By Natalia Hook
In today’s environmental climate, people are becoming more attuned to the amount of garbage we create, and many of us are striving to decrease it. When done properly, recycling can help, but even that has a carbon footprint. Reusing and upcycling, on the other hand, is pollution-free. Items in good condition may still have many serviceable years in them, so donating them is the best way to go. The next best thing is repurposing old things into something new, or in the case of yoga mats, into lots of somethings! So after you’re done choosing a new color for your home yoga studio and it’s time to buy new mats to complement the room’s new design, don’t just throw your old yoga mats away.
While it’s possible to recycle yoga mats through specialized programs, it most often requires local program participation or shipping away your old mat. Why not donate or upcycle your yoga mat instead? There are lots of ways to reuse yoga mats in your home, and they are all way easier than planking! Here are ten of my favorites.
1. Rug-Gripping Mat
No need to buy a non-slip rug pad when you have a spare yoga mat around. Simply cut the mat to fit under your accent rug — about a half-inch to an inch shorter than the rug on each side for some serious sticking power.
2. Shelf or Drawer Liner
Glassware and china can rest easy on shelves that are lined with a soft, gripping yoga mat. In glass-fronted cabinets, patterned mats can even increase your ooh la la factor. And lining drawers with yoga matting will keep things from sliding around every time you open and close them.
3. Shoe Insoles
If you love the soft support of standing on your yoga mat, why not take that feeling with you all day long? To make shoe insoles out of a yoga mat, trace the outside of your feet as closely as you can, then cut your tracings out of the mat. (Don’t trace your actual footwear. The size of the under sole may differ quite a bit from the footbed.) Depending on the boots or shoes you’re working with, you will likely have to trim the form down a little bit for a better fit.
Making shoe insoles works best with the thinnest yoga mats — 1/16 to 3/16 of an inch (2-4 millimeters). If the inner soles of your shoes are removable, you can take them out and replace with insoles from a thicker, cushier mat. Ah, sweet relief!
4. Non-Slip Pet Food Mat
Keep your fur kid’s food and water station from getting pushed around with a mat cut to size just for her. A useful variation on this hack for senior animals takes the non-slip aspect to other places your four-legged friend may find challenging. Placing a yoga mat at the foot of the stairs or next to your elderly pet’s sleeping area can provide extra traction to make changing positions and maintaining stability easier.
5. Jar-Opening Grip
Modernize this kitchen gadget throwback with a powerful piece of yoga mat. Unless, of course, you prefer an arm workout as you struggle with tightly closed jars!
6. On the Go Seating
Keep your old mat in your car, strapped onto your bike, or in your beach bag. If you like, cut a single yoga mat into two or three pieces to share with friends. Old yoga mats make for easy-pack waterproof seating for concerts, picnics, or any other outdoor event.
7. Critter Travel Crate Liner
Now here’s a creative use of an old yoga mat! My cats always run to my mat when I’m using it, so I gave them each their own for comfy cruising in their travel crates. Towels and blankets slip around in a plastic crate, but yoga mats don’t. It makes vet visits just a little bit easier.
8. Kitty Litter Anti-Tracking Mat
Keep litter from getting all over the place by putting a feline-sized yoga mat underneath and in front of the box. Not only will it help keep things clean, but the comfy footing will also make the bathroom more inviting to kitties with potty issues.
9. Kids’ Arts & Crafts Mat
Protect your table from aspiring little Picassos and O’Keefes with arts & crafts mats cut to size. Waterproof and slip-proof, they’ll beat any placemat, grubby hands down. And talk about easy to clean! Just wet and wipe! If you’re feeling extra ambitious, use cookie cutters to cut mat scraps from other projects into foam shapes. They can either be glued onto art projects or onto bases to make DIY stampers.
10. Donate, Donate, Donate!
It’s very likely there are local charities that would be happy to take it if you decide to donate your yoga mat. If you belong to a yoga studio, ask your instructor about participating in a collection program that helps yogis with supplies for use in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and prisons. Some nursing homes and elder care facilities also collect mats to provide non-slip surfaces for their patients’ bedsides and bathrooms. Community centers are another place to look into. And if animals are more up your alley, think of the comfy bed your mat could become for a furry friend waiting for their forever home in a shelter.
As you plan a future for your old mat, don’t forget about the new mat that you’ll soon be enjoying. Consider shopping for a mat made with recycled materials, like Suga mats, made from recycled wetsuits. Alternatively, natural rubber mats, such as those offered by Jade Yoga, are biodegradable and are guaranteed to contain no ozone-depleting substances. Plus, they plant a tree for every mat purchased. Gaiam also offers natural rubber mats. The Yoloha Nomad cork mat is another non-toxic mat made from natural material, as is the Affirmats Jute organic mat.
The challenge with many of these choices, of course, is cost. High-end products made from superior materials that are better for the environment are almost always more expensive. If these options are out of your price range, go with one you feel confident will meet your needs, including affordability. Remember, reusing and upcycling are within everyone’s reach, and the ideas above can help you find a use for whatever yoga mats you outlast. Helping you perfect your half moon? Well, you’re on your own for that!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Natalia Hook and www.shutterstock.com