Greener Sleep: Earth Day Guide to Eco-Friendly Mattresses
Green mattresses … eco-friendly mattresses … sustainable mattresses … what does it all mean? Marketers are capitalizing on consumers as they become more environmentally conscious. In honor of Earth Day, we offer some tips on how to navigate the often confusing world of eco-friendly mattresses.
Eco-Friendly Mattresses: Mother Earth Rests Easy
It is finally cool to be green, but how can you be sure you’re not being mislead when trying to make an Earth-friendly mattress purchase? Start by taking a good look into your options and their various eco-features. Earth Day is a time to reflect on our behaviors and the products we buy. With the right information, you can sleep well on a safer mattress knowing you’re a responsible consumer.
There are many reasons to try a more environmentally-responsible mattress. People like knowing their purchases won’t cause undue harm on ecosystems, but greener mattresses tend to be healthier, too. Mattresses with many synthetic chemicals often create toxic off-gassing, which has been linked to adverse health effects. Perhaps obviously, mattresses made with natural materials typically offgas hazardous volatile organic compounds much less.
The trouble is, eco-labeling is not very well regulated in the United States. Companies can make claims that sound fantastic, when in reality they may not be so great. There are many words and phrases used to market greener products. You’ve probably seen some of them on a number of products at the supermarket.
Labels cannot lie, but they may stretch the truth a little. Be wary of vague words and claims and look for specifics. What is the mattress made from? How were the materials grown or obtained? What types of certifications does the mattress have?
Getting the answers to a few questions will help you make your decision confidently. Be curious and dig a little.
Materials in Eco-Friendly Mattresses
Generally, the components that make up eco-friendly mattresses come from familiar sources. Ecosystems are efficient at cycling natural waste, as that is much of what they do. Products that are natural, like wool, cotton and latex, have been cycled in ecosystems for millions of years. Natural systems are used to processing them.
Man-made synthetic materials are new to the planet. There are no organisms that eat them. Often, they are toxic to organisms that interact with them, including humans. What is good for the environment, typically, is good for people, too.
The following materials are the ones you’ll most commonly see in eco-friendly mattresses:
- Natural Latex – Latex foam made using latex liquid, ideally from organic, sustainably harvested trees and minimal additives. Blended latex is more common than 100% natural, but it uses a mixture of synthetic, petroleum-based polymers.
- Plant-Based Foams – Polyurethane foams made using plant materials to replace a proportion of petroleum or synthetic ingredients. While they still use conventional ingredients, they do offer a more environmentally friendly alternative and tend to be more affordable than latex. Some manufacturers also take extra precautions to limit pollution or avoid potential off-gassing sources.
- Recycled Metal – Springs made from recycled or partially-recycled metal use less raw resources.
- Sustainably-Harvested Wood – Mattress foundations made using wood from ethical sources contributed less to deforestation and habitat destruction, or come from plantation-harvested sources.
- Wool – Coming straight from sheep, wool is natural by nature. However, sources that are certified organic must avoid pesticides and have stricter animal treatment guidelines, producing a healthier and more sustainable product.
- Cotton – Cotton is the most abundant natural textile is very popular in mattress covers and batting. One important point to note is that conventionally grown cotton is one of the biggest users of insecticides and agricultural chemicals. Organic cotton means less pollutants in the environment and the end product.
- Bamboo – This fast growing grass can be broken down and turned into fibers for fabrics. While the fibers don’t naturally occur, the source is highly-sustainable and can be grown using eco-friendly methods.
Mattress lines have to pass fire resistance tests to legally be sold in the United States. They must be able to withstand a flame for 30 minutes. Manufacturers use different materials to ensure their mattresses can hold up, often toxic synthetics. These chemicals are typically the most unhealthy components of a mattress.
Some natural materials, like latex and wool, are flame retardant. Using these naturally fire-resistant materials allows manufacturers to keep some or all of the toxic synthetics out of the mattress while still adhering to the fire safety laws.
How the materials in a mattress are made or grown will also affect its eco-friendliness. Organic agricultural methods are considered more sustainable than contemporary industrial agricultural for a number of reasons. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are forbidden, for the most part, in organic farming techniques. These chemicals are often hazardous to the environment and have a large carbon footprint associated with their synthesis.
Other Factors to Consider
There are other things to consider when trying to determine the sustainability of a mattress. Some companies have created innovative methods of transporting their products to cut down on emissions associated with fossil-fuel based transportation.
Durability is a major sustainability concern. If you have to buy two less durable mattresses to last the same amount of time as one constructed to last, you are creating about twice the waste. A good eco-friendly mattress will be made from sustainable materials and last a good amount of time.
Another point to think of is whether or not materials can be reused or biodegrade after the mattress is no longer usable. Foams, textiles and springs can generally be recycled by facilities equipped to deconstruct mattresses; however beds with synthetic foams, plastic, synthetic fibers and metals take a very long time to break down in a landfill.
Types of Eco-Friendly Mattresses
Eco-friendly mattresses are just as diverse as other mattresses. Innerspring, memory foam, and latex mattresses can all be made more environmentally ethical with changes to their manufacturing supply chain. Instead of synthetic fibers, they may use cotton, wool, bamboo or other natural products for fabric and padding Foams can be made from plant-based oils and latex rather than petroleum.
Any type of mattress can be eco-friendly if it is made right. Manufacturers are listening to consumers. There is now an array of mattresses designed to cater to the eco-conscious shopper, with options for almost every budget and comfort preference
Popular Eco-Friendly Mattresses
There are many mattresses touted as being eco-friendly for various reasons. We took a look at four popular mattresses that have green aspects and compared them to highlight different options on the market. There are many different price ranges and types available to consumers. Here we picked a broad range of retailers to demonstrate their difference in features.
Here are the models and their information:
|Innerspring Beds||Natural Latex||Plant-Based Memory Foam||Traditional Memory Foam||Organic Vinyl Waterbeds|
The Columbus from Amerisleep isn’t directly marketed as an eco-friendly mattress, though it is made of some environmentally-responsible materials. It is produced using a high percentage of plant-based oils in the memory foam, which is made using a closed manufacturing process that results in zero emissions. It has a cotton cover and uses a Green Guard-certified fabric fire barrier. The Columbus is priced under $900 in queen, making it one of the more budget-friendly green mattress options. Amerisleep memory foam mattresses are shipped after being vacuum sealed and rolled tightly in order to significantly reduce emissions from transportation.
Keetsa mattresses are specifically marketed to people seeking eco-friendly products. The Tea Leaf Supreme line is made of memory foam that is comprised of 12% plant-based oils. The other 88% is petroleum, but it is a start. The cover is made from a hemp and cotton blend, with 60% polyester. Hemp is known for being a fast-growing, renewable replacement for wood and other fibrous materials. Keetsa foams are lower-VOC options, and they also ship their mattresses compressed for more efficient transportation.
The Harmony latex mattress from Astrabeds is certified organic line, but with a considerably more affordable price tag than many other popular organic bedding lines. They are made from organic dunlop latex and covered in organic cotton and wool. Organic agriculture is very sustainable, and the mattresses have certification from GOLS, OCS, Eco Institut and TUV Rhineland. Astrabeds also uses a vacuum-sealing technique to sharply reduce shipping carbon footprints, and the ability to swap individual layers enhances longevity potential.
The Savvy Rest Serenity latex mattress is at the upper end of the pricing scale, positioned as a luxury organic bed. Customers can choose from either natural talalay or organic dunlop latex for the inner part of the mattress. Wool batting is used as a fire-protection barrier and the mattress is covered with organic cotton. Savvy Rest products are GreenGuard Gold certified for emissions, and their textiles have OTCO and GOTS certification. Their beds also have interchangeable layers and are compressed for shipping.
Eco-Friendly Mattress Shopping
When you are looking for an eco-friendly mattress, there is a lot to consider. Look for specifics and ask questions when you need to. Plant-based materials tend to be more sustainable than petroleum products, but you should look at how the source materials are grown if you really want to be a discriminating, Earth-minded shopper. Organic methods are of course considered more sustainable and healthy than conventional agriculture.
Transportation and durability should be considered along with the mattresses components. Variations in these two aspects can drastically affect the carbon footprint of products. Companies will generally disclose how their products are shipped, but you may have to find reviews for information on durability and longevity. Generally, natural latex foams and medium to high density poly foams last longer than synthetic latex, low density foams, and fiber padding.
Everyone’s price range will be different, too. Don’t blow your budget trying to get the most sustainable mattress — you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands to sleep with peace of mind. Think of the qualities that are most important to you as a buyer, do some research, and prioritize things like quality over marketing. Keep in mind that local showrooms and conventional stores may be limited on “green” bedding, and may have significant markups as well. Unless you live near a natural mattress brand, the internet is likely your best resource for getting an affordable eco-friendly mattress, just be sure to verify return policies and check reviews.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Stick to that advice and you’ll find an eco-friendly mattress that will provide guilt-free comfort for years to come.
Have any questions on eco-friendly mattresses? Drop us a comment below.