Happy Earth Day!
It's a great day to reflect on each of our roles in protecting this beautiful world we live in.
While the single best thing we could do for the planet is to join our voices and make our elected officials protect it, there are still easy and important changes each of us can make in our daily lives, including the time we spend on our mats.
Here's some ideas to help you practice in a more conscious way
Know your labels
Greenwashing is a thing! Companies don't need to defend most of the claims they make on the packaging of their products.
Words like green, natural, all natural ingredients and eco are all just words. Words the advertising companies use to make you think that they aren't the bad guys.
The good news is that there are some credentialling logos and words that you can trust are truly what they say they are. 1% For the Planet certifies the company contributes at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes. A Certified B-Company is a company who has met a list of requirements to certify that they are a beneficial (that's what the B stands for) business. Their purpose is to create value for society as well as money. They meet high standards of transparency and accountability, and create positive social and environmental benefit. A fair trade company is, for farmers and workers, one that supports workers' rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers it means high quality, ethically produced products. A carbon neutral company has offset the carbon in their production or shipping to be a net zero emissions.
Look for these to know a company has some environmental clout.
Choose to reuse
Yup, that metal bottle you drag around makes a big difference in the amount of tetra pack or plastic pollution that enters our oceans. It's overwhelming to think that 1,000 people open a bottled water every second in the USA alone and we all know that most of it, even if you throw it in a blue bin, still ends up as trash that sticks around on our planet longer than we will be here.
Take it a little beyond the water bottle and you can reuse a few other things to support your yoga session.
If you shower at the gym, consider refilling your shampoo, soap and moisturizer containers at a refillery. Refilleries are popping up all around us and a great way to shop for the things you need without the packaging.
Clean your mat and props well
Choose a natural mat cleaner when you purchase or make your own with easy to source ingredients you can even get from a refillery.
My favourite mat cleaner recipe is to fill a spray bottle 3/4 with water, 1/4 white vinegar, 15ish drops tea tree oil and 10ish drops of lavender oil (or any oil you would like your mat to smell like really). You can also use a very diluted castille soap or just plain water.
Do check into the recommended cleaning method of your specific mat though, as all materials are a little different and you want your mat to last.
Reconsider your clothes
This truth hurts. I'm sorry if you haven't considered it before. I love my fancy big-name yoga pants, but they are made with at least 35% synthetic material (read PLASTIC). That plastic is released into our water systems when we wash our clothes. It's in our tap water and in our lakes and oceans. Research is still ongoing, but it is appearing as though the majority of the microplastics in the ocean are from our clothes and also much research is underway to see if there are links to health problems that come from microplastics in the human body.
Some companies out there have embraced the recycling trend and use recycled water bottles in their pants. Nominou and Wolven are a couple of the big ones, but check out this article for a full list of different manufacturers that make textiles using recycled plastic.
On the surface, recycled plastic sounds like a great solution, but if you think a little more on it, you may have a few concerns. I have 2 main concerns with these. While it's great to actually recycle the stuff, not making more plastic is really what we need to do and the microplastics wash out of these recycled leggings too, so ultimately they add to the microplastic problem.
My second concern is that we are hearing more and more how toxic plastic is for us and I wonder how healthy it truly is to wear these plastics right next to our skin when we are moving and sweating and breathing deeply.
The best clothes are the ones that are already made. There are some fabulous secondhand stores in most towns. Check them out to save money and the planet, while you look good in your new digs.
If you do need to purchase new clothing. Consider a sustainable brand and natural materials like bamboo or hemp. Many are popping up around, so this list is by no means complete, but a few local companies I love are Yoga Jeans, who manufacture, in Canada, sustainable clothing with lots of transparency on their process. Logan and Finley is a great Toronto clothing shop. Allbirds has come up with ways to use sugarcane and tree fibers (among other things) to produce clothing and synthetic-free shoes too. Tentree is another favourite of mine. They use sustainable fabrics, produce ethical clothing and plant 10 trees for every article you purchase.
You can also check out this CBC news article with 5 more Canadian, sustainable clothing brand recommendations.
One more win in the textile department is in the hair accessory department. We all know that those elastics we tame that mane back with have a short lifespan. They get lost, stretch out or snap. Why not make your hair accessories natural materials with Kooshoo. I love my Kooshoo hair ties.
When you need new props or a mat, make a conscious choice
A cheap yoga mat is cheap because our health and the health of our planet pay the cost of it instead of your wallet. A lot of yoga mats are made from vinyl in some form (like PVC). That's toxic to us and to the planet.
While the best option is to use the things that you have until they wear out and shop for anything you can secondhand. Inevitably, things will wear out and you may find yourself in need of yoga props or a mat. How you spend those dollars can directly impact the planet.
There's a few great yoga companies out there that create products made with sustainability in mind. B Yoga mats are made of almost entirely natural rubber and they also sell natural cork blocks. B Yoga is also Canadian, because the less shipping involved, the better. Jade yoga and Manduka make a natural rubber version of their mats as well.
Love My Mat is a cool mother and daughter venture out of Hamilton, Ontario make yoga and meditation props, made in small batches, locally out of repurposed upholstery.
If you practice at a studio. Suggest to them that they make sustainable a priority when they purchase mats and props for the studio. Suggest natural fibre hand towels instead of paper and use cloths to wipe down equipment instead of disposable wipes.
When you request sustainable, it lets everyone know that caring about the planet is a priority. Everyone wins then.
A little personal story: When I requested a glass bottled vitamin from my local health food store, they didn't have it. But a few weeks later, when I had to go in to the store again, the cashier remembered me at offered that he had looked into my request and was ordering in a new brand that was in a glass bottle instead of plastic. WOOT
In closing, I am sharing with you the mission of EarthDay.org because it sums up the 'why' perfectly.
Our world needs transformational change. It’s time for the world to hold sectors accountable for their role in our environmental crisis while also calling for bold, creative, and innovative solutions. This will require action at all levels, from business and investment to city and national government.
That’s where you come in: As an individual, you yield real power and influence as a consumer, a voter, and a member of a community that can unite for change.
Don’t underestimate your power. When your voice and your actions are united with thousands or millions of others around the world, we create a movement that is inclusive, impactful, and impossible to ignore.
Every Earth Day can drive a year of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to create a new plan of action for our planet.