It’s time to research a new yoga mat.

My current purple yoga mat is almost 10 years old. I bought it at the first yoga studio at which I regularly practiced, because they were charging $1 for a mat rental. They cut it from a long roll, so the edges are irregular. That’s partly why I love it: it has stuck by me since the beginning, and I have yet to meet someone with a self-cut mat edge.

Unfortunately, my yoga mat was made probably from PVC, short for polyvinyl chloride, a toxic material connected to cancer and off-gases toxic emissions. At first I didn’t mind. I thought that throwing away something I could still use and would replace just because it wasn’t green enough was wasteful. I found the little bits that came off of it little annoyances that I would just wipe away with my palms in between poses. The wear marks are reminders of my commitment to be on the mat every day.

But then it stunk. And there seems to be no way of getting rid of the smell of hours of sweaty practice from the plastic, since it is an open-cell material. Open-cell means that there is more grip to the mat, but that sweat can seep in. This is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. And after almost a decade, it is.

Based on this review of eco-friendly yoga mats, I have narrowed down my choices to a Manduka eKO Lite mat ($39 on amazon), Barefoot Yoga’s original eco yoga mat (normally $72, now with 15% off, so $61.20), and the Manduka ProLite ($58 on amazon).

Both Manduka eKO and Barefoot Yoga’s original eco yoga mat are made from rubber, but the latter has jute fibers mixed in. The reviews from both are great. In fact, in 2007 the Barefoot Yoga mat was recommended by the New York Times as their No. 1 eco yoga mat, when it was only $45.

But rubber, while a renewable and biodegradable material, is becoming a cash monocrop, leading to deforestation in the Amazon. Another negative is that it smells. And rubber can’t be used in direct sunlight, so I can’t use it at sunny vacation spots.

The Manduka ProLite is not advertised as eco-friendly, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee. And after having been married to my mat for 10 years, the lifetime guarantee is comforting. I like the idea of buying one mat that will last me in various incarnations for the rest of my life, since rubber is supposedly not as durable as other materials. Especially since for the price of the Barefoot Yoga mat, I could get the ProLite for life.

Unfortunately, it seems to be made from some scary material called TPE, short for Thermoplastic Elastomers, basically a cocktail of chemicals I have to sound out to read. On Manduka’s own site, they say that “the PRO line is made from a blend of polyester and eco-certified PVC.”

There seems to be no one right answer. And very few unbiased reviews (ie, not part of an online shop). So should I get a rubber mat, a rubber mat with jute mixed in, or a plastic mat that lasts a lifetime?

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