The sustainability movement is now facing sustainability in movement, with a new Aussie company making eco-friendly alternatives to yoga, Pilates and mobility tools.

Rachael Muldoon launched Mobeco (a portmanteau of “mobility” and “eco”) in 2019 after years as a personal trainer. As she began shifting towards a more environmentally consciousness lifestyle, she realised gyms weren’t making it easy.

“We rely on a lot of plastic and a lot of waste in the industry. I looked for an alternative and found that I can make these same tools from cork, so I quit that job and started my business with my savings,” she tells Broadsheet.

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She launched with a range of self-massage products such as rollers, peanuts and massage balls, all made entirely with cork. In 2020 she added yoga equipment to the range with blocks and mats, and recently launched a reformer Pilates mat to use on top of Pilates machines.

“The usual foam, specifically, cannot be recycled. It breaks down eventually, especially with sweat, bacteria and overuse in a yoga studio or classroom setting,” she says. “We buy them more than we think and go through a lot of those items, and we justify that with thinking, you know, ‘I’ll have it for a long time, so therefore it's not a big deal’ – but it kind of is a big deal, because we are still drilling for oil to get the plastic used to make them.”

She went with cork as an alternative for a few different reasons – it’s durable, firm and flexible enough to use in mats and rollers; it has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties; and it’s a renewable resource. Cork is taken from the bark of cork oak trees, which then continue growing, so no trees need to be cut down.

“They will last you a very long time, but at the end of the day if you lose it or it does end up in landfill, it’ll biodegrade and compost, whereas plastic just doesn't – it will last for thousands of years, and even if it does break down into smaller pieces, animals are likely to eat it and die as a result,” Muldoon says.

The mats have a natural rubber base, and other non-cork products also use sustainable materials – the yoga strap is made with hemp, which requires much less water to grow than cotton, and the bolster comes with 100 per cent linen fabric and Australian buckwheat hulls as filling. None of the items are wrapped or packaged in plastic, and the shipping is carbon-neutral.

Mobeco also has a recycling program, allowing customers to send in old foam rollers, massage tools, yoga mats and blocks in exchange for a 20 per cent discount. The old equipment is then sent to Terracycle, which recycles it for use in building playgrounds, park benches and flooring.

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