see if it can be machine washed. If not, fill up a bucket with warm water and soap, then submerge the mat for 5 to 10 minutes. Next, rinse it with cold water until all the dirt and soap suds are gone. Lastly, lay your mat out to air dry for at least 30 minutes. (Note: Never put your mat in the dryer, as heat can ruin your mat).
Now, you’re ready to get crafting.
Here are 10 ways to upcycle your yoga mat around your home:
1. Pet Bowl Placemat
Is your furry friend a messy eater? Keep pet food and water off your floor by cutting your yoga mat to smaller pieces. Just cut your old yoga mat to the desired size, then prop your pet bowls on top.
2. Shoe Mat
Speaking of keeping your floors clean, upcycle your yoga mat into a shoe mat. You can keep muddy tracks off your floor, while adding a splash of color to your doorway!
3. Shelf Liner
Line makeup shelves, garage shelves, or really any cabinet with your upcycled yoga mats. Simply measure the cabinet’s dimensions and cut the yoga mat accordingly. This way, you can keep plastics out of the ocean while protecting shelves from damage.
4. Furniture Pads
Are your kitchen chairs scratching your hardwood floors? Keep your floors scratch-free by upcycling your old yoga mat into furniture pads. You can glue furniture pads to the bottom of table or chair legs or plant pots to avoid floor damage.
To start, all you need is a pair of scissors, super glue, and a yoga mat. Next, determine the diameter of the furniture you’re padding. If you’re padding plant pots, consider cutting four 1-inch or 2-inch circles to evenly distribute at the bottom of the pot. Finally, use super glue to stick the new pads at the bottom of your furniture.
5. Knee Pads
Gardening can be therapeutic, but it takes a big toll on your knees. That’s where knee pads come in.
Cut your old yoga mat to desired size, so you have a comfortable pad to kneel on while you garden. Consider making multiple layers to add more support and comfort, if needed.
6. Thick Fatigue Mat
Speaking of comfort, craft a homemade fatigue mat from your old yoga mat. You can place these mats in your garage, near your standing desk, or wherever you stand for long periods of time.
You can also create more layers for your fatigue mat to create greater support. Simply cut your old yoga mat in desired dimensions, and super glue the layers on top of one another. Now, you can stand for long periods of time without any back aches.
7. Non-slip Rug Pads
Rugs are a wonderful way to add color in your home, but they tend to slide across your floor. Prevent slips and other accidents by placing your old yoga mat underneath your rug.
Simply cut your old yoga mat according to the size of your rug or carpet. Now, you have the perfect homemade non-slip rug pad.
8. Automobile Trunk Liners
Yoga mats are the perfect material for non-slip mats in your home and in your car. Consider placing your old yoga mats in the back of your car or in your trunk. Just take a pair of scissors and cut the mat so it fits in your car. This way, you can prevent your groceries, shopping bags, and tools from moving around while driving.
9. Sleeping Pad
If you’ve done the savasana or corpse pose, you know how comfortable yoga mats can be. Consider creating a sleeping pad from your old yoga mat. Now that it’s deeply cleaned, you can set it aside for your afternoon naps. Just make sure to have a pillow handy for extra comfort!
10. Puzzle Mat
Many of us found solace in puzzles during quarantine. There’s no better way to pass time than putting together a beautiful puzzle, but it can be hard to finish in one sitting. That’s where your old yoga mat comes in!
Place your puzzle on top of your mat, and when you need a break, you can just roll it up. The non-slip texture of your mat will prevent the pieces from shifting. Make sure to slip your yoga straps on though, so your mat stays tightly rolled up.
There are also plenty of ways to upcycle and reuse yoga mats outside your home.
As more companies become increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment, a few brand leaders in the yoga industry have tackled recycling yoga mats to keep them out of landfills and promote a circular economy.
Here are a few of our favorite forward-thinking companies that recycle yoga mats and, in doing so, create something new and beautiful:
1. Bean Products
Sustainability is all the rage today, but Bean Products has been “green” before it was “cool”. This company has been “handcraft[ing] environmentally friendly home essentials designed with our planet’s future in mind” since 1987.
Bean Products recycles materials commonly found in yoga mats and uses them as bean bag filling, or bean beads. Bean Beads are “non-toxic, environmentally friendly, lightweight” and made from recycled materials. You can buy them separately for arts and crafts or extra stuffing, or buy a Bean Bag Lounger made of 100% recycled poly beads.
2. Shakti Warrior
Shakti Warrior “upcycles PVC for a cause”. This brand was founded by a mother-daughter duo “dedicated to fighting social injustices” while making 100% biodegradable and recyclable yoga mats.
Fortunately, you can take part in their mission-driven work. Donate your old yoga mat and they will “make shoes for underprivileged kids with them”. If you need even more incentive, Shakti Warrior also gives a 10% discount for your next purchase. Not only do you give back to Mother Earth and your community, but you get a discount for 100% biodegradable Ahimsa and Ananda mats.
Interested? Just fill out this form and ship your mat to 1937 Second Ave #165, New York, NY 10021.
Manduka creates “responsibly sourced products while minimizing environmental waste”. From using energy-saving recycled poly yarn to 100% natural and unbleached cotton, Manduka actively works towards a circular economy.
Their LiveOn program lets you be a part of a “zero waste system serving both yogis and the planet”. Through their partnership with the Renewal Workshop, Manduka has collected 7,000+ yoga mats and diverted 34,177 pounds of materials from landfills.
You can add the LiveOn Program kit to your Manduka mat purchase, and you’ll get a prepaid shipping label with your package. Even better, they accept all yoga mat brands, so anyone can be a part of this movement.
4. Making Mats Matter (New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania)
Making Mats Matter “turns old yoga mats into sleeping mats for homeless people”. This organization serves communities in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. If you live outside the region, you can still donate your mats by shipping it to the organization.
Interested in donating your yoga mat? Fill out this contact form to get in touch.
5. Yoga Activist (Washington D.C.)
Yoga Activist offers various programs to make yoga more accessible to trauma survivors, youth, people experiencing homelessness, and more. One of their offerings, the Mat Program, takes donated yoga mats, cleans and fixes them, and redistributes it to programs around the D.C. area.
Yoga Activist is housed in the D.C.-area, but they can help you find a local organization to donate to. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how and where you can donate your mat.
Make sure to deep clean your mat before donating to any organization. If you live outside these two regions, contact your local homeless shelter to see if they accept yoga mat donations. Homeless shelters have varying needs, so it’s always best to speak with them first.
There are plenty of ways to make your old yoga mat new. From at-home solutions to mission-driven companies, you can keep non-recyclable, non-biodegradable materials out of landfills for at long as possible.
You can also increase your mat’s life span with Mache’s Yoga Storage Tubes. Our tubes protect yoga mats from natural wear and tear, and they are made from recycled and biodegradable materials. We aim to keep plastics out of your wellness routine, our landfills and the ocean, while bringing beauty and aesthetics into your space.
For more general ideas on how to recycle and reuse household items, see Porch article, "How to Recycle and Reuse Your Trash for a Cleaner Environment".