Fact: The average person spends 229,961 hours—about a third of their life—sleeping. For most of us, nothing beats curling up in bed at the end of a long, tiring day. But can you really sleep safe and sound knowing that your mattress is bad for your health—and the environment?
Why Conventional Mattresses and the Environment Make for Strange Bedfellows
“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Unfortunately, there’s so much more you should be worried about when it comes to your mattress than just dust mites and bed bugs.
VOCs: The Toxic Monster Lurking Under Your Covers
Some people like to take in that “new car smell” when inside an automobile, but probably not in bed. Unfortunately, most mattresses are made from petroleum-based foam or synthetic fibres, which “off-gas” or emit chemical odours (bad news if you’re chemically sensitive). Here are the most common sources of air pollutants in your mattress:
- Flame retardants: Manufacturers are required by law to add flame retardant chemicals to polyurethane and memory foam mattresses. Flame retardants such as PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) have been linked to a host of health problems, including skin irritation, developmental disorders, reproductive issues (including hormonal changes), and pulmonary disease.
- Formaldehyde: A colourless chemical used in mattress adhesives, this strong-smelling gas has long been suspected of causing asthma, allergies, and certain cancers.
- Styrene: Found in synthetic latex, long-term exposure to this neurotoxin can cause CNS (central nervous system) problems, headaches, hearing loss, and increased cancer risk.
- Cotton pesticides: Cotton and wool-stuffed mattresses are no better either since these can be riddled with pesticide residues that have been known to cause cancer.
Other Environmental Impacts of Your Mattress
Yet another problem mattresses pose is disposal, primarily because of their sheer size. Each year, UK landfills get stuffed with roughly 167,000 tonnes worth of discarded mattresses. The problem is, mattresses don’t compact well.
To keep mattresses from eating up landfill space, you can donate them to charities, local shelters, or furniture banks. If they’re no longer usable, you could also send them to recycling centres, where they can be taken apart or downcycled into rugs, carpets, or pet bedding.
How to Spot a Good Mattress
If you’re thinking of a mattress upgrade and want to make sure you’re going with the most sustainable option, here’s what you need to look for:
1. Earth-friendly materials
One of your top considerations when choosing a mattress should be the material used. To help you decide, ask yourself these questions before making a purchase:
- Is it made of recycled (and recyclable) materials?
- Are the materials 100% plant-based? (It’s important to check the composition; some companies greenwash their products by claiming it’s plant-based or natural when actually only a small percentage of plant-based material goes into them.) If so, are they organic and responsibly sourced?
- Is it durable, or will it need replacing in just a few years’ time? Keep in mind that the fewer times you have to replace your mattress, the smaller your environmental footprint.
Here are a couple of materials we recommend:
- Organic cotton or wool – Hypoallergenic and safe for use with young children; just make sure these are sustainably manufactured and farmed.
- Organic natural latex – Comes from the rubber tree and is biodegradable; additionally, its VOC-free, hypoallergenic, and has no pesticide residue.
It’s easy to be lured by words like eco-friendly, green, and natural. But to be sure mattress makers really mean what they say, make sure their products have been tested for safety and purity by independent, third-party agencies such as GREENGUARD, MADE SAFE® and OEKO-TEX. Also check for certifications specific to the material your mattress is made of:
- Latex: eco-INSTITUT®, Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
- Wool: OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100
- Cotton: Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
3. Responsibly manufactured
There are big manufacturers whose bottom line is profit, profit, profit. They may sell cheap and quick, but they leave consumers in the dark as to where they source their materials and who makes their products.
Then there are those brands that care about the earth as much as they do profit. They may sell at a higher price, but they’re proud about their efforts to be sustainable, and they also pay—and treat—their people fairly. Make sure you know which brands to support and which to avoid.
Our Top Picks for Eco-Friendly Mattresses for Every Budget
In a market dominated by mattresses of questionable materials, here are seven mattress options that are truly a breath of fresh air and will leave you with nothing but sweet, toxin-free dreams:
1. Awara Mattress by Resident
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed will become a thing of the past once you’ve slept in an Awara mattress. This latex hybrid mattress is made with 100% natural, organic and non-toxic materials.
Customers rave that Awara mattresses are durable, breathable, and offer just the right firmness and support, with a construction made up of zoned support coils, GOLS- and Rainforest Alliance–certified natural Dunlop latex, and organic cotton and New Zealand wool covers.
Resident, the manufacturer, also sets the gold standard in after-sales support, providing a 365-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty. With each mattress purchase, you also support ClimatePartner and Trees for the Future’s reforestation initiatives.
2. Avocado Green Mattress
This California brand has carved a niche in the organic mattress industry with its wide variety of handcrafted, all-natural and non-toxic mattresses and beddings.
All their mattresses are GREENGUARD Gold and MadeSafe certified, using either all-natural GOLS-certified Dunlop latex rubber (from tree-tapped and sustainable resources) or organic GOTS-certified cotton. They also offer a vegan option that uses cotton for wool.
Instead of using scary-sounding chemical adhesives, Avocado mattresses are button-tufted so that all layers of the mattress are anchored together.
Each Avocado mattress comes packed in 60% post-consumer, fully recyclable boxes. And as a member of 1% for the Planet, the company gives back 1% of all its profits to environmental causes.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced mattress that offers luxurious comfort, look no further than the DreamCloud mattress.
This CertiPur-US Certified mattress features gel-infused memory foam, breathable coils, and a cashmere-blend Euro top that marries firm support and luxurious comfort.
This is the mattress to go for if you suffer from skin and respiratory sensitivity, as DreamCloud mattresses are hypoallergenic, chemical retardant–free, and bed bug-proof.
DreamCloud mattress purchases come with a 365-night sleep trial and are covered by an Everlong warranty.
Looking for a mattress that’s comfortable, reasonably priced, and most of all, 100% organic? Happsy will be happy to provide all that and more. This American brand makes organic mattresses without polyurethane foam, flame retardants, formaldehyde, and pesticides.
Instead of conventional, petroleum-based foam, Happsy features a base made of organic shredded cotton. The rest of the mattress is also composed of organic materials, from the wool batting, the latex foam, to the optional cotton topper. It’s no surprise that this mattress comes with a battery of certifications and associations, including GOTS, GOLS, GREENGUARD Gold, Made Safe, UL Environment, Green American Certified Business, Zero Toxics Product Registry, and the American Sustainable Business Council.
Happsy also supports movements advocating for health, sustainability, and preservation of the natural world. As a partner of 1% for the Planet, it donates a portion of its profits to environmental causes.
If you’re looking for mattresses that are safe enough for newborn use, have a look at this family-owned, Ohio-based maker of affordable, handcrafted mattresses.
Naturepedic is one of the leading makers of GREENGUARD Gold and MADE SAFE-certified organic crib mattresses, mattress pads, and beddings. The brand uses materials like GOTS-certified cotton, organic wool, GOLS-certified latex, non-GMO PLA (polylactide), and steel coils.
Naturepedic offers a 10-year warranty, with the first 5 years covering a full repair and complete mattress replacement. It is also a member of 1% for the Planet and supports various environmental and social nonprofits.
6. Nest Bedding
Nest Bedding combines latex, cotton, and wool to construct natural and organic mattresses. Each of their mattresses is created to provide a unique sleep experience. They use GOTS-certified organic cotton, GOLS-certified Dunlop latex, and certified organic wool. Additionally, they are CertiPUR-US Certified to contain no harmful chemicals.
Nest Bedding mattresses are also free of potentially toxic flame retardants, using naturally occurring hydrated silica and wool.
Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort or quality. PlushBeds focuses on making beds and mattresses to the highest environmental standards, with a slew of green certifications under their belt, including GREENGUARD Gold, Control Union, Oeko-Tex, and eco-INSTITUT.
Their materials include GOTS-certified cotton and wool, GOLS-certified organic latex, and FSC-certified wood. What’s more, all of their mattresses are free from PBDE flame retardants
PlushBeds also offers a sleep concierge to help you adjust your comfort level after purchase. They have a 100-night trial period, provide free shipping, and offer a 25-year warranty.
As a way of giving back, they fund scholarships for students seeking an environmental degree. They also offset 100% of the emissions in their Los Angeles factory and from product shipping by supporting carbon offset reforestation programs.
Any thoughts about these mattresses? Leave a comment below.
Sweet, chemical-free dreams!
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