The Certifications You Need to Find the Right “Green” Mattress

A mattress isn’t something you think about until it’s time for a new one. With millions of mattresses sent to landfills each year, they’ve become a growing concern because of the difficulty of their disposal. Growing environmental and human health concerns have begun to change the mattress industry. Today, with the help of certifications from independent organizations, you can find a mattress made through sustainable methods with low environmental impact, and that won’t expose you or your family to harmful chemicals.

Look for Certifications

Mattresses are a complex product with many layers that each have to go through their own manufacturing processes before reaching consumers. In addition to the complexity of the product, the mattress industry does not have a governing body that sets standards or regulations for what constitutes a “green” mattress.

Labels like “organic,” “all-natural,” or even “eco-friendly” may only apply to one component of the mattress or one step of the manufacturing process. Rather than relying on sales labels, it’s better to read the mattresses’ materials list and look for certifications by independent organizations that monitor environmental, social, and human health-related concerns such as:

  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100: For this certification, eighteen independent institutes from Europe and Japan test products to be sure they do not exceed established limits for certain chemicals.

  • CertiPUR-US: This certification only applies to products that use polyurethane foam. The foam is tested for chemical emissions as well as other harmful materials like lead.

  • Eco-Institut: Based in Germany, the Eco-Institut is an independent certification organization that tests for harmful emissions and chemical substances in textiles and building materials. They most often certify latex mattresses.

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS focuses on organic fibers, evaluating both raw materials and their derivatives. The certification is only given to products made with 95 percent certified organic materials. The remaining 5 percent cannot contain other materials that have been known to be harmful to humans, like polyfoam or formaldehyde.

  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): GOLS only evaluates latex products and is similar to GOTS in that the latex must be at least 95 percent organically produced. Natural latex mattresses may have both a GOTS and GOLS certification.

  • OEKO-TEX MADE IN GREEN: This certification looks at the processes used to produce products and monitors the sustainability of manufacturing practices.

  • Cradle to Cradle: To receive this certification organic fibers and materials are examined and tested for a variety of sustainable criteria like carbon emissions, water conservation, and ecological impact. It is most often applied to natural latex and the organic materials used in mattress covers.

Green Mattress Options

Though there’s no mattress on the market that’s 100 percent green, there are several mattress options that are environmentally friendly. No matter what type of bed you choose, you can check the materials used in the mattress for environmentally friendly options, such as:

  • Plant-based polyfoam and memory foam

  • Organic fibers in the mattress cover like wool and cotton

  • Wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar fire socks (Kevlar is not a natural substance but does not have to be treated with any chemicals during production.)

These substances can be found in the basic mattress types—foam, innerspring, hybrid. However, the most environmentally friendly and only mattress option that’s biodegradable is natural latex.

Natural latex mattresses are made from the sap of the rubber tree, a sustainable resource. The sap must go through one of two manufacturing processes, Dunlop or Talalay. The Dunlop process produces a dense, durable mattress with a thicker layer of latex on the bottom. This process is simple, energy efficient, leaves a small carbon footprint, and is less expensive than the Talalay process. (Though it should be noted that latex mattresses are amongst the most expensive mattresses on the market.) The Talalay process takes more resources but produces a softer, bouncier mattress than the Dunlop process.

These natural latex mattresses are technically biodegradable but it takes years to break down, and there will still be a small amount of material left over. They also have some synthetic latex, which is derived from petrochemicals, and these chemicals are expensive.

If a 95 percent natural latex mattress is out of your budget, some natural latex mattresses use a Dunlop core for its denseness with Talalay comfort layers to get the benefits of both. Other manufacturers have begun to combine innersprings with latex for the sustainability of the latex and comfort of the innerspring. These hybrids aren’t as expensive and offer a good combination of comfort and affordability.

You’ll have to weigh in not only environmental and human health concerns when choosing a mattress but comfort issues as well. Look for a mattress with the right certifications so that you know it’s been produced in an eco- and human-friendly way but will also allow you to get a good night’s rest for years to come.

This article was a non-paid collaboration (guest post) with bestmattressreviews.com, a small but valuable website from Seattle staffed by a team of veterans from the mattress industry who write about sleep health and conduct independent reviews on sleep products.

Rick Blanchard is an expert on sleep product materials and manufacturing for BestMattressReviews.com. His research covers the entire life cycle of mattresses and bedding, including production, wear over time, and disposal. Rick lives in Tarrytown, New York.

17 thoughts on “The Certifications You Need to Find the Right “Green” Mattress

  1. Rhian Westbury

    I didn’t even think about all the wasted mattresses which are thrown away. Last tome I got rid of my mattress I made sure to donate it so I knew it would be used as opposed to being thrown x

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      That’s a great idea Rhian. Living in London I see so many nasty stanky mattresses just flytipped on the street and it makes one very aware of the volume of mattresses out there eventually ending up in landfill.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks for commenting Kara. Memory foam won’t biodegrade, but you can ask your manufacturer about recycling it when it comes to the end of its life. The more onus we put on manufacturers to be responsible, the more careful they will be about what they manufacture. We speak with our pocketbooks ultimately and eco products shouldn’t just be for those on a higher income, so pressure does need to be put on all manufacturers.

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  2. simplysensationalfood

    You are absolutely correct in saying that picking the right mattress is so important and there are so many factors to consider.

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  3. Elizabeth

    Interesting that kevlar is listed as an environmentally friendly option when it is a synthetic product that does not biodegrade on its own. It too needs to be recycled at the end of its life.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks for your thoughtful and challenging response! Of course there are lots of materials which are not biodegradable but which are recyclable such as glass and metals, and these are considered environmentally friendly. I would not necessarily lump kevlar in with glass or metal as it is a synthetic material, but I believe that the reason the writer has mentioned it here, clarifying that it’s not a natural option, is because it does not legally need to be treated with fire retardant like the other options are. For some people, avoiding these toxic chemicals is important (indeed, sometimes essential) and they may wish to compromise having a totally biodegradable mattress for one which contains a recyclable element in such circumstances. I’m not one to judge, as I’m still using our standard John Lewis mattresses from years ago but I try to extend their lives with a care routine….(perhaps a good future blog post idea)….but its good to inform ourselves about the options as much as possible in advance of planning any future mattress purchases. Indeed, my parents have a high quality air mattress which although made from plastic, they’ve now had for 15+ years because these mattresses do not attract dust mites or bed bugs and do not get saggy or lose ergonomic quality because they are replenished with fresh air daily to become firm and provide adequate back support. It shows no sign of needing to be replaced, so although its not a natural material, it certainly is better than having a huge mattress which needs to be tossed into landfill every 8 years. I guess I’m just trying to say that there is no single sanctimonious way of choosing the “right” or “greenest” mattress, but I wanted to help people understand some of the certifications on the market, as there’s a lot of greenwashing that goes on out there. I hope you otherwise enjoyed the article!

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  4. Charli Bruce

    I honestly didn’t even know that you could get green mattresses, ours is relatively new so wont be searching for one any time yet but these are great tips to bear in mind x

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  5. MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    To be honest I didn’t know there were green as it were mattresses. My husband normally gets our mattresses – he’s fussier than me so I must get him to have a read too as I want something that has as few chemicals as possible.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hope this helps! There’s also a lovely shop down in Devon called Greenfibres which sells natural mattresses and ships to all over the UK. May be worth checking out their website as they’re lovely and helpful.

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  6. lukeosaurusandme

    My goodness, I never even thought about green mattresses. It goes to show that there are so many things in life that we don’t really think about in terms of how they’re made and where the materials are sourced!

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  7. Yeah Lifestyle

    Your post is an eye opener as I did now know that mattresses came with certifications or that I had to look for one which had organic / all natural / eco-friendly labels. This is new to me, but I will be checking all these when I get my next mattress.

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