The Elastic Forest...
Why use natural rubber and have you ever wondered where our rubber comes from?
Actually it’s a question we get asked A LOT, which shows just how much you all care, which is wonderful and we want you to know all our processes.
Firstly, Natural Rubber is just that… all Natural and grown by the miracle of Mother Earth, an elasticated gift! So don’t buy plastic, when you can buy naturally, non toxic. It all starts with a specific type of tree and our plantation trees look so beautiful, we just had to share some photos! If any of you have travelled through SE Asia, you most certainly would have come across a natural rubber tree and maybe even seen a tapping demonstration...
That natural rubber tree, or ‘Cao Su’ in Vietnamese is carefully harvested over years in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in our sourced plantation and that’s where our production journey starts. The farm is operated by about ten employees, and a few others to watch over the place.
Cao Su ‘Hevea Brasiliensis’ Trees in our plantation.
Vietnam, which is currently the third biggest natural rubber exporter in the world have been planting Hevea Brasiliensis in the country over 116 years and its industry has a long history of development for over 85 years! They know their rubber trees!
Natural rubber has been identified in the national orientation for sustainable development, especially in facilitating hunger elimination and poverty reduction in Vietnam.
The natural rubber industry is in the maturity stage of its life cycle, well established and regulated. Realising the urgent need to promote a shift toward more sustainable industrial development pathways, Vietnam’s government has paid special attention to the promotion of green industry.
Vietnam signed the Manila Declaration on Green Industry in Asia in 2009, participated in the Tokyo Green Industry Conference in 2011, and the United Nation Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 when the government pledged to promote green industrial development. The government has approved the Vietnam Green Growth Strategy for the period 2011–2020, with a vision to 2050, as “a decisive tendency in sustainable economic development.”
The Natural Rubber sap is scratched from the bark of the tree, this is called Tapping.
The trees need to grow and mature before they can be used, needing sunlight, water and nurturing. They are grown for seven years before they can be carved for rubber. The trees are carved from the bottom up, allowing access to a white liquid-like substance, similar to sap in other trees. Instead of sap though, it’s rubber! The Sap (Latex) is collected in pots or coconut shells and emptied about every three hours once the pots are full and a new area is carved. The tree can be carved in many places on the bark, roughly taking about seven years to re-grow and the area can be tapped again.
The trees usually live for about 30 years before they can no longer be useful, in which case they are then cut down and sold for lumber.
A new tree will replace the old, and the process starts all over again. It’s actually quite remarkable!
After the rubber is collected from the tress the emulsion is mixed and the rubber is put through a series of rollers. This releases all the excess water and allows the rubber to get flat and smooth, until it is pure gum rubber. The pure gum sheets are inspected, hung out to dry over bamboo and stacked into bales at which point they leave the plantation.
The sheets are brought over to our factory and transposed with heat alone, no glues are used, with our vegan suede topper. So you can enjoy your mat and really breathe deeply into practice knowing that your surface is performing at it’s best, supporting you, whilst not inhaling any plastic chemicals that can be released over time with plastic mats. You can read more about the vegan suede surface in our blog post here.
Thank you for caring so much. Caring what is in your product, clothing and food right now is so important to the future. Try your best to eliminate your use of plastics, we can see the effect they are having on our planet. We know natural rubber is a more expensive, heavier material to use and carry to class, but that’s why… it is natural! No plastic fillers have been used to lighten the mat. Such a small sacrifice to make to know that breathing in child’s pose is non toxic, and it’s just more comforting to practice on a beautiful, natural mat especially with something as pure as your journey with yoga.
The sunlight streams through the leaves of the rubber tree.
Sources: Open Access chapter published by World Scientific Publishing Company, Sustainable Consumption and production in Vietnam. Read further here.