Even though the six exhibitors have not yet received their trophies in person, the FIBO INNOVATION & TREND Award 2020 was already presented in April. In this series we introduce the the award-winning products, their stories and why they were able to convince the jury. This year’s winner in the Ecology & Sustainability category was ERGO-ECO MAT – the first ever fully recyclable training mat.
Sugar in the gym? Actually, a no-no. You might think so – unless you have already heard of the innovative ERGO-ECO MAT training mat. Its main component is sugar cane, which entirely replaces the resins that would normally be used. A further advantage: The mat contains no hazardous substances whatsoever – so users training with this mat can also protect their health. The jury of the FIBO INNOVATION & TREND AWARD 2020 is convinced the mat is very much in tune with today’s zeitgeist: “Developing products that are sustainable and eco-friendly is becoming ever more important – for society as a whole, and for the fitness industry in particular, so this mat made of sugar cane offers the ideal innovative solution. The ‘ERGO-ECO MAT’ boasts all the advantages offered by plants – including the absorption of CO2 and reduced emissions. It can be used just like conventional exercise mats and satisfies all usage and durability requirements.”
The Idea: A team that is environmentally friendly from the core Joana Paszun is the developer behind ERGO-ECO MAT at Gipara Fitness, the fitness equipment manufacturer from Poland. When asked how she and her team came up with the idea for the ERGO-ECO MAT, Joanna answers: “Most of our colleagues, both in their private and professional lives, are keen to act in an environmentally friendly way. We try to take care of our planet and support various organisations that contribute to this. We have held events like tree-planting or clean-up campaigns more than once. We also support animal shelters and rescue centres that help to nurse injured animals back to health. It was a natural step for us to introduce eco-friendly products into our range.” Joanna explains that Gipara Fitness is now seeking to gradually replace their product range with items made of natural, ecological raw materials: “We started with the mat because we knew this is an area of the market featuring materials that are detrimental to the planet. Our mat is not only made of an eco-friendly raw material. Sugar cane, also absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere during cultivation – so its positive impact is twofold.”
The Implementation: Testing several hundred samples to find the perfect material The process to find the right components for the mat was not easy and took Joanna and her team about a year. As well as having to be environmentally friendly, they knew from the start they wanted to focus on quality and needed a durable material. After testing several hundred samples, they found that sugar cane met all of their conditions and opted for that. “So we started making samples and testing the mats. When we were 100% sure of the quality, shape and the project in general, we decided to create our own, unique mould. Our mat has a unique ergonomic shape that adapts to the human body. It is very lightweight and also green in colour to stress environmental protection,” Joanna explains.
The Details: A circular economy for training mats The ERGO-ECO MAT is based on sugar cane (86%) which absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere throughout its growth. Furthermore, the mats are 100% recyclable at their end of life. According to Joanna, the team also came up with another idea to support the sale of ERGO-ECO MAT: Gipara Fitness recycles old mats in exchange for new ones. “At some point, every gym has to replace their training mats with new ones. But what to do with the old ones? When fitness clubs buy our ecological mats, at Gipara Fitness we offer to collect their old ones which we then recycle into a chair or pouf delivered back to the gyms for free. For now we are only offering this option in Poland, but we plan to extend it all over Europe soon.”
The Costs: Available online According to Joanna, the first run of ERGO-ECO MAT has been very successful, selling out quickly. From Summer they will have another batch of mats available at their online shop www.gipara.com. The price compares with the price of traditional fitness mats.
The Future: Training mats are just the start “We care about the future of our planet, which is why created the ERGO-ECO Mat, the first training mat made of sugar cane,” says Joanna. And Gipara plans to continue on this path – expanding their existing product range with more and more products made of recycled and eco-friendly products.