Cork in yoga: is cork more sustainable than other materials?

As we all look to make our lives more sustainable, we should also be considering the impact of our yoga gear – from the mat we practise on the clothing we wear. Thankfully, yoga brands have been becoming more aware of this, offering many different alternatives for a sustainable yoga lifestyle.

Many of them have been using cork to substitute plastic. In this article, we’ll share why is cork more sustainable than other materials, as well as some of our top tips for incorporating cork into your practice – including cork yoga mats and cork yoga blocks in Europe.

Why is cork more sustainable than other materials?

Cork is a material that is sustainable through every step of its lifecycle – from harvest to disposal. It also has wonderful antibacterial and antifungal properties, which make cork yoga mats easy to maintain and clean.

Most cork is grown in the Mediterranean, mainly Portugal, Spain, Algeria or France. A wonderful thing about cork is that a cork tree does not have to be cut down to harvest the material, the cork layer can simply be cut away without impeding growth or harming the tree in any way. Especially in Portugal, the harvesting of cork is also highly regulated by legislation.

After harvesting the cork, the material is taken to a factory where it’s dried and boiled before being turned into the finished product. These factories are quite sustainable – for example, most of their energy is produced by burning cork dust which would otherwise end up in a landfill anyway.

As a material that comes from the earth and isn’t treated with any harsh chemicals or paints in the production process, cork can be composted by the end of its lifecycle. However, there are also some cork recycling schemes around the world – and you can even upcycle old cork items for DIYs!

Considering its whole lifecycle, cork is really quite sustainable and provides a wonderful alternative to materials which would otherwise be used to make yoga gear – mainly plastic. It is certainly a great option for a sustainable yoga practice.

From a practical point of view, there’s one negative to consider – some people don’t enjoy cork yoga mats because they find them too slippery unless they start sweating.

If you decide to give cork yoga mats a try, here are a few additional considerations to think about regarding your purchase:

  • Many cork yoga mats have components from other materials such as natural rubber – make sure these components are sustainably sourced too.

  • Check the country of origin of the material and make sure it has high standards of cork harvesting set.

  • Look for sustainability certifications affirming that the mat you’re about to buy is truly sustainable.

Cork yoga gear to try

What yoga gear is this wonderful material being used to create? Here are some of our favourites among brands offering cork yoga mats and cork yoga blocks in Europe.

1. Corkspace

This UK-based brand offers minimalist and functional yoga mats and accessories (yoga blocks and massage balls), all made from natural cork. They also have two different options for yoga mat thickness, so you can choose which one works best for your practice.

For every purchase of a yoga mat, the brand plants 10 trees in collaboration with the Eden Project non-profit.

2. Southern Shores

If you’re looking for a shop offering cork yoga gear in mainland Europe, Southern Shores is a great German brand to try.

Aside from creating sustainable gear, the brand also donates a part of its profits to ethical causes, which is why here at Breathe and Live Yoga School we decided to equip our studio with these blocks.

3. Samarali

Aside from cork yoga mats, this brand also offers a variety of other products, such as cork massage balls, rollers and backpacks!

If you haven’t yet incorporated cork yoga gear into your practice, now may be as good a time as any to do so. If you’re looking to replace your old yoga gear, cork is one of the best options for plastic-free mats and blocks!

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