I will be brutally honest with you, there is no strict industry definition, of what the term “eco-friendly mattress” really means. And there’s the danger for you: when there is no clear definition, manufacturers can claim their mattresses to be eco-friendly with nothing to back up that claim. What’s my definition of an eco-friendly mattress? What criteria can you use to properly assess if a mattress is eco-friendly? This article cuts through the eco-hype and honestly shares what you really need to know about the “eco-friendly mattress”.
There is no industry or legal standard for the term “eco-friendly” when buying mattresses. So don’t be misled by well-meaning sales people using eco-buzz words! I was so confused when John and I looking for a new mattress that that was eco-friendly, I felt compelled to share with you what I found out so you would not experience the same frustration.
If you’re in a rush, just click on the piece of information that interests you most. If you’re super passionate about your new mattress being eco-friendly, read through this entire article at your leisure.
What Is An Eco-Friendly Mattress?
The term “eco-friendly” is really a mindset of trying to improve on the environmental and social impacts of the production, manufacturing, sales and delivery processes associated with mattresses. When you buy a new mattress, this definition would be really hard to verify unless you have time to do detailed research and speak with every manufacturer.
Here’s another definition. Some people believe an eco-friendly mattress is one where the manufacturer has put in the effort to source materials in as-close-to-natural-state as possible to produce a mattress. For me, this definition is easier to verify. A more natural mattress means less toxins which is better for your health.
Perhaps the definition of an eco-friendly mattress is a combination of both meanings. What do you think?
Is Your Mattress Toxic?
There are mattress manufacturers out there who are genuinely willing to try and reduce possibly harmful chemicals that the industry has traditionally used for a long time. Those harmful chemicals mean that your mattress could be a toxic cocktail of “bad stuff” like formaldehyde, polyurethane, mercury, harmful flame retardants, and what are known as volatile organic compounds or VOC.
A product made from toxic materials will eventually release toxins into the air that you breathe in the form of toxic dust and gasses. This is especially bad for a mattress where you will be spending a third of your life with your face buried in it!
What Is Inside Your Mattress Will Impact Its Eco-Friendliness
As you know there are many different types of mattresses that are made from many different types of materials. It’s important to understand to what extent these material are as-close-to-their-natural-state as possible so you know if it’s less toxic and overall, better for your health.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam is one of the most popular mattress materials and with its level of comfort it’s not hard to see why. But that comfort comes at an environmental cost. According to Wikipedia, your typical memory foam mattress is made with polyurethane, which is a petroleum product, infused with lots of chemicals. Many people complain about the smell that memory foam gives off and say it can cause headaches and breathing problems.
A more natural and eco-friendly version of a memory foam mattress will usually contain between 10 and 30 percent natural oils to offset the petroleum oil used in the foam.
Latex Foam Mattresses
Latex foam mattresses are a popular alternative to memory foam because it doesn’t have the smell and has other characteristics that help differentiate it. Latex foam will either be synthetic, blended, or natural.
Synthetic latex is 100% made from petroleum based oils. That’s right, crude oil. It usually contains toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. For me, crude oil and chemicals mean synthetic latex mattresses are not eco-friendly.
Natural latex mattresses will contain up to 95 percent natural latex made from the milky sap of the rubber tree. These mattresses are more expensive because of the complex production processes involved in transforming the latex from it’s most basic and natural state into a mattress. During this process, transportation costs are also high. Natural latex is more springy and responsive to the movements of your body on the mattress. Natural latex mattresses tick the eco-friendly box.
When buying natural latex mattresses, there are two different types of latex to consider: Talalay vs. Dunlop.
As the term would suggest, blended latex is a mix of synthetic and natural latex. The blend is normally a 70%/30% split between natural vs. latex. Be careful of the terminology: a blended latex mattress is a 100% latex mattress but it is NOT considered a 100% natural latex mattress. Blended latex does present some of the advantages of natural latex at a more affordable price. So let’s say, blended latex mattresses are semi-eco-friendly.
Cotton may seem like an eco-friendly material but in reality, cotton farming is responsible for 35 percent of all pesticide use. If your mattress has cotton fill or a cotton pillow top and you want an eco-friendly version, only buy cotton that is 100% certified organic. This will minimize the toxins you inhale during your sleep.
Wool made from the natural fibers of sheep. Tick the box for being a material that is as-close-to-its-natural-state as possible.
Wool is a renewable resource. This minimizes the impact on the environment.
Wool usually doesn’t have toxic chemicals in its production process.
So wool is an eco-friendly element inside a mattress.
Can You Trust Mattress Certifications When Choosing An Eco-Friendly Mattress?
There is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clear drugs as safe to use. There is no official government body to tell consumers whether a mattress is eco-friendly or not or healthy or not. In such an unregulated marketplace,the only advice I can provide is “buyer beware” when you are shopping around for an eco-friendly mattress.
A couple of certifications have emerged to help guide consumers to buying a better mattress. Can you trust them? At least one mattress company has gotten in trouble with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for making their own certifying agency and then certifying their own (chemically infused) mattress. Oh dear!
There are, however, a number of objective third party certifying agencies that are trustworthy in the industry and it’s important to know which ones those are. These can really help you make the best choice when buying you new eco-friendly mattress.
The Certifications You Need To Know About When Buying Eco-Friendly Mattresses
CertiPUR is one of the largest third party agencies in the industry. They are a not-for-profit agency that independently tests and certifies foam used in mattresses and other furniture. CertiPUR makes sure that the foams used in making mattresses are made without using ozone depleters, formaldehyde, mercury and other heavy metals, phthalates, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOC).
You can check all the mattress manufacturers that have their foam certified by visiting their website here. You may recognize some of the mattress brands sold in the US with the CertiPUR certification:
|Amerisleep||Englander||Leesa||Restonic||White Dove Mattress|
|Brentwood Home||IntelliBED||Live and Sleep||Saatva||Wink Beds|
|Brooklyn Bedding||Keetsa||Lucid Mattress||Sealy||Zinus|
|Classic Brands||IntelliBED||Nest Bedding
|Colgate Mattress||Keetsa||Night Therapy||Simmons|
|Corsicana Bedding||King Koil Mattress Company||Novosbed||Sleep EZ|
|Diamond Mattress||Kingsdown||Purasleep||Sleep Innovations|
|DreamFoam Bedding||Kolcraft||Resort Sleep||Tuft and Needle|
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a certification that aims to ensure that textiles are made in an environmentally friendly as well as socially responsible way. This standard covers the processing, manufacturing, shipping, labeling, and distribution of textiles made from at least 70% natural organic fibers.
The mattress and bedding brands that are GOTS certified and sold in the U.S. include:
- Organic Mattress, Inc. (OMI)
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
The Oeko-Tex standard 100 certification is an extremely rigorous certification for eco-friendly mattresses. Oeko-Tex tests textiles at all stages of production to make sure that there are no harmful or illegal chemicals. Manufacturers must meet the criteria without exception to earn this certification.
The mattresses available for sale in the U.S. that pass the global Oeko-Tex Standard 100 test include:
- Family owned Nest bedding offer a handmade blended latex mattress;
- Californian-based European Sleep Design offers 100% natural latex mattresses;
- Foam Source, located in Colorado, offer blended latex mattresses; and
- Ergo Beds sell the Silhouette brand of mattress made with “Oeko-Tex 100” certified materials.
GreenGuard is a subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories, a 100-year-old certifying agency, and is widely recognized around the world as an objective check on green and eco products. The goal of the GreenGuard certification is to make sure that all of the materials in the product are low emission materials that keep the air clean and don’t contribute to global warming.
Here are the brands that supply mattresses with the GreenGuard certification. Not all mattresses these brands sell are certified so be sure to do your research. Most of these manufacturers listed below produce crib mattresses for babies.
- Dream on Me
- Eco Bedroom Solutions
- European Sleep Works
- Ion Latex Thai Co.
- Kolcraft Enterprises
- Lifekind Inc.
- Lullaby Earth
- Newton Living
- Norix Group
- Organic Mattresses, Inc. (OMI)
- Savvy Rest
- Stearns and Foster
- The Natural Latex Company
Cradle to Cradle
Cradle to Cradle is a certification standard used by the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency. Their goal is to certify consumer products that improve quality for the user, that pose no health risk for anyone that comes into contact with the product, and that have economic and ecological benefit. They have 5 levels of certification from Basic to Platinum.
Cradle to Cradle has certified two mattress products that go into the manufacture of particular mattresses
- Natural Vita Talalay®. This 100% natural latex product sourced from rubber trees grown in South East Asia received a Gold certification. You can read more about it here. The mattress brands sold in the U.S. that use Natural Vita Talalay are Flobeds, Carpe Diem, Savvy Rest, Berkeley Ergonomics, European Sleep Works, Royal Pedic, City Mattress.
- The Rowa Pure Nature mattress received a Silver certification because of the specials yarns and textiles used in the manufacturing process. Their website, you can only buy this German-made mattress if you live in Europe.
Conclusion – How To Select A Genuine Eco-Friendly Mattress
Here’s a summary of what we’ve shared in the article to enable you to select a genuine eco-friendly mattress.
Selection Criteria Number 1
Look into the materials used to make the mattress you want to buy. When the materials used in your mattress is as-close-to-nature as possible or when those materials are used in the production process with minimal impact to the environment, that mattress is considered eco-friendly. If you are prepared to spend the dollars, look for
- Memory foam mattresses made with 10%-30% natural oils vs. petroleum oils
- Latex mattresses made with 100% natural latex foam
- Mattresses made with organic cotton
- Mattresses made with wool.
Mattresses are often made with different materials. For example, you could have a mattress mostly made with memory foam with a layer of wool and cotton. In an ideal world, all of us would like to buy a 100% eco-friendly mattress: it will optimize our health. But let’s be practical, your budget will determine the compromises you are willing to make in terms of buying a healthy mattress.
Selection Criteria Number 2
Relying on an independent certification is a good way of quickly identifying eco-friendly mattresses. Look for mattresses with the following certifications:
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- Oeko-Tex standard 100
- Cradle to Cradle.
The minimum standard we recommend to minimize the toxins you inhale from your mattress is CertiPUR-US. At Better Bed Solutions, we only recommend mattresses that have this certification as a minimum because we want you to have a better mattress that will bring you better health and a better sleep for a better you in the long term.