On the Search for a True “Green” Mattress

Use Certifications to Dig Deeper into Mattresses

The mattress industry hasn’t caught up with the auto or cosmetic industries when it comes to regulating green products. In fact, there are no standards or rules to govern mattress manufacturers as to what constitutes an eco-friendly mattress, yet many beds are advertised as “organic,” “all-natural,” or “green.” Those claims may not mean what they imply.

The reality is that there is currently no mattress that is 100 percent organic, green, or biodegradable on the market. There are models that are 95 percent organic but the remaining 5 percent may contain some synthetic materials. In industries such as mattresses, where eco-regulations haven’t been well-established, it’s the consumer that has to dig deeper. There are two places to start when searching for a truly green mattress. The first is the materials list on the mattress, the second, certifications.

Read the Materials List Carefully

Many retailers advertise mattresses as organic or natural when those words may only apply to specific materials or components. An eco-friendly mattress will have as many organic and/or natural materials in the support core, comfort layers, and cover as possible.

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Natural Latex

The most environmentally-friendly mattresses are made of 95 percent natural latex. Natural latex is made from sap harvested from rubber trees, making it a sustainable resource. These mattresses come in varying densities and latex content that ranges from 40-95 percent depending on the manufacturing process used to make them.

While these mattresses aren’t as biodegradable as banana peels or apple cores, they are the only biodegradable option.The latex will break down over a long period, leaving behind less waste after disposal. Natural latex may be used in hybrid mattresses that have inner springs as well as latex. These models aren’t as biodegradable, but they’re still a more eco-friendly option.

Organic Mattress Covers and Fire Socks

In the mattress cover, certified organic cotton or wool means that pesticides and chemicals have not been used to produce the cover. However, mattresses are required by law to be flame resistant. To meet these standards, mattresses may:

1 Be treated with a chemical flame retardant that could contain harmful chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been linked to cancer.

2 Use a fire sock as a flame barrier. Some fire socks are made of silica, but eco-friendly fire socks are made of wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar, which is a synthetic material but doesn’t undergo any chemical treatments during manufacturing.

3 Be made of materials with a high fuel load, taking them longer to burn and allowing them to meet safety regulations.

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Plant-Based Foams

Foams made with plant-based oils have fewer chemicals and are relatively safer than traditional foams. However, even plant-based foams may only be made with 10 percent plant oils, which means exposure to more chemicals than with non-foam mattresses.

Certifications to Trust

Several independent organizations offer certifications for mattresses and other products that can help determine both the human safety and environmental impact of the mattress. A few of the most common and trustworthy include:

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS evaluates organic fibers, both raw and derivative products, from the harvesting through to manufacturing and labeling. Mattresses with a GOTS certification must be made from at least 95 percent certified organic materials. The remaining five percent cannot contain certain materials such as polyurethane foam or formaldehyde.

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): GOLS is similar to GOTS but only evaluates latex products. A latex mattress with this certification must be made of 95 organic latex. Unlike GOTS, there are no specifications for the remaining 5 percent of the mattress materials.

(Natural latex mattresses can have both a GOTS and GOLS certification.)

GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold: Both of these certifications mean the mattress has been evaluated for VOC emissions. The GreenGuard Gold certification has a stricter set of standards, but both mean the VOC emissions are limited.

OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This certification comes from an international organization, consisting of 18 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan. The certification means the mattress has not exceeded emission limits for specific chemicals like VOCs and PBDEs that are known to be harmful to humans.

OEKO-TEX Made in Green: The same international organization that gives the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 gives this certification, which awards certifications for sustainable processes and socially responsible work conditions.

While there are many other certifications found on mattresses, these are a few of the most common and valuable. If consumers will take the time to ask questions, read labels, and understand certifications, they can find a mattress that won’t pose a health risk and or harm the environment.

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