As society becomes more aware of the environmental impact of various products, more and more people are looking for products that are certified for human and environmental safety. But what about mattresses?
The proximity of your mattress to your body makes it an important product when it comes to human safety. But the complex nature of mattress construction gives them the potential to have a big environmental impact too. Finding a true, 100 percent green mattress isn’t possible at this time, but you can look for certifications to help you increase your safety and reduce the carbon footprint of your bed.
Can You Trust Mattress Labels?
In short, no. The mattress industry does not have regulations or standards when it comes to green mattresses. Labels that say “organic,” “all-natural,” or “eco-friendly” don’t usually apply to the whole mattress but only one part or portion. Rather than relying on labels, you’ll need to know what materials and certifications indicate an environmentally-friendly mattress.
The Materials that Make It Green
Buy a new mattress that uses natural and organic materials in the cover, comfort layers, and support core. These beds offer the most human and environmentally-friendly options. Materials you should look for include:
Natural Latex: Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree, a sustainable material. Depending on the manufacturing process, a natural latex mattress can be 95 percent organic.
Plant-Based Polyfoam or Memory Foam: Plant-based foams are made using plant oils rather than synthetic chemicals. While they are a healthier option, the foams are not considered organic.
Organic Fibers: Organically grown cotton and wool used in mattress covers are not treated in flame retardants. They reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and vapors. These organic materials are also biodegradable.
Fire Socks: To meet federal flammability standards, some mattresses use fire socks instead of chemical flame retardants. Fire socks made of cotton, wool, thistle, and Kevlar are environmentally friendly. Kevlar is synthetic but is not chemically treated allowing it to be a green choice still.
Know Your Certifications
Since you can’t rely on labels, you have to look for certifications, and not all certifications are equal in importance when it comes to finding a green mattress. Some may only monitor chemical emissions of foam while others apply to all materials in the mattress. The two most worth watching for are:
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): The GOTS certification applies to organic fibers, including the raw materials and their derivatives. To receive this certification, a mattress must be made with at least 95 percent certified organic materials. The remaining 5 percent cannot contain certain elements including polyfoam or formaldehyde.
Global Organic Latex Standards (GOLS): GOLS evaluates only latex products. Ninety-five percent of the latex must be organically produced. However, there are no prohibitions for the remaining 5 percent of the materials. All natural latex mattresses with a GOLS certification will be some of the most environmentally-friendly beds on the market. Mattresses can have both a GOTS and GOLS certification.
Other certifications that aren’t as all-encompassing but still indicate better human and environmental safety include:
CertiPUR-US: This certification monitors chemical emissions from polyurethane foam. It also checks for harmful substances like lead.
USDA Organic (United States Department of Agriculture/ National Organic Program (NOP): The USDA monitors food but also crops and agricultural materials used to make consumer products, including mattresses. A USDA organic certification would indicate that the raw materials such as latex or cotton were certified organic.