Mattresses are a major home purchase that can directly affect your health both short and long-term. While they serve two purposes in the home–sleep and sex, they can also have a big environmental impact due to the 40 square feet of space each one takes up in a landfill. Luckily, there are far more eco-friendly mattress choices than there once were. Today, there are mattresses that are natural, organic and 95 percent biodegradable. As consumers demand fewer chemicals and more eco-friendly options, manufacturers now put out conventional mattress options that are healthier for you and the environment.
Natural, Organic Mattresses
Mattress labels that read "natural", "organic", or "eco-friendly" can be misleading as they may only apply to a few components or one process used to make the mattress. Check out this review of standards and the best mattresses.
If you want a mattress that's 95 percent biodegradable, it will be made of natural latex. Natural latex is derived from the sap of the rubber tree, a sustainable resource. Once the sap is harvested, it's processed to make a foam that, depending on the process used to make it, can be anywhere from 30 to 95 percent organic, natural, and biodegradable. Of course, biodegradable is relative. As they break down, these mattresses leave behind a milky, white film.
A couple of important points to make:
- Even natural latex mattresses are combined with a small percentage of synthetic latex, which is derived from petrochemicals and
- Latex mattresses are some of the most expensive on the market.
There are other options, but they're progressively less biodegradable and could be combined with components that have been chemically treated.
Conventional Mattress Options
Consumer demand has pushed manufacturers to look for more eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. While mattresses with these materials may not be biodegradable, they have less of an environmental impact and reduce your exposure to chemicals.
Plant-Based Foams: Rather than chemicals, plant-based foams use plant oils to create the foam. While the foam itself isn't biodegradable, it reduces exposure to chemicals and off-gassing.
Organic Fibers: Mattress covers made with natural fibers like cotton and wool have been exposed to fewer chemicals throughout the manufacturing process. Natural materials can also break down over time.
Fire Socks: Manufacturers are required to meet strict flammability standards, and once met these standards using chemical flame retardants. Fire socks made of wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar (Kevlar isn't a natural material but it's made without the use of chemicals) meet flammability standards while reducing exposure to chemicals.
Look for Certifications
Conventional foam, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses have varying levels of environmental impact. Since there's no national standard over what constitutes an eco-friendly mattress, you have to rely on material lists and certifications by independent organizations. Try looking for:
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): A GOTS certification means the mattress is made of at least 70 percent certified organic materials. The other 30 percent cannot contain certain chemicals or materials.
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): Mattresses with this certification are made of at least 95 percent organic latex. There are no restrictions over the materials in the remaining 5 percent of the mattress.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This certification assures that the mattress has not exceeded certain limits for harmful emissions from chemicals like formaldehyde and flame retardants.
These are only a few of the certifications you may run across. If you're unfamiliar with one, it's worth it to look it up online so you know what you're getting. You'll be in close proximity to your mattress every night. It might take a little extra money or effort to find a mattress that's safe for you and eco-friendly too, but it's worth it for the long-term health of you, your family, and our planet.
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