We buy organic produce and recycle our magazines. So why, when it comes to yoga, do we often forget that we're environmentalists, too? Fortunately it's getting easier to make good-for-the planet choices for your practice. Here's what you need to know about being a "green" yogi.
Know What's In Your Props
Props help support our alignment in yoga poses, but not all props support the environment. Take blocks. If you have to choose just one, go for bamboo—this strong grass is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, making bamboo a true renewable resource. Cork is all-natural too, just a little slower growing. Made from the outermost layer of a specific species of oak bark (without harming the tree), cork blocks are eco-friendly, biodegradable, and nontoxic. There are several beautiful wood blocks out there too—just be sure to look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal of approval, which guarantees sustainably sourced timber. And if you really can't stay away from foam blocks and their softer surfaces, find one made at least partially of recycled foam. Whatever material you lean toward for blocks, or any prop, be sure to choose ones made with non-toxic glues, sealers, and coatings.
Find a Sustainable Studio
If you want to carry your eco-friendly practice from home to studio, look for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council or studios that are members of the Green Yoga Association. Both organizations guarantees that innovative green technologies and natural, local materials are maximized in the construction and maintenance of buildings. For example, the Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has earned a silver LEED rating, has a state-of-the-art ventilation system that recovers the warmth from the hard-working bodies, and instead of pumping it out of the building, sanitizes and recycles it for its heating system. At Mindstream Yoga in Fort Collins, Colorado, the shower floors are made from local river rock, all the walls are covered in non-toxic paint, and the floor in the practice space is made of recycled vinyl. "We take a lot of pride in the quality of the overall experience at Mindstream," said owner Lindsay Roselle, "and a big part of that is in being a great steward of the environment." To find an eco-friendly studio near you, go to greenyoga.org.
Learn more about green studios here.
Choose Fair Trade
In order to be fair trade certified, the farmers and workers who made the product must be paid a fair market price for their goods. This means that small farmers around the world can make a living wage and invest in their community. Products certified by the three most popular fair trade watchdog organizations—Fair Trade USA, Equal Exchange, and Fairtrade International—must also be made without slave or child labor under safe working conditions. Fair Trade USA also guarantees that their certified products do not contain GMOs or hazardous chemicals.
Read our Q&A with Manduka's Peter Sterios on eco-friendly yoga >