Kiss the Sky's yoga mats are made in the US from virgin scrap rubber, and can be recycled again and again.
When looking for an accessory for a healthy lifestyle practice, one of the last things you want to do is buy something that could be harmful to your health and detrimental to the environment. All too often, many of the available products are either made from substances that probably shouldn't come in regular contact with our bodies, or are built to be thrown away, rather than be recycled or repurposed at the end of their lives. But there are a number of companies making products that are meant to be less toxic or non-toxic, both to us and to the environment, and that are designed with the end in mind, so they won't just become yet another landfill statistic.
One such company, Kiss The Sky, makes "performance yoga mats" that were originally developed at a yoga class at the US EPA offices in Washington, D.C., are made from 100% recycled virgin scrap rubber, and were designed using a cradle-to-cradle lifecycle approach -- meaning the mats can be ground up and recycled into more yoga mats at the end of their useful life.
I've been spending some time lately practicing my asanas on a Kiss The Sky yoga mat, and have found it to be a well thought out product that not only performs well, but is also a more sustainable alternative than many of the other yoga mats on the market. Of course, a purpose-built yoga mat isn't necessarily a requirement for a yoga practice, but a properly designed mat can be a useful tool for adding a bit of cushion between you and the floor, while also supplying the right amount of grip for helping your body stay stable and secure during your practice sessions.
The Kiss The Sky yoga mats are made in the US with closed-cell virgin scrap rubber (trimmings generated from the manufacture of other products, which would otherwise be discarded), which is a great alternative to the common PVC-based yoga mats. And by rubber, the company means real rubber, made from rubber trees, not petroleum byproducts. While the majority of the company's product is recycled rubber, manufacturing it does require a binder to hold together the ground scrap material, but according to the company, that binder has been independently tested by a reputable lab to ensure that it is a low-VOC product as well (something that can't be said for PVC-based products).
The company also calculates that each of its "artisanal" yoga mats emits "6.5 pounds fewer CO2 emissions than mats made through traditional means," so there's a bit of a carbon emissions savings in addition to the avoidance of the use of PVC materials, which is considered "the poison plastic" by the Center for Health, Environment, & Justice.
I asked the company founder, Debriana Berlin, about other aspects of Kiss The Sky's sustainability efforts, to which she replied:
- We work virtually or out of co-working spaces
- Mat storage requires no extra utilities
- We buy empty space on a truck already traveling when shipping mats
- All paper, labels, etc are 100% recycled content except for our temporary tattoos and poly bag mailers. Soy ink used when available.
- We wrap the mats in naturally-died heirloom string from a 150-year-old sheep farm in Scotland (tough choice vs. less sustainable local product)
- All of our vendors are small family businesses (factory, printer, branding & web designers, t-shirt manufacturer, aromatherapist for mat cleaner spray, sign makers, Indian furniture dealer for festivals, etc.).
As far at the performance of the product itself, the Kiss The Sky mat is indeed 'grippy' without being sticky, which ensures that your feet or hands stay planted where you put them, instead of slipping (and the mat itself doesn't slip on the floor either, which has happened to me with another brand of mat). While it does have a faint natural rubber smell, there is no harsh plastic scent to distract you from your focus (or lead to health issues, as VOCs can).
The mat I've been using is the Black Oval, which has rounded corners and measures 72" x 24", offering plenty of space but weighing just a little more than 3 1/2 pounds. The mat is 3/16” thick, which seemed just right for offering a little bit of cushion between you and the floor without feeling spongy, and according to the company, the mat will fit into a standard yoga mat bag, making for easy transport. And as a side benefit, my kids also love this mat, which they often ask to use for doing tumbling or practicing capoeira handstands or just general roughhousing.
Kiss The Sky mats start at $79, and several different styles are available.
[Disclosure: The folks at Kiss The Sky sent me one of their mats for review purposes, but all opinions, errors, or omissions in this review are mine alone.]