While yoga and sustainability should go hand in hand, we could agree that yoga mats are not exactly a sustainable prop. Each time you purchase an hejhej-mat you contribute to recycling 1Kg of foam offcuts; but most importantly, the product is designed so, once the mat reaches the end of its lifespan, the brand will take it back & use its nutrients for new products (no worries, shipping costs covered and a discount available on your next purchase!). Developed working closely with the Fraunhofer Institute and a team of yoga teachers to deliver circular yoga mats that are super comfortable and non-slippy. ALSO! You will support the EarthChild Project, bringing yoga to schools in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa.
We interview Sophie and Anna, being passionate about yoga (of course!) they founded hejhej-mats. One afternoon, in an art exhibition, one artwork provoked a shift in their mind. Learn about their story and about all they have to offer with their circular yoga mats’ brand on this very interesting interview!
What are your professional backgrounds and how did you come together to start the hejhej-mats project?
We both studied the Masters Program of Leadership for Sustainability in Sweden. The idea for our recycled hejhej-mats also was born in Sweden. The creation of a recycled yoga mat came to our mind when the two of us visited an art exhibition in Gothenburg. One special artwork accused yoga practitioners of acting hypocritically because they often already live a very sustainably and mindful life but have never thought about the consequences of their plastic yoga mat. Sophie and I really felt caught and from this day on we started with the development of our circular yoga mats.
How much is or should be yoga aligned with sustainability?
We think that yoga and sustainability go really well together. During yoga, you learn how to act mindfully towards your body and towards yourself. If you are able to carry this mindfulness out of the yoga class into the daily life, you will start acting more mindfully towards the planet as well.
Really curious about the name of the brand, what does it mean?
“Hej hej” is Swedish and means hello. As the whole hejhej-mats story started in Sweden, the two of us really wanted to keep our connection to Sweden. Additionally, we like the idea to greet the resources we are using into their new life.
Aside from using recycled plastic for the yoga mats, you also seem to have a business model based on the circular economy. Could you explain a bit more about that?
For us, the circular economy holds the most sustainable potential. We think it is super important to already think about the disposal of a product when buying it. So we designed our hejhej-mats in a way that we can recycle them. This means, once your hejhej-mat reaches the end of its lifespan, we will take it back and use its nutrients for new products. We will cover the shipping costs back to us and you will even get a discount on your next purchase.
#CircularEconomy holds the most #sustainable potential for hejhej-mats, so we designed the brand so we can recycle them. Once the mat reaches the end of its lifespan, we will take it back & use its nutrients for new products… Click To Tweet
How does the creative process look like?
Our whole production process takes place in Germany. As already mentioned briefly, we make use of offcuts occurring in the foaming industry for the production of our hejhej-mats. This means, if you produce any kind of foaming product like matrasses or furniture there are always leftovers occurring during these productions processes. This pre-consumer waste still has its initial high quality. We collect the leftovers together with our partner factory in Germany, and the recycling, as well as the production of our mats, take places right in the factory. We can also recycle our mats in the same factory and make sure that all nutrients will be used again.
What do you do to achieve the highest quality you promise?
We purposely decided to produce solely in Germany. This, of course, means to pay higher prices than we would in Asia or Eastern European countries, but for us, it was really important to have not only high working standards but also the possibility to visit our production factory frequently.
Additionally, we decided to make use of a resource that still is of the highest quality. The foaming offcuts we are using are otherwise used for furniture or bed mattresses which means they already fulfil certain standards such as the REACH certification.
Additionally, we had a long and intense product development time. We worked together with the Fraunhofer Institute, did a three-month life market research and teamed up with several yoga teachers to achieve a super comfortable, non-slippy yoga mat.
Hejhej-mats worked with the Fraunhofer Institute, doing a three-month life market research & teamed up with several #yoga teachers to achieve a super comfortable, non-slippy mat. Developed in Germany under high-quality standards… Click To Tweet
Lately we have heard some comments meaning that the recycling of plastic to create new products, which has become a trend over the past years, also has a negative impact on the planet – especially when it comes to fashion due to the release of microplastics, as well as the number of extra materials we need to add on to make it viable. Does any of these apply to hejhej-mats?
We would also wish for a planet, where no plastic ever exists. However, we now have this material on our earth and we need to find solutions to prevent it from ending up in our nature. In our opinion, it is more sustainable to rethink waste materials as new resources instead of taking valuable natural resources from our planet, which often leads to over-harvesting and a loss of biodiversity.
We would also wish for a planet where no #plastic ever exists. However, now we need to find solutions to prevent it from ending up in our nature. In our opinion, it is more #sustainable to rethink waste materials as new resources… Click To Tweet
How many kgs of waste have consumers reduced from the planet so far just by choosing hejhej mats?
With one hejhej-mat we can directly contribute to and recycle 1kg of foaming offcuts into a new high-quality product. We can recycle this leftover material and give it a new life in form of our hejhej-mats. Indirectly, the consumers are contributing way more to the reduction of plastic waste, because every hejhej-mat sold means one virgin plastic mat less, which would probably not get recycled in the right ways and end up as waste for our planet.
How long would a yoga mat last, if we practice on average around 5 times a week?
It also depends on the yoga-style you’re doing on our mats but if you use it around 5 times a week it should last you around 3 years.
What about the packaging, is it sustainable?
We only use recycled carton packaging for our mats. Every hejhej-mat comes with a strap made out of biodegradable cotton that holds your mat perfectly together. We are purposely going with this minimalistic packaging.
What colours can we find in the hejhej-mats range?
Our hejhej-mats are available in two colours: rather light and rather dark. These colours and patterns of a mat vary with each production. This is a result of the recycled materials used, which means that no hejhej-mat looks alike and every mat is one of a kind.
We believed you organised and succeeded in the crowdfunding campaign. How did that go, and did you learn something (success or failure) that you’d like to share?
Yes, we did a successful crowdfunding campaign last year in October. We learned that it takes a lot of effort and work to conduct such a campaign. One of our most important learnings probably was that it is really important to talk to everyone about your idea.
You also give back to Earth Child project. Why did you choose that and how is your contribution impacting the lives of this community?
We chose EarthChild Project because it brings yoga to schools in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa. We think education for children is the most effective tool to change current unsustainable behaviour and production patterns. EarthChild project teaches the children to act mindful toward themselves, the planet and also educates them on environmental topics.
You are based between Sweden and Germany. How does the social entrepreneurial venture look like there? Are there any exciting things and change for good happening in these countries?
We are based in Germany but studied in Sweden and also started hejhej-mats in Sweden. More precisely, we studied in Malmö, which is a very diverse city with an entrepreneurial vibe. It has a lot of very cool projects when it comes to sustainability, the harbour area supports itself with renewable energy for example. The city has many co-working spaces and events happening for entrepreneurs. What we experienced as the most positive thing was the support female entrepreneurs get in the city.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other businesses trying to make a difference for good?
We always like to give two bits of advice to others who are thinking whether to start their own business or not: 1. Don’t overthink it. 2. Just do it.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
Every one of us can make a change and you vote with your wallet every day.
Finally, where can we find you? Shops, online, worldwide…?
Right now, you can find us in our online store www.hejhej-mats.com and of course on Instagram and Facebook.
If you want to go fully into a more sustainable way of practising yoga, then check out the brands Think Love Live and Crystal Flow!
Is there any other similar brand you know or are curious about? Comment below, and we will make it happen!