By Amy Highland
There are “green” options for almost everything on the market today. However, those claims are not always justified, and those made for mattresses should come under just as much scrutiny as other products. The making of a mattress is a complex process, which makes a truly green option difficult to find. Independent certifications have long been a trusted option to weigh the validity of claims. As long as the certification comes from a reputable organization, there’s definitely room for trust.
What Makes a Mattress “Green?”
It can be hard to know what exactly makes a mattress green in the first place. Mattress retailers and sometimes manufacturers may present misleading information. A green mattress will contain one or more of the following:
- Natural Latex: Derived from the sap of the rubber tree, natural latex goes through one of two manufacturing processes to create the most eco-friendly mattresses on the market. However, even natural latex must be mixed with some synthetic products. They’re generally made of 40 to 95 percent natural latex.
- Plant-Based Foams: Plant-based foams emit fewer harmful odors and vapors than traditional foams made with chemicals. They’re still not biodegradable, but do present an eco-friendlier option.
- Organic Fabrics and Fibers: Mattress covers made of organically grown and manufactured cotton or wool give off fewer emissions and are biodegradable.
- Fire Socks vs. Chemical Flame Retardants: Fire socks made of natural materials like wool, thistle, or cotton meet strict flammability standards without the use of chemical flame retardants.
Labels like “organic”, “all-natural”, and “eco-friendly” may apply to one component or manufacturing process rather than the entire product. The lack of regulation for the meaning of all of these terms means that consumers have to rely on certifications.
What Are Certifications, And What Do They Mean?
Independent organizations from all over the globe conduct their own investigations and tests of a wide range of products, including mattresses. However, they tend to be very specific in what exactly they’re looking for. Some focus on human health factors whereas others measure environmental impact.
Here are a few you can watch for that can help you identify an eco-friendly, “green”, mattress:
- OEKO-TEX Standard-100: A group of independent research and testing institutes across Japan and Europe give this certification to products that do not exceed certain limits for harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, PBDE’s, and harmful flame retardants and dyes.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): Mattresses made with 70 percent certified organic materials with a limit on harmful substances like formaldehyde or polyfoam in the remaining 30 percent can receive the GOTS certification.
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): Only latex products can receive this certification, which means it only applies to natural latex mattresses. The high standards of the GOLS certification require that the latex be 95 percent organically produced, though there are no standards for the remaining 5 percent of the mattress’s components.
There are many other certifications the can help you determine the true green quality of a mattress. Because mattresses can be an investment that may last for years, it’s worth doing a little investigative work before you buy. Be prepared to look up other types of certifications like GreenGuard, OEKO-TEX MADE IN GREEN, Cradle to Cradle, CertiPUR-US, and Eco-Institute. Each has their own tests but bring to light the healthiest products available.
Weigh Your Options
Always check the mattress certifications and what they mean before you make your final decision. Pillows, blankets, clothing – you can do the same for all the products you bring into your home. A better awareness of manufacturing processes and how products are tested and certified can help you be sure you’re making the decisions that are best for you and the environment.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy’s a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.