Most conventional mattresses are made from synthetic fibers and polyurethane foam, which is derived from petroleum. But this is not common knowledge among everyone, so people might be sleeping without knowing that they are lying on chemicals.
The petroleum used to make polyurethane foam can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a class of toxins that includes formaldehyde, benzene, and naphthalene, all these could cause irritations in the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, or nausea.
Recorded lab results once uncovered a whopping 61 different VOCs from a mattress in the market.
Since petroleum-based mattresses are highly flammable, they need to be treated with chemical fire killers called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs).
But PDBEs aren’t much healthier than the chemicals they’re supposed to protect against. They could mess with your thyroid and brain—especially in children.
How much these chemicals affect you depends on your exposure. But we think no one is really happy to test, not to mention the ones who work in such factories.
Eco-friendly mattresses, on the other hand, don’t have that questionable stuff. Instead, they’re typically made with natural materials like plant-based foams, organic wool and cotton, soybeans, and coconut husks.
These materials are also not flammable so there is no need to add nasty flame-retardants which potentially cause harm to the thyroid and brain.
Keep it clean
We are taught and advertised to be clean and eco-conscious, and ideally, this could be a healthy circle that more people making earth-conscious decisions will prompt the manufacturers to understand the business value and potential of making eco-friendly products, and this, in turn, make the competition grow and reduce the source material prices.
Of course, the world is not in the ideal scenario, and many companies are greenwashing their products to make you pay for the right belief. We will discuss this in detail in the following.
Many elements go into eco-friendly mattresses. From the raw materials used to make the mattresses to the manufacturing process, shipping, and more, there is room for earth-friendly practices at every level of the process.
Key things to look for when choosing a mattress made from eco-friendly materials include the following:
- Natural, non-toxic materials made without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other potentially harmful ingredients.
- Made without synthetic ingredients.
- Low or reduced emissions in the manufacturing process.
- Very low VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
- Made with renewable materials that are abundant and easy to replace.
- Recyclability, which means the mattress you purchase will not end up in a landfill.
- Durability, which means the longer your mattress lasts, the longer it will be before you require a new one or dispose of your existing mattress.
How to choose the mattress
A hard-core green mattress usually has the following labels attached. This authentication often comes in the form of independent certifying agencies. Each agency has its standards. Among the top certifying agencies for mattresses are the following:
- GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD (GOTS)
- OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100
- GREENGUARD GOLD
- USDA ORGANIC
- GLOBAL ORGANIC LATEX STANDARD (GOLS)
Each one of these organizations looks for different earth-friendly features when reviewing products. Products carrying multiple certifications from different agencies have gone through thorough vetting processes, and shown incredible transparency with these agencies, indicating that they have nothing to hide.
In essence, if you are looking for an eco-friendly, family-friendly mattress type, look for mattresses that have one or more of the certifications listed above.
CERTIPUR-US Certified Mattress
CertiPUR-US certified mattresses are given their certifications by a non-profit company. Companies who receive these certifications create foam mattresses that have no ozone depleters, PDDEs, TDCPP, or TCEP flame retardants, mercury, lead, or other heavy metals, formaldehyde, phthalates, or high levels of VOCs.
When mattress companies greenwash their products, they claim to have green mattresses without having the certifications to back up. These mattress companies are taking advantage of people’s goodwill and higher budgets for private benefits.
When searching for an eco-friendly mattress, follow these tips to spot greenwashing, and avoid falling for it.
- Check if claims are backed up by sources
- Watch out for vague claims
- Double-check for certifications (check for proof on the authority’s website).
What types of mattress is eco-friendly
If you are in the market for an eco-friendly or organic mattress, consider a green mattress type that is non-toxic, and lacks harmful chemicals.
- Organic latex mattress types
- Organic cotton mattress types
- Organic cotton and wool mattress types
- Organic cotton, natural wool, natural latex mattress types
- Certified memory foam mattress types
- Hybrid certified memory foam and organic latex mattress types
Some of these materials might surprise you since they do not all come from nature. However, due to the certifications listed above, many non-organic fabrics and materials can be environmentally friendly when they are manufactured with health and sustainability in mind.
Are memory foam mattresses safe for the environment?
Memory foam mattresses have all kinds of materials within. If the memory foam used is certified by the aforementioned certifying organizations, then the material is quite safe and sound to spend 8 hours with.
However, memory foam mattresses are made from polyurethane and will undergo off-gassing when you take them out of the box. It is impossible to find entirely organic memory foam mattresses because their material does not exist in nature.
You can find more eco-friendly memory foam options by searching for companies that manufacture mattresses certified with GreenGuard, Certi-PUR US, OEKO-Tex, and more.